InterviewSpecial Topics In Gameology

Al Lowe

Funny People: Al Lowe, Leisure Suit Larry creator

The wit behind a classic lounge-lizard satire series says it’s impossible for a super-powered game hero to be as funny as a schlub.

By Anthony John Agnello • June 26, 2012

Special Topics In Gameology is an in-depth look at a specific corner of the gaming world, in miniseries form. For this edition of the feature—Funny People—Anthony John Agnello interviews a few icons of video game comedy. First up: Al Lowe.

Leisure Suit Larry was, not unlike its protagonist, a sleazy little oddity when it released in 1987. That isn’t to say that the adventure game about getting a 40-year-old virgin laid wasn’t lovable or funny. It was both of those things, so much so that it birthed six sequels over the next nine years. Larry was also the Al Lowe’s signature work. In the ’80s, Lowe was one of the core programmers at Sierra, a team of creators largely responsible for the whole adventure genre. Last month, Lowe and his partners at Replay Games successfully funded a Kickstarter project to remake the original Leisure Suit Larry for modern PCs and tablets. Lowe talked to The Gameological Society about the Larry series and the risks of being funny.

The Gameological Society: I would love it if you could walk me through the process of writing a game like Larry. How did the process start and how did it end?

Al Lowe: So you’re just going to ask the one question today, then?

Gameological: Yeah, that’s it. I figured I’d just let you talk for however long and then stop you when I got what I needed.

Lowe: It changed over the years. When we started, games were very casual. They were like iPhone apps are today in that you would have an idea, you would quickly make up a test case, see what it looked like and whether or not it was any fun. Pretty soon, you shipped it. There wasn’t a lot of writing or preparation. The longer I worked in the field, the longer that design process became. When I started, I was mostly a programmer. By the end, I did no programming and did only design, writing, and directing. Eventually, we learned how to do things better. Take the last adventure game that I did, Larry 7: Love For Sale. I probably spent three days brainstorming general ideas before doing anything else with that game.

Gameological: Were you already planning to make Larry 7?

Lowe: We never did a pitch. In fact, I don’t ever remember pitching a game. In the Sierra days, it was a much more casual working relationship. [Then-president of Sierra] Ken Williams and I were good buddies, and before I’d finish a project, he’d not only be pushing me to finish this one, but he’d be pushing to hear about the next one. It was, “What do you want to do? That sounds fun. Let’s do that.” I don’t remember ever writing a game description and asking, “What do you think? Will you do this?”

Let’s take Larry 7, for example. Don Munsil and I brainstormed for two or three days at my house and came up with the gist of the thing. Then I went through a process, like I always did, of watching movies for research. The internet wasn’t as big back then. It wasn’t as easy to do research in 1995 as it is today. I would go to the library, go through movie lists and so forth, and try to find things that gave me ideas. I took a lot of notes and made a lot of lists. I’d have a music list, an animation list, a gag list, a background scene and location list. Then the fun, if it could be called that, was to spin all those ideas and scattered thoughts into some kind of story.

You’ve got to understand, I didn’t know how to write comedy.

As I did that, I’d come up with characters. I’d literally start with a two-page document, and then it would grow to 200 pages. I’ve posted those on my website, so anyone interested can go to AlLowe.com and download any of my final design documents. When I say final, I mean they’re from when we gave up making changes. It took about a month to come up with those documents. Then we’d get a team of programmers and artists together, and I’d try to convey to them what the document said. Programmers read, and artists don’t. I could write stuff down, and the programmers would execute it. No matter how much I wrote, the artists would never get it. That meant I had a lot of meetings where I’d refer to the document and describe for them exactly what I was seeing. Meanwhile, they all had pencils in their hands and they were making sketches, because that’s the way they talked.

Gameological: So there were three different creative languages being spoken between you, the programmers, and the artists. How did that process end up changing the humor?

Lowe: You’ve got to understand, I didn’t know how to write comedy. I never took any classes in writing. I must have had English in high school, sure, but I don’t think I ever took writing classes or anything like that. I just needed to do it, so I tried to do the best that I could. That meant that I was always unsure about whether other people would think the stuff I found funny was actually funny.

My tendency was to overindulge, to throw in anything I thought was funny in the hope that if that guy didn’t think this other stuff was funny, maybe he’d like this! There were a lot of desperate ideas. That said, whenever one of the programmers, artists, composers, the voiceover talent, or anybody else came up with a funny idea, I threw it in. If it made us smile, if it made us laugh, we’d put that in the game.

Gameological: What would you say was the biggest challenge in creating something funny that relies so heavily on audience participation?

Leisure Suit Larry's Larry Laffer

Lowe: There are two real challenges to making humor in computer games. One is that you don’t know the order in which people will discover the humor. It was difficult to set things up for a payoff later on unless you cut to a scripted movie, and people hate those. I made a big mistake with Larry 5. We got a new vice president in charge of development at the company. He had worked with Disney and NBC. A Hollywood type. We thought since he was hired, that was the direction we should go. More scripted things in a less random game. Larry 5 was universally described as having too damn much scripting! Too many movies, not enough interaction.

The other challenge is that if you make something you think is funny, by the time you get through the whole process of development, six or eight months later, you’ve seen it from every possible angle. You’ve gone over it dozens of times, you’ve tested it, you’ve found bugs, you’ve had to fix them, and you had to change the wording, blah, blah, blah, blah. It’s so old to you at that point that there’s no humor left.

That was always my fear: We’d ship the game and no one would think it was funny because, at that point, it wasn’t funny to us. When I’d go out and do press tours after the game was released, it always amazed me when people started laughing when they saw parts of the game. The whole time I was thinking, “Oh Christ, nobody’s going to like this.”

Gameological: Why aren’t most games funny?

Lowe: Humor is hard. Part of it has to do with the style of game that’s done today. We were telling stories. My whole desire when getting into the field was to make people laugh through stories about funny characters. Today, characters are not nearly as important as game mechanic and action. It’s possible to do action comedy, but it’s difficult. Humor is also expensive. You can’t do something funny over and over and over again in a game. How you make a game efficiently is to come up with several mechanics and then use those over and over in different ways.

Gameological: It’s strange. Video games are iterative. If you do something that’s successful, publishers immediately turn around and ask developers to make them another one.

Lowe: That’s also the problem with games today.

Gameological: Back then, though, Sierra’s stock in trade was making series that people followed almost like they were serialized novels. Going back to the well for Larry 1, 2, 3, through 7.

Lowe: We didn’t have a model to copy, so the model we chose was movies. The ’80s were the time of sequels and franchise films. Once we found a game that people liked, it seemed obvious that rather than promote a new title, we would continue the old. Sure, we were as guilty of that as anybody.

Gameological: You had a taller order with Larry games than, say, King’s Quest games because the Larry games needed to be funny. Comedy sequels tend not to work because, like you said, people don’t like to hear the same joke more than once.

Lowe: The biggest problem I always faced was: How am I going to give you a happy ending? How do I make this story end yet again where this guy actually gets laid. Look at him! No woman would want to have sex with Larry! What kind of a challenge did I set up for myself? It was easy to do the parts where they would belittle him. That all came easily. The trouble was always coming up with that happy ending.

Gameological: What interests me about Larry is that he started out as a vessel for the player. You got to be this loser. His voice was yours. Later on, Larry spoke for himself. What does a silent character offer the game designer and humorist?

The whole time I was thinking, “Oh Christ, nobody’s going to like this.”

Lowe: None of us knew what we were doing. There was no body of knowledge for video game design. Everything we knew was self-taught by playing other games, stealing ideas we liked while ignoring things we thought were dumb. One thing I thought was important was to refer to the player in the text as “you” rather than as Larry. I did that because I wanted you to feel like you were that character. I tried to maintain that when the games got voice, but because you were hearing this voice that was different from the voice you heard in your head during earlier games—what are the odds that you heard [voice actor] Jan Rabson in your mind’s ear?—it took that layer away.

It’s the same way that I think 2D animation is a little more intimate than 3D animation. The most intimate of all is just plain text. The old Infocom games were wonderfully interior. You felt like you were in the game. It’s almost the opposite of the Uncanny Valley effect, the farther we get away from that intimacy. When there’s no attempt to draw the character realistically, or even draw them at all, suddenly they’re whatever your mind makes them. That makes a huge difference.

Another thing you have to remember is that the gamers then were much more patient and much more involved with problem solving. All those games required thinking. Puzzling.

Gameological: They gave you problems you’d be happy to spend a month solving.

Leisure Suit Larry's Larry Laffer

Lowe: The reason those games were popular in the ’80s was because the only people that owned computers were the kinds of people that had to be able to solve problems. You couldn’t own an IBM PC and not be a puzzle solver. You had to futz with config.sys and autoexec.bats! It was a typed interface where if you misspelled even a single word, a program wouldn’t even run, let alone run properly. All those things that people had to deal with to make the computer work, those were the things we had in our games. Something went awry in the ’90s, and the majority of people don’t care to do that anymore. Action is addictive, much more so than thinking.

Gameological: Most games are about empowering the player through that addictive action. Big guns, big explosions. In adventure games, though, and especially the Larry games, you have weak characters that are vulnerable. In most of those old adventures, the slightest mistake usually resulted in horrid, gruesome death.

Lowe: Dozens of them!

Gameological: Do you think a game character needs to be vulnerable in order to be funny?

Lowe: Yes. I know that people say that there are funny lines in shooters where you have powerful protagonists, but it’s not the same. A wisecrack, a one-liner, a putdown—those are funny, but that humor doesn’t have the same depth the play has. I can compare the humor to sex: If it’s just a few seconds too short, it’s not going to be as pleasurable. Last night, I watched The Office, and there are like 20 characters on that show. You know every one of their personalities. They’re all different. They all have these reactions that are in character and that are brilliant. That’s a lot different and deeper than going, “Ha ha! I shot your ass off!”

Illustrations by Phillip Andrews.

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  • AHyperkineticLagomorph

    I really agree with the last bit: It’s easier to have humor when you’re not playing a near-invincible warrior. A wisecrack is funnier coming from the guy who is likely to die very quickly if he faces an entire army. When a player feels like he can’t lose, no matter the odds, a wisecrack just doesn’t have the same kick to it.

    • blue vodka lemonade

      The best humor for me is humor that’s directed from one party to the next. Like, a one-liner as a guy shoots another guy is not so funny. But two characters indulging in some banter is funny, and it’s funny when a character says something “to the audience,” to you, the viewer or player, because there’s a sense of camaraderie. It’s like an inside joke.

      The all-powerful badass has a hard time being funny because he’s not relatable, but have him talking to another badass and both are something more like people, and they can bounce off one another. Isolated characters are off-putting, not humorous, so having them be losers, having them rely on other people, or having them relate to You, The Viewer, does a lot to make funny work.

      • AHyperkineticLagomorph

        I think being relatable is a large part of it, because humor itself seems to draw heavily on past experiences.

        From a joke about “Hey, how come [group A] is always like this, and [group B] is always like that?” to a really lame pun, the humor comes from either reinforcing a preexisting experience (observational humor, for instance) or subverting them (setting up a common cliche or trope and then specifically defying it).

        Hence why people liked Leisure Suit Larry. Larry’s a loser, but then again, so are we. Maybe we aren’t the exact same TYPE of loser, but let’s face it: We’re all losers here. We’ve said stupid things, done stupid things, thought stupid things. So even if we’re not 40-year-old virgins, we still understand Larry. And from that understanding, we can find humor.

        • feisto

          I think part of Larry’s appeal, if I remember correctly (based just on playing the first game), is that the humor is pretty genial, and this really comes through in the interview. I was maybe a few years younger than the intended audience for the game, but I don’t remember being put off or confused by anything; it seemed like the kind of sex farce written by a self-effacing guy who’s more interested in trying his darnedest to get a chuckle out of the audience than showing a lot of T&A. And more often than not, it worked.

          It felt a lot more honest than the kind of humor I see in a lot of adventure games today, where the writer clearly thinks they’re hilarious and go out of their way to employ humor even when it’s inappropriate (which is what turned me off The Broken Sword, for example).

          Also, I totally learned what a prophylactic was.

        • dreadguacamole

           @feisto:disqus I remember, as a kid, not understanding why typing “use lubber”  didn’t work… (I was aping the game’s use of ethnic accents without knowing it – I had no idea what a rubber was!)
           Typing in prophylactic got me through that bit, though.

           The thing about the Larry games is that, for all their sleaze, they’re surprisingly sweet. Everyone sees Larry as some sort of would-be lothario, but  in the first few games, at least, he’s looking for a meaningful relationship.

           Richard Corbett has done some amazing articles about the Larry games – here’s one of them:

          http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2011/02/26/gaming-made-me-leisure-suit-larry-1/

          “Take that hooker scene for instance. Larry’s stated goal in the first
          game, as a 40-year old salesman, is to lose his virginity. However, he’s
          no playboy. He has no idea what he’s doing. His polyester suit and
          confidence are a front, because in his head, that’s what a cool person
          is like. Simply having sex, like he thought he wanted, leaves him
          utterly unfulfilled, making him press on in search of something that
          actually means something.”

        • feisto

          Thanks for the link, @dreadguacamole:disqus ! I tried to skip the spoilers, but it sounds like I should give the second and third games a try, too. Would you say I should stop there, or keep going?

        • dreadguacamole

          @feisto:disqus They kind of lose that sweetness after the third game; I barely remember the fifth game, except that I thought it was boring, the sixth one is kind of horrible, and the seventh is probably the closest one to people’s perception of the series (It’s got some really good puzzles and some hilarious bits, though).

      • dreadguacamole

        All good points. One of the problems, I’d imagine, is tone; If the game’s intent is to make you feel like the ultimate badass, injecting humor would be undermining that goal.

         The Battlefield-Bad Company games are pretty much exactly the sort of comedy that you’re discussing. I think it’s pretty significant that they had pretty funny trailers, but toned the humor way down for the games themselves.

         Not that they cranked it down intentionally, or at least I don’t think so… but it must be a nightmare to wrap a humorous script around
        standard FPS pacing.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          A humorous script wrapped around FPS pacing, you say? They did that back in 2000 with No One Lives Forever. It saddens me to think that there have been so few comedy shooters since.

        • blue vodka lemonade

           @Merve2:disqus Is that the one with a girl-James-Bond as the lead? I always wanted to play that, but sadly heard of it only after letting my sister spirit away the family PS2. A funny, female-centric first person shooter that actually plays well? It’s some kind of magical, mythical beast. Like a unicorn, or a wendigo.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          @green_gin_rickey:disqus: Yup, that’s the one. It’s probably my favourite first-person shooter of all time. It’s a mixture of stealth and action (leaning more heavily toward the latter), and it features a lengthy, globetrotting campaign. Plus, the script is, at times, actually laugh-out-loud funny and not just “funny for a video game.”

          I should warn you, though, that it isn’t a game that just happens to have a female lead. One of the major plot threads is about the protagonist overcoming sexism in her job, but it’s handled quite well.

    • dreadguacamole

       Not true! The Gears of War games have made me laugh harder than any other big-budgeted game… and so have the latter Resident Evils and CoDs.

       Intentional laughs, now, with tough guy characters in serious games… yeah, that’s pretty hard. It’d require a lot of thought put into it, which doesn’t happen often in that sort of thing.
       It could be done with a Bruce Willis or an Indiana Jones vulnerable action hero type (Nathan Drake would be the obvious gaming equivalent) evolved, I guess.

       It’s perfectly possible to hang an (intentional) comedy game on a near-invincible warrior, though. Black Dynamite pulled it off in the movies. As for games… um… Matt Hazzard… well, Matt Hazzard is a thing that exists, for some reason.

      • AHyperkineticLagomorph

         I do know what you mean. I recently re-tried Just Cause 2 and the dialogue is just so bad, not just in acting, but in writing, that the whole thing is either sad or hilarious. It exists in some sort of quantum-hilariously-pathetic state, only collapsing into one when scrutinized.

        Okay, player-character-I-can’t-be-bothered-to-remember-the-name-of, I get it. If someone betrays you, you will kill them. You don’t need to remind me of that every time they say something.

      • icecoolpool

        That’s why the new Duke Nukem game is such a classic – love the Duke.

        There’s this amazing bit when you get to slap alien breasts and Duke says like, ‘It’s so wrong yet it’s so right.’ Proper fucking lol.

      • Effigy_Power

         Mind you, action heroes are generally funnier when they are made to suffer like we do. Saints Row 3 has a few genuinely funny moments, most of which play on the ignorance of one of the main characters or by ridiculing them with outrageous behavior.
        Superman, through his utter invincibility, isn’t funny, can’t really be funny, because humor comes at least in some parts from failure and dealing with failure. When you can stop bullets with your eyeball, you leave very little potential for being funny.
        That’s why Indiana Jones can be funny, because he’s afraid of snakes and gets punched in the face. He flees as much as he pursues and in the end just fails a tiny bit less than he succeeds.
        That’s why it’s more dramatic when Indy wins a fistfight, whereas Superman throwing yet another building at the villain is more or less blase. Humor and relatability derive from weakness, I think.

        • dreadguacamole

           You could have fun with a Superman-style character (you make him an idiot, you make him overtly sensitive, have him always kill innocents by unlucky applications of his powers… and so on). The problem is that that would most likely work better with him as an NPC.
           And we’re on the same page about an Indiana Jones-type hero, but I worded it so poorly I kind of obfuscated my point. That will teach me to write while I’m working on something else…

        • Aaron Riccio

          @dreadguacamole:disqus I feel like that sort of subversion of character tropes is what Mark Millar’s been working on for a while. (Yes, yes, Alan Moore did it first, but not as violently or comically.) And yes, as you’ve suspected, it is more fun: why *wouldn’t* Superman be a dick?

        • Effigy_Power

           ”The Boys” pretty much covers the whole field, though maybe not always in a funny matter…

        • sirslud

          You can do it, but when it’s the main character, it’s HARD. Captain Hammer is hilarious and all powerful, but you know he’s going to get his due. In terms of gaming, you are the main character. Actually, wow … that just makes me wonder what kind of list we could come up with where the player is not the main character in the plot. Myst, maybe?

      • Electric Dragon

        Assertion: HK-47 from KOTOR was hilarious, meatbags.

    • sirslud

      Counterpoint, but definitely an exception to the rule: Duke Nukem, the first time you were ever him.

  • Matthew McGrath

    Did anyone have the big LSL strategy guide book, with a weird running commentary by Al Lowe…and Larry?

    I remember Al talking about putting peanuts into Coke in that book.  I tried it…and it was tasty! 

    [Insert nut joke here.]

    • Raging Bear

      *inserts nut insertion joke*

    • Chico_McDirk

      I had the LSL hint books, where you revealed secrets step by step with a giant purple highlighter. The first one included the setups to the punchlines told by the guy in the bar.

      • The Guilty Party

        Infocom did their hint books like that too. I wish there was something like it these days. Sometimes when I’m playing a game and hit a snag, I’d rather get a little nudge in the right direction as opposed to a pixel-by-pixel walkthrough that turns playing the game into some sort of incredibly unsatisfying paint-by-numbers procedure.

        • dreadguacamole

          Thanks! I was trying to remember where I’d seen it, and it was on one of the Infocom games. One of Steve Meretski’s, probably.

        • Aaron Riccio

          Yeah, back when I got the Infocom Treasure Box (which was like twenty different text-adventure games, and actually came in a box, whereas now it’d fit in the smallest corner of the slimmest memory stick), there was a strategy guide included for all of the games, most of which were filled with insults to you for not figuring things out, or maybe it just seemed like that to me. I remember there being stuff with the voice, and I have to be honest — that got me reading the guide more than an actual need for it. (Except for Hitchhiker’s Guide. I could not figure out how to make No Tea.)

        • Destroy Him My Robots

          Have you tried http://www.uhs-hints.com? They have walkthroughs structured by puzzle. Under each puzzle, there are a number of hints, starting with gentle nudge and ending with the solution.

        • blue vodka lemonade

           UHS, the “universal hint system,” has a pretty good set-up. You click on a specific area in a game, then there’s a list of problems or puzzles in that area and you click on it. It starts you off with a vague hint and you have to click to see a less-vague hint, all the way up to just giving you the answer. It’s gotten me through a lot of older adventure games, though it can be difficult to use while playing a game.

  • BigBoote66

    Didn’t Lowe basically steal the first Leisure Suit Larry directly from Charles Benton’s “Softporn Adventure” for the Apple II?  I suppose it’s just polite to concentrate on the writing process of the later sequels than to dwell on the fact that Lowe got his start plagiarizing.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RYKQV654UCTVSPZ5DTVQUDHUWU BrianP

       Please get your facts straight before you go around throwing out words like stealing and plagiarizing.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RYKQV654UCTVSPZ5DTVQUDHUWU BrianP

       Softporn Adventure was made at Sierra. They then took the title and handed it over to Al Lowe to recreate as a graphical adventure. Never did Al Lowe not give credit to Charles Benton for the work he did on Softporn Adventure… in fact he asked him permission for it to be included in the Leisure Suit Larry Hits and Misses game and you can even download Softporn Adventure on Al’s website.

      • BigBoote66

        Thanks for the clarification – which is why I phrased it as a question.  I remember playing Softporn Adventure as a kid, and when LSL came out, I recall thinking, “wait, this is the same thing.”  The wiki pages on SPA & LS are unclear as to exactly what the deal was, as LSL says, “The story and basic structure of the game are lifted from Softporn Adventure,” and SPA’s page mentions Gary Thompson’s authorized-after-the-fact port of the Apple II game to MS DOS, implying that copyright matters around software back then wasn’t exactly hammered down.

        Seeing as how both titles were published by the same company, it was dumb of me to assume malfeasance.

    • PugsMalone

      Fun fact: Roberta Williams is on the cover of Softporn Adventure.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RYKQV654UCTVSPZ5DTVQUDHUWU BrianP

         I’ve always had a major crush on Roberta Williams.

        • evanwaters

          You can only sleep with her if you remember to use the laundry ticket on the doorman to get him to run off and drop his keys to the warehouse which has a box in the lower left corner which contains a lamp with her phone number written on the inside of the shade.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RYKQV654UCTVSPZ5DTVQUDHUWU BrianP

          evanwaters, I can handle that.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/ghaleonq,4597/ GhaleonQ

          @evanwaters:disqus In 1984, you had to spell “vagina” with a backward alphahet substitute.  These days, you just have to spell it backward.

  • Chico_McDirk

    Weird – back when I was playing those early Sierra games in the late 80s-early 90s, I  never thought of them as being unreasonably death-filled. I took it for granted that they were so exacting. Of course you die if you step one pixel to the left! Of course you die if you spend five minutes in the desert! Even the obviously ridiculous fates – of course you die if you don’t freshen your breath! – didn’t faze me.

    It almost seemed like cheating when I started playing games that respawned your character so often, or just wouldn’t let you die.

    • Effigy_Power

       Permadeath is something that has been so phased out of games, it’s almost odd how that disappeared without much notice.
      I guess the philosophy of game-devs is now to keep people playing, not keep them trying.

      • dreadguacamole

        What Sierra did was, to coin a term, constadeath. Permadeath usually means that not only do you die, you lose your savegame and need to start again from scratch!)

         And yeah, you rarely see that sort of thing these days. I often feel we may have swung too hard in the other direction, though.

  • Aurora Boreanaz

    I still love the little “personal note” from Al Lowe at the end of Torin’s Passage, if you use the bagpipes in the final confrontation instead of the magic book.

  • CodenameICEMAN

    I never played these games (wasn’t allowed to, due to the adult content), but I played pretty much every other Sierra adventure game. Now that I’m all grown up, how do the Larry games stack up to the other Sierra games? Are they as challenging, puzzle-wise? That would be fun to discover a whole new series. I remember these games used to take me and brother weeks to complete. Either games were harder back then or we were dumber.

    • Steven Chambers

      I say go for it. I really am fond of LSL 1-3. Three came out around KQ4 and before QFG1 and is comparable quality wise.

      • CodenameICEMAN

        Nice. Think I’m going to start at the beginning.

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/ghaleonq,4597/ GhaleonQ

      About 1/2 of the puzzles are graphic adventure 101, but the main puzzles are your average King’s Quest difficulty.  Nothing’s really devious, though.  It’s gratification, after all.

    • duwease

      I would start with Leisure Suit Larry 4.. easily the best, and without that one the others don’t make nearly as much sense.

  • Aaron Riccio

    I was expecting some quick laughs out of this interview, but Al Lowe’s a really insightful guy, and this statement of the obvious is worth repeating: 

    Lowe: The reason those games were popular in the ’80s was because the only people that owned computers were the kinds of people that had to be able to solve problems. You couldn’t own an IBM PC and not be a puzzle solver. You had to futz with config.sys and autoexec.bats! 

    Of course text-based adventure games were popular: they weren’t all that far from simply trying to operate MS-DOS. It was all about figuring out how to properly program and explore your environment, and while the games did actually evolve to a graphical form and eventually into 3D (Grim Fandango was the first successful one that I remember), the audiences didn’t grow with them. They were too busy, I guess, playing the pre-installed Solitaire on their shiny new Windows device, and now, apparently, obsessed with Bejeweled or whatever bedazzling game is time-sucking their creativity away.

    • Enkidum

      I never really got into adventure games, despite being around for literally their entire existence. In fact I think I’ve never played through a single one in its entirety. I wonder how much of that had to do with the fact that I’ve always been a mac user (my father bought the first model in 1984). Perhaps my computer wasn’t forcing me to think in the right way to get good at these kinds of puzzles.

      • blue vodka lemonade

         By the time I was old enough to play adventure games, they were pretty far out of fashion. For me they were logical extensions of reading Encyclopedia Brown and Nancy Drew and playing “detective” with some Barbies. It had more to do with the fantasy of being another person than with satisfaction from puzzle-solving.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/WXWLNNHVMPBXD72STSQ6J2ENLA Guynemer

    Anyone else disappointed that he didn’t discuss Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist?

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/ghaleonq,4597/ GhaleonQ

      He’s not shy.  I recommend the Player 1 Podcast generally and his episode in particular for that Pharkas hit.

    • Asinus

       Yes. I opened this hoping to read a little about it. Larry has been covered so much and it wasn’t until fairly recently that I even knew about FPFP. I knew the theme music from quest studios before I’d even seen the game. Recently started it up (But I think my copy might be glitchy or there is a strange incompatibility somewhere in my system; it hangs the first time you leave the pharmacy. Music plays, you can move the mouse, open the menu, but the game just stops) and it looks like it could be a fun, funny game.

  • JokersNuts

    This game was the holy grail of video game sex when I was growing up.  My friend’s older brothers would be like “Have you ever seen Leisure Suit Larry? That’s the game where you get to have sex, and the girls get naked!”  

  • duwease

    It’s “Love for SAIL” — because it was on a boat, see.  And here Al Lowe says he doesn’t know how to write comedy!

  • les_lim0121

    I really like your ideas. I truly appreciate your effort in publishing this article. Keep it up and God bless.

    Benjie
    http://www.imarksweb.org