It seems like every day some seminal release from my childhood is celebrating some huge anniversary. It’s one thing to remember records, video games or books from a decade ago, but it really hits home on how long you’ve been around when they start turning over 20, 25, 30 year celebrations.
Thanks to the Washington Post today, I was made aware that the beloved The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy game hit 30. The franchise’s humble beginnings 36 years ago on the BBC resulted in adaptations including stage shows, a “trilogy” of five books (and, a actually separate out-of-sequence sixth novel), a TV series, and three series of three-part comic book adaptations of the first three novels (by DC Comics) and, as mentioned a 1984 computer game.
Woah, remember computers in 1984? I do. Somewhere around that time I was learning the languages Logo and Basic on an Apple IIe in elementary school and had spent enough hours fiddling around with Comadores and other gaming units to have a raised level of curiosity for the era (but not enough to even make it into computer science, for whatever that’s worth).
The original game automated some of what existing fantasy games, like Dungeons and Dragons, accomplished by allowing the user through simple commands to explore vast made up worlds. If the original was stubbornly challenging the reboot HHGTTG should frustrate you well beyond the simple anger of Flappy Bird. But there inlies the allure of it: The sense of accomplishment when you do outsmart the machine and achieve some level of success. Even if you didn’t, the devious nature of the program and personality of its execution would be enough to make you come back…
It is all too cliche to do a reboot these days. Hollywood is one enormous factory of them, cover songs are again all the rage and recycled novel story lines are becoming all to predictable again, so being skeptical of HHGTTG wouldn’t be wrong, if it weren’t for the long legacy of reinventing itself already. What is nice about this incarnation is how true to its roots it is to the original (at least what my nostaligic memory would have me believe) and the fact that it isn’t being crammed down anyone’s throat from an overaggressive marketing pitch (not that it would work, after all, HHGTTG was beloved because it appealed to a finite set of nerdlikes that were impervious to such efforts and I believe still maintains that aura as a franchise).
Moreso than HHGTTG the Game turning 30 I think it’s important to look back at how far we’ve ultimately come from those early days of mass computing. The 1980s for better, or worse, made it entirely possible for the Millennials to be the first generation to grow up connected thanks in large part to the Gen-X adoption of and adaptation to technology in their youth. HHGTTG was hardly alone in advancing the adoption and even at the time hardly the most aggressive innovator or vocal bastion (although, again, there’s a sense of nostalgia in the brand we can look back fondly with).
At the speed in which trends turn over now due to hyper-communication patterns for HHGTTG the Game to be celebrated and carry a sphere of influence with it is pretty interesting actually. The biggest trend on the internet right now is the Travolta Name Generator, and the biggest hype for a game is the now defunct Flappy Birds, just to put this into perspective. Re-read this post three days from now and it might not be the same, three months and both should be all but forgotten. Then again, HHGTTG the Game might be again too. It lay dormant for the better part of it’s 30 year history… However the snark and sarcasm embedded in it will probably still linger in the back of your mind long after the novelty of playing wore off.
There’s a part of me that feels inherently old seeing that 30th anniversary sitting there in the WaPo headline, however, for as far as we’ve come in the last 30 years, many of the basic lessons of the first commercial digital world are still applicable and the influence of it is still impactful…
Or, at the very least know that the game pretty much sums up every working stiff’s monday:
It’s pitch black
> Turn on the light
Good start to the day. Pity it’s going to be the worst day of your life. The light is on now…