Words Infocom taught me

One of Textfyre‘s marketing claims is going to be that interactive fiction teaches literacy: vocabulary, reading comprehension, that sort of thing. (It also teaches typing — I have long claimed that Infocom taught me how to touch-type, because I was too absorbed in the game to look down at the keyboard.)

The vocabulary claim is certainly true for me. I always suspected that Infocom had a hidden agenda to broaden our vocabularies, because there were always a few words in their games that sent me to the dictionary. When I wrote my first game, I tried to inject a little tribute to this tradition, with a peninsular location I called “Chersonese.” I was reminded of this recently as I thumbed through a thesaurus given to me as a gift.

In that spirit, I present an incomplete list of the words I learned from Infocom games:

EBCDIC (Zork I)
gnomon (Trinity)
menhir (Zork II)
oubliette (Spellbreaker)
reliquary (Beyond Zork)
reticule (Plundered Hearts)
skink (Trinity)
topiary (Zork II)

These are just the ones that turned up in a cursory search of my brain. Anybody else got others?

12 thoughts on “Words Infocom taught me

    1. Yeah, “Words comic books taught me” could be the subject of another post. “Prehensile” springs to mind — always makes me think of Nightcrawler’s tail, thanks to the tics of Mr. Claremont.

  1. I definitely learned to touch type playing Infocom. And learned a great deal of vocabulary to boot. Menhir and topiary, as well as phosphorescent, sceptre, brandishing… hard to say how many. Eight years old was probably a touch on the young side to be playing Zork, so I picked up a lot of words playing that on my C64.

    1. Hey, there’s potential for a whole series here! “Words TV taught me” (like “tontine” — thanks M*A*S*H!) “Words Dungeons & Dragons taught me” (halberd! greaves! thaumaturge!) Not to mention the oft-overlooked “Words Books taught me.”

  2. Okay, now I really need to replay the Infocom games…I’m drawing a blank.

    The games that are coming to mind are all non-Infocom, e.g. “plover” in Adventure and “ichor” in Gateway.

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