The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Don’t panic: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy game is 30 — and online.


Long before gamers were exploring vast three-dimensional worlds, text adventure games let players use their PC to read and explore whole new worlds. Or, in the case of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, whole new planets. This digital adaptation of the beloved Douglas Adam's BBC science fiction comedy radio and book series was originally released in 1984, when it sold some 350,000 copies, according to the BBC. And it has lived on for new generations of players through emulators and the BBC's online remakes -- like the 30th anniversary version recently launched.

It's essentially an update of the original game from 1984, plus an added "console" of sorts including a navigation screen and inventory.

Go ahead, try it out. I'll wait ... .

Get frustrated, did you? The game can and will kill you often -- but it's almost always very funny when describing your untimely demise. The interface can also be jarring for users accustomed to the flexibility of more modern games. Here your limitation isn't just your creativity -- it's the game's ability to interpret that creativity into an in game action. But the amount of interactions with a specific, witty response are a testament to author Adams' commitment to delivering an experience true to its source material. While other science fiction and fantasy classics like "The Hobbit" also had early computer adaptations, the involvement of Adams in the authoring of the Hitchhiker's game made it more of a narrative experience.

But back to that death part -- conveniently, you can save in the BBC's version online to avoid losing all of your progress, although you must be signed in with a BBC ID to do so. Oh, and there are built-in Twitter post opportunities. If for some reason you would like to avoid tweeting features, the 20th anniversary version is still available on an archived page of the BBC site -- well, actually two versions. Due to the overwhelming response of an art contest there are actually two versions of the Web version released in 2004.

"The game was spotted languishing on these pages, quietly ticking over with up to 70 visitors on a good day," the BBC says of the old game. "The time seemed right for a spit and polish and to re-house it on a shiny new server just before the old ones were switched off for good. An already cantankerous game with a penchant for killing people in a variety of amusing ways, the game has not become more friendly while sulking unloved and unnoticed."