If you ever need evidence of how profoundly sexist the mainstream gaming press is, you don’t need to look any further than the alleged rise and fall of point-and-click adventure games.
Everybody knows what a point-and-click adventure game is, right? You walk around pre-rendered environments looking for hidden objects and talking to quirky NPCs, then use those objects to solve inventory-based puzzles. They’re usually colorful, often comedic, and tend to have little or nothing in the way of twitch gameplay - fun for the whole family.
Now, the narrative the gaming press would have us believe is that, following the golden age of Sierra and LucasArts back in the late 80s and early to mid 90s, point-and-click adventure games suffered a sharp and seemingly irreversible commercial decline, essentially vanishing from the gaming scene until they were revived by the heroic efforts of outfits like Telltale Games and guys like Tim Schafer in the late 00s.
The trouble is, that never actually happened.
Oh, don’t get me wrong: point-and-click adventure games are enjoying something of a renaissance at the moment, and the names I just dropped deserve a lot of credit for that.
No, the part I have trouble with is the alleged interregnum between the reigns of LucasArts and Telltale. The fact of the matter is that point-and-click adventure games never died.
The chronology just doesn’t add up. To pose a few obvious examples:
- The Nancy Drew series, a point-and-click adventure franchise as old-school as they come, put out over a dozen titles during the early 00s.
- Funcom’s Dreamfall: The Longest Journey was enormously successful, both critically and commercially, during a period when the gaming press would have us believe the genre was almost wholly moribund.
- Likewise, the Dream Chronicles series managed three sequels during a period when point-and-click adventure games allegedly weren’t a thing.
Sure, a lot of these games weren’t sold via specialty gaming stores, instead appearing primarily on the discount software shelves at Target and similar stores - but then, that’s a matter of how you frame it, isn’t it? With a slight change in perspective, being relegated to the Target discount shelf becomes maintaining a strong presence in mainstream retail channels during a span when virtually all other games were increasingly confined to specialist hobby outlets.
So the question becomes: why was the gaming press claiming that point-and-click adventure games were dead when the genre was clearly alive and kicking?
I strongly suspect that the answer to that question lies in what the Nancy Drew franchise, the Dream Chronicles series and Dreamfall all have in common: female viewpoint characters and an explicitly female target audience.
None of that stuff counts because it’s for girls.
When the gaming press talks about the revival of the old-school
adventure game, they’re specifically talking about point-and-click
adventure games for boys.
When FPSes began to dominate the young male gaming audience in the mid 90s, point-and-click adventure games saw the writing on the wall, and shifted their target audience en masse to young girls. And it worked fantastically - but as far as the gaming press was concerned, that was high treason.
There was a problem, though. You see, being a fan of point-and-click adventure games - particularly the kind with really obtuse puzzles - was once trumpeted as the badge of a “serious” gamer. There was far too much male gamer identity invested in the genre to simply turn around and say “well, they’re not real games anyway”, which is what usually happens when a genre finds a strong female audience.
And so the great myth of The Death of the Adventure Game was founded. That way, the gaming press could continue to lionise the point-and-click adventure games of the past while straight-up refusing to acknowledge the existence of the genre in its new, girl-targeted form.
These people are so sexist that they literally spent over a decade grandly eulogising a genre of games that was, in fact, alive and well rather than accept the blindingly obvious truth: that adventure games didn’t need male gamers to survive and thrive.