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Play it again explores Help columns in the 1980s

This entry is part 6 of 10 in the series Play It Again

Play it again explores help columns


Help columns were a regular feature of computer magazines in the 1980s.

Computer magazine in the 1980s regularly featured help columns. As Adventure games were perhaps the most challenging games to play frequently leaving players stuck and unable to progress, the Adventure help guru was a must for most game publications. The popularity of The Hobbit and the challenges of the Megler’s world and puzzles and the possibilities of Mitchell’s parser (created for The Hobbit) saw many column inches dedicated to the game.


PC Games: Australia Guide to Microcomputers had the White Wizards ‘Adventureworld’ column. Not only did it offer help, “Hobbit” players frequently shared their percentage scores. This included the “humblebrag” 100% complete.

The Australian Commodore and Amiga Review “Adventurers Realm” column invited players to write in with solutions. They awarded ‘Adventurer of the Month’ and ‘Zorker of the Month’ for the best responses.

The Happy Hacker (Stuart Elflett) ran the Adventure Club of Australia. He published a regular “Adventurers’ News” letter where the club’s network pooled their knowledge to help others through the darkest dungeons. The Happy Hacker also penned an ‘Adventures Hints Column’ for Australia’s The Commodore Magazine.

There and back again: the Hobbit

Hobbit fans seeking help and helping each other was an international phenomenon. Tony Bridge wrote help columns for the United Kingdom magazines Popular Computing Weekly and the Micro Adventurer.

In November 1983 a distraught father and daughter wrote to ask Tony’s help in escaping the Goblins Dungeon in The Hobbit. This dungeon was many players’ bête noir.

Players’ letters often shared their discoveries hoping others could explain their significance. For example, an excited player realizing that the game recognized the words “ravine, stairs, rug, man and hobbit” wanted help identifying in-game usage in December 1983.

In January 1984 there was an appeal from a player on how to finish the game! They arrived home to BagEnd with all the treasure and the ring. And yet the player did not know the purpose of the trunk in the hallway.

To finish reading this column, go to Play it again’s help columns article.

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DMZ celebrated the Play It Again launch in 2013.

Series Navigation<< Play it again: The Hobbit game co-created by Veronika MeglerPlay it again: PC Games Challenge Chamber >>
Nalini is an award-winning writer and artist as well as managing editor of Dark Matter Zine.


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