Mysterious Text Adventure Code Was Found in a Prisoner’s File

Okay, this is an interesting story. The Warden Game is a text adventure that was designed in 1987 by an inmate named Ed Mead while he was incarcerated at the Washington State Reformatory at Monroe. Mead had been sentenced to serve two consecutive life sentences for his participation in a January 1976 bank robbery.

While he was in lock-up , the Washington Department of Corrections introduced computers in some of their prisons and Mead taught himself all about the hardware and the programming of computers. He became so proficient that he designed The Warden Game in prison and then after his release in 1993, went on to work as a technical engineer for several different agencies.

In 2016, Mead donated many of his papers and files to the University of Washington Libraries to be accessed by researchers, students, activists, and others (he was also a political activist). The collection included several prisoner-run newsletters and lawsuits that Mead participated in.

It also included the programming code for something called “The Warden Game”. 

Screen from The Warden Game

It was a Dan Berger, a University of Washington history professor, who found the file. He was sorting through three prison-issued trunks full of old papers when an unusual document, printed in dot matrix type, caught his eye.

“It was computer code,” he said in an interview with OZY. And written at the top was, “You are the warden of a maximum security institution. There are about 1,000 men confined in your prison.”

About The Warden Game:

Set in a mid-1980s prison, the game puts you in charge of managing the facility — while dealing with prisoner rebellion, grumbling guards and the ever-watchful eyes of state government. As each event unfolds you must choose from a list of actions that alter the course of the story.

One move, for example, brings you to meet with six prisoners: the ringleaders of a resistance pushing for changes in how the facility is run. Do you agree to the protesters’ demands, lock them in solitary confinement or ignore the situation and see what happens? Run the prison with an iron fist, and you might meet defiance. Act with restraint, and the politicians could have you fired.

Consequences are just a click away. One choice leads to a labor strike, another to a judge who intervenes. Other options can bring on a prison-wide lockdown or political activism from prisoner’s families and outside allies.

After being found, The Warden Game was then adapted from Ed Mead’s original programming and developed for the web in 2017 by Magdalena Donea and Dan Berger.

It is available online now to play.


The Pulse – Out Now!

StoryFix Media produces interactive fiction games and traditional novels. Our sci-fi text adventure The Pulse is out now. Our novels New Horizons and The Blue Moon are available now.

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