In 1987, famed humorist and “Hitchhiker’s Guide the Galaxy” author Douglas Adams scripted a wonderfully funny text adventure game for Infocom called Bureaucracy.
Anyone familiar with Adams’ flair for poking fun at government confusion and incompetence can image the fun he’s having here and, indeed, the game was inspired by a real-life mishap that befell Adams when he attempted to change his address prior to moving into a new home, only to discover the paperwork was mishandled or lost and his credit cards ceased working and he started missing mail.
Bureaucracy‘s premise is delightfully simple: Upon a recent change of address, you’re faced with a complicated series of mundane bureaucratic hurdles. Like Adams’ real-life situation, your mail isn’t being delivered, your bank accounts are inaccessible, and everything in your average life begins to go a bit haywire.
While your journey begins by trying to retrieve misdirected mail, it becomes increasingly outrageous as you encounter a strange cast of charters, including an antisocial hacker, a paranoid weapons enthusiast, and a tribe of jungle cannibals — all while having to deal with impersonal corporations and an ornery llama.
The game begins by asking you to fill in a phony “software registration form”. But, beware, it’s a trick! The system deliberately mangles the personal information you input in order to add to the overall feeling of frustrating confusion when dealing with the bureaucracy.
For example, while you play, you are constantly misgendered by the bureaucracy and your least favorite things are presented to you as though they are your preferences.
Basically, all this is to express how impersonal the individual is treated by any bureaucracy. The system can never really know you.
The original game box came packaged with great set of extras material including pamphlets, fake magazines, quizzes, all presented with the inimitable Douglas Adams humor.
Monitoring how well you are progressing through the game is managed by a blood pressure reader which rises during frustrating events and lowers if you can avoid them. You die when your blood pressure reaches dangerous levels and you suffer an aneurysm.
[Related: Playing Stephen King’s “The Mist” Game]
Despite the brilliance of its seemingly mundane premise, Bureaucracy didn’t sell particularly well upon release. Reviews were generally positive with much of the praise going to Douglas’ singular ability to satirize modern life.
Over the years since, the game has developed something of a cult following and it certainly is recommended for fans of text adventure or even modern interactive fiction.
Luckily we live in the future, so if you want to try Douglas Adams’ Bureaucracy for yourself, you can give it a spin here.
THE PULSE is out now on Google Play