Forty years ago, one of the most influential games of all time was released. Zork was a true game changer, selling over 300,000 copies of personal computers in 1980. Distributed in plastic baggies with an instruction booklet like it was a new kind of drug, the game was a text adventure that helped paved the way for everything from Life is Strange to Skyrim.
For a while, it even looked like the original source code had been lost forever (something that happens way more than you might think, even with very popular and iconic games. Luckily, last year it was rediscovered and loaded to GitHub. Though it’s largely forgotten by the modern gamer, it remains a piece of the medium’s history that has a huge impact.
So today we’re going to celebrate the game’s release birthday with a handful of songs that were inspired by its pioneering sense of adventure.
5. Three Trolls in a Baggie, "Every OS Sucks"
Since I am talking old people stuff I thought I would start with a rambling history of the world of computers and gaming. Wes Borg and Chris Smith walk us through the evolution of the devices that changed all our lives, and they make sure to tell us how much playing Zork meant in the ancient 1980s. It's part of a rich history of technological advancement sung in a historical bardish way. If you stop listening halfway through, well, we olds are used to that, too, you feckless young'uns. Why don't you exit my lawn to the south?
4. Deb and Errol, "Walkthrough"
Cobbled together as part of a songwriting contest, "Walkthrough" is exactly what the title says. It's a song made entirely of the the commands that you need to beat Zork from beginning to end. Put it on at 0.25 speed and you'll be able to make your way through the game perfectly. Or just listen to it and marvel at how nonsensical things can be without context.
3. Grue, "Lament of the Spheres"
One of the things that Zork is most famous for is the grue, a human-bat hybrid monster that can attack you. Dying by its hands leads to the oft-memed "you have been eaten by a griue." Boston's Grue takes their name from the monster, and here's one of their more beautiful, if short, pieces.
2. Search Party, "Your Are Likely to be Eaten by a Grue"
This is one of those weird lost bands. Their homepage is a broken link, Google turns up nothing, and they share no relation with the classic English experimental band of the same name. The song doesn't really even have anything to do with Zork, but it does seem to sing about persevering through dark times. Close enough.
1. MC Frontalot, "It Is Pitch Dark"
Easily the best of the songs inspired by Zork is this stellar track from nerdcore royalty MC Frontalot. He weds that geek life with incomparable musicality to produce a classic track for a classic game. Who knew back in PC gaming infancy that something so simple would endure for so long? Happy birthday, Zork. Here's to all the great art you've inspired!