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Steven Meretzky game design scans available in Green Library reading room

Game design document - Steven Meretzky Papers (M1730)

Steven Meretzky is a pioneer in the computer games industry. His decades-long career includes experience working as a quality assurance analyst, game designer, product designer, and writer. Most of his signature contributions to the industry occurred while he was employed at Infocom, Inc., which was a prolific and highly-acclaimed publisher of text adventure games back in the 1980s. His most famous collaboration was with Douglas Adams on the computer game version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – a text adventure game that is notorious for its arcane and difficult puzzles. 

Text adventures are also known as interactive fiction and are played completely through simple instructions that the player types into a computer program. The computer translates these instructions (ex. “go north,” “get lamp,” etc.) and responds with prepared text, unfolding a story on screen for the player. Meretzky’s skills for creating these type of narrative games led to his inclusion as one of only two game writers in the Science Fiction Writers of America (the other being Dave Lebling, one of his colleagues at Infocom.)

Stanford University Libraries received Meretzky’s papers back in 2009. These papers extend 43.5 linear feet and include correspondence, design documents, marketing materials, and original packaging artwork, in addition to a significant number of data disks and electronic games. The contents of the data disks are still in the process of being migrated onto a preservation platform, so this portion of the collection is not currently open for research. However, since the data disks are an important part of the collection, exceptions may be made under special circumstances, and with prior consultation.

Manual draft for science fiction video game.

Last year, Stanford University Libraries added another digital component to the collection, this one much easier to access. The Internet Archive’s digital archivist, Jason Scott, provided two internal hard drives containing numerous scanned materials from the Meretzky papers that he had captured prior to their donation to the library in 2009. Scott described the materials he scanned as a "collection of influential writings and behind the scenes artifacts that a serious student of games and self-proposed archive of gaming materials would have to acknowledge as a world-class library." (Source: Jason Scott's weblog)

These internal hard drives contain 1426.0 gigabytes (11,781 files) of material. This material was reformatted and filtered for personal information before being loaded onto the Stanford University Library Special Collections’ reading room media cart. The reading room media cart provides access to materials hosted on a secure Stanford server and permits researchers to view the scanned materials from the Meretzky papers on-site. Visitors to Green Library will use a dedicated workstation in the reading room in order to access this server. Once they have accessed the server researchers will have complete access to the scanned materials using Adobe Bridge to view the documents.

Adobe Bridge screenshot of Steven Meretzky Papers (M1730)

For more information, a finding aid is available at the Online Archive of California.