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​The Point-and-Click Adventure Game Is on a Quest for a Comeback

The beloved Sierra brand has been revived—will a new generation of point-and-click adventures rise with it?
Stills from Gabriel Knight

Chalk it up to a generation of aging gamers' ripening nostalgia, or to fatigue from an endless barrage of first-person shooters but the  point-and-click graphic adventure—a name that originated when pointing-and-clicking was still something of a novel concept—seems to be in the midst of its most eventful year in well over a decade.

The genre never went away entirely, of course. Game companies and indie developers have continued to produce adventure games year after year, some that stick to the classic mould while others draw inspiration from it. Indeed, the last few years have seen a number of titles breath some real life back into the genre, from The Walking Dead and Telltale Games' other episodic adventures to the bold and innovative storytelling of Gone Home. But this year seems on track to be a little different.


That sense was no more evident than late last week, when Activision revealed that it is bringing back the Sierra brand, a name that you may find either vaguely familiar or remember fondly depending on your age and gaming inclination in the 80s and 90s. Only Lucasfilm was as synonymous with adventure games as Sierra during that heyday, when it produced classics ranging from its numerous "Quest" titles to the Gabriel Knight series, which many regard as its high water mark.

This week,  Activision confirmed that the revived Sierra will have "an exclusive focus on indie game development," and produce a mix of new titles and "contemporary reimaginings of beloved Sierra classics," including a new King's Quest game due next year.

Presumably, Activision wouldn't be bringing the name back if it didn't think the timing was right (and that it could make some money with it), and it has plenty of reasons to think so. One came at the very beginning of this year, when one of the most successful Kickstarters of 2013 was delivered to paying backers.

Himself feeling that the traditional graphic adventure was due for a revival, Tim Schafer (of Grim Fandango fame) turned to the crowdfunding site in an effort to raise $400,000 to make a game that was then known only as Double Fine Adventure. By the end of its funding period, 87,142 backers had contributed over $3.3 million to the project, and the finished game, Broken Age, is now available on a range of different platforms.


As a not indirect result of that success, Schafer is now working on  a remastered version of Grim Fandango, which has the backing of Sony for a release on the PlayStation 4 and Vita in addition to Mac and PC versions.

It's not the only classic adventure game that's seeing a revival. The first game in the aforementioned Gabriel Knight series has its own remastered version in the works), which is following an all-new graphic adventure from its pioneering creator, Jane Jensen—Moebius: Empire Rising, released in April of this year.

And, one of the best known entrants in the full-motion video (or FMV) sub-genre of adventure games, the post-apocalyptic, tongue-in-cheek Tex Murphy series, also spawned a long-awaited sequel earlier this year. It, too, was successfully funded on Kickstarter, where sequels to The Longest Journey and Broken Sword adventure games were also able to easily outpace their goal, and a number of smaller titles have managed to secure funding as well.

Even the original, un-remastered classics are getting a second chance at finding an audience thanks to sites like, which has made many readily (and cheaply) available and taken the hassle out of getting them running on modern computer hardware.

Whether this all turns into a genuine revival or merely amounts to what was formerly a total non-market becoming a niche market remains to be seen. But it's not hard to see why gamers and game makers alike are giving the genre another look. While today's most popular games continue to be action- and gun-heavy, there's more experimentation than ever going on around the edges. Services like Steam and Xbox Live, to say nothing of smartphone and tablet app stores, have made it far easier for indie developers to reach a wide audience, and we've seen in case after case that there is an audience eager for something different.

For those looking for a new way of telling a story, the adventure game is now something different—and it's broad and flexible enough as a genre to allow for plenty of experimentation. We were beginning to see some of that in the late 90s and early 2000s when adventure game makers first dipped their toes into fully 3D environments.

At the time it was an uneasy mix, often resulting in an interface that got in the way of telling a story instead of opening up new ways to tell it. Now, fully interactive 3D environments are the norm, to the extent that even a small team of developers can produce a game as compelling and accessible as Gone Home.

The "point-and-click" nature of the traditional adventure game also just so happens to be ideally suited to tablets and smartphones, which has already resulted in some classics being updated for the platforms. It offers up new possibilities of its own for experimentation in storytelling and exploration.

Maybe we'll see some of that from the newly-revived Sierra. If not, there's plenty of opportunity for others to pick up the mantle.