Mystery House Taken Over

March 2005

Supported by Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts

The Mystery House Advance Team has reverse engineered “Mystery House,” the first graphical adventure game; they have reimplemented it in a modern, cross-platform, free language for interactive fiction development, and fashioned a kit to allow others to easily modify this early game.

“Mystery House” is a primitive interactive fiction for the Apple II by Ken and Roberta Williams, who published the game in 1980 through their company, On-Line Systems (later called Sierra). The game was a hit — Sierra sold more than 10,000 copies sold in a very small, new market for home computer software. “Mystery House” accepts one- or two-word typed commands from the user and presents crude, monochrome line drawings and terse textual descriptions. In 1987, in celebration of Sierra’s 7th anniversary, “Mystery House” was placed in the public domain. The modifiable “Mystery House Taken Over” reimplementation has likewise been placed in the public domain by the Advance Team.


You can play the existing reimplementations, but it’s no longer possible to modify the game yourself,


Visitors to the “Mystery House” site can play these modded games and can also create their own versions to offer online there. The Mystery House Occupation Kit allows artists and authors, with or without programming experience, to hack at and reshape “Mystery House,” easily modifying the “surface” aspects. Artists and writers may also choose to undertake more substantial renovations, engaging with, commenting on, and transforming an important interactive program from decades past.

Modified versions of “Mystery House” have been created by the elite Mystery House Occupying Force, consisting of individuals from the interactive fiction, electronic literature, and net art communities: Adam Cadre (Varicella, Photopia); Daniel Garrido, a.k.a. dhan (Ocaso Mortal); Michael Gentry (Little Blue Men, Anchorhead); Yune Kyung Lee & Yoon Ha Lee (The Moonlit Tower, Swanglass); Nick Montfort (Ad Verbum, Implementation); Scott Rettberg (The Unknown, Implementation); Dan Shiovitz (Lethe Flow Phoenix, Bad Machine); Emily Short (Savoir-Faire, City of Secrets).