Five Things We Learned From the King's Quest Series

By Jeremy M. Zoss in Features, Five Things
Tuesday, October 5, 2010 at 12:00 pm
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The King's Quest series taught us a lot about life.
By Aaron Matteson

​Sometimes while playing modern video games, with their stunning graphics and lightning-fast gameplay, we can look back at the quaint releases of earlier eras and wonder at how limited and basic they were in comparison. 

But, as we've discovered before, just because a game runs on a limited color palette and contains disturbingly small amounts of ultraviolence doesn't mean it's worthless. Few games have aged more clearly than the beloved King's Quest series, and yet there is still a great deal we can learn about our world from these classic adventure games. 

Before Kratos, Solid Snake and the Master Chief ruled gaming, there were heroes like King Graham of Daventry, and his brand of nice-guy adventuring has much to impart to us all.


1.) The greater the difficulty, the greater the reward.

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This gnome is an asshole.
The King's Quest games contained many puzzles that the player would need to solve using logic, persuasion or items acquired over the course of the adventure. Some of these puzzles were fairly straightforward - use a goat to vanquish a bridge troll, play fetch with a dog to get him out of the way, et cetera.

And then there are other puzzles. Consider the problem of the gnome in King's Quest I, who gives you three guesses as to his name. The obvious answer is Rumpelstiltskin, but say that and the gnome smugly tells you that you are incorrect. The only way to best the gnome is if you remember an obscure note you recovered in a witch's gingerbread house earlier advising you to "think backwards." From this cryptic note, the player is not only expected to apply the advice to this particular situation, but also to assume that "thinking backwards" means REVERSING THE ENTIRE ALPHABET and spelling the name Rumpelstiltskin with this new set of letters (the gnome's name is fucking "Ifnkvohgroghprm").

Ludicrous? You bet. But you know the three guys who solved that without outside help felt like the hugest ballers ever... if the term "baller" can be used to describe a King's Quest player.


2.) For nice people, it's important to know who to trust.


Throughout King's Quest, King Graham and the other playable characters (Alexander and Rosella) prove themselves to be polite to a fault. They approach all others with an air of decency and conduct their affairs with honor. That's why it's a rather large surprise that people keep trying to kill them. In KQV, Graham can be summarily murdered by a number of people for a variety of offenses (prime among them being the surly Italian innkeeper who orders Graham to be "rubbed out" for no real reason. Graham is then hit on the hit with a sap, tied up and killed). It happens to often that it becomes an almost comical sight

Being honest and genuine are wonderful qualities; just make sure that you aren't honest and genuine at your own peril.


3.) Be careful what you wish for.

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In the earlier entries in the series, the actions your character took were dictated by the player entering in text commands and hoping against hope that the computer understood your phrasing. While this resulting in a lot of infuriating "I don't understand what 'punch' means" messages, every so often the computer would surprise you.

Remember the goat mentioned earlier in KQI? Well, turns out that some sick programmer wrote in the code necessary to make it possible to brutally murder the goat, to your own detriment, for no reason whatsoever. All you have to type is "kill goat" out of boredom, and, with shocking efficiency, Graham executes your command with a dagger obtained earlier.

Never assume that no one else has thought the stupid, weird things you have. Others have thought the exact same things. Some of them happen to be computer programmers.


4.) Be a packrat.

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Getting tired of carrying that cement block around? TOO BAD YOU MIGHT NEED IT LATER!
As with many adventure games, but specifically with King's Quest, every single useless item that you can acquire will eventually prove vital in some capacity or other. See a rotting fish? Pick it up, put it in your knapsack. You never know when you will encounter a ravenous bear. See a delicious custard pie? Buy it, put it in your knapsack, but don't you dare eat it, you pig. Don't even look at it until you encounter a Yeti who you only defeat using the aforementioned pie and a heavy dose of physical comedy. Eat the pie early on and the game will quietly allow you to play on, even though you have effectively doomed King Graham to death at the hands of a mythical snow gorilla much, much later in the game.

The lesson is: hold on to those old toys from childhood, those useless tinkets your cousin brought you from Malaysia, those stupid rocks from your freshman year geology course. Who knows what type of creature you'll eventually have to throw them at?


5.) Some animals are less cute than others.


WILL YOU SHUT UP, CEDRIC? SHUT UP. I WILL END YOU. I WANT YOU TO STOP TALKING TO ME.
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