50 Years of Text Games: From Oregon Trail to A.I. Dungeon

Created by Aaron A. Reed

A definitive book about the first half-century of interactive fiction.

Latest Updates from Our Project:

That's A Wrap
4 months ago – Fri, Jul 28, 2023 at 08:27:28 AM

Holy smokes, folks, that was fast! The inventory fire sale went live at 8:00 AM and within four minutes almost all the remaining books were sold out. At 8:08 AM the last available copy of the book anywhere was sold. Apologies to those not quick enough on the draw: I did not anticipate this level of demand!

There are still (as of this writing) a few ancillary items available on the Shopify store: posters and some overstock items from the Ultimate Collector's Edition (including the replica Pirate Adventure cassette tape, the commemorative floppy disk, and empty extras of the bonus box itself). These are going fast so click quickly if you want one.

So yeah, that's a wrap (at last) on the print run of 50 Years of Text Games! 🎉🎉🎉 There are now, sadly, no more copies available except a handful in my private collection. Some options going forward if you're still interested in the book:

* If you still want a print copy, a print-on-demand edition is coming later this year. Stay subscribed (or subscribe) to the project newsletter for news on when this becomes available.

* If you'd like to get the digital edition in PDF, reflowable EPUB, and plain text, it's available on Itch.io.

* If you are a backer who still has an outstanding shipping or payment issue, or never completed your backer survey, please contact me for your options at this point. 

I'll post again later in the year to announce the print-on-demand version. In the meantime, I'd love to continue seeing your pics, reactions, and reviews on social media or review sites like GoodReads as you continue absorbing and reacting to the book. Please keep them coming!

Take care,


Inventory Fire Sale Soon, Print-on-Demand News
5 months ago – Mon, Jul 24, 2023 at 10:40:34 AM

Hi backers-- a quick update mostly geared at those still without a physical copy of the book and looking for one, as I prepare to shut down my two fulfillment centers in the US and Europe.

All orders finished shipping earlier this summer and all should now have arrived. If you ordered a book and haven't received it, this is your last and final chance to contact me about it! (See the previous update for more details.) When I release the last of the held-back inventory for sale, I will no longer have any copies in reserve to send out to stragglers. 

The Fire Sale

When I closed pre-orders, I deliberately kept back a small reserve of books for emergencies (damaged shipments, straggler backers, etc). However, I need to pay my fulfillment centers to store this inventory and keep my accounts active, so as I'm now winding down their involvement, the time has come to liquidate this remaining stock. Here's how this will work.

This Friday at 8am PT (Pacific Time), I will re-open the the Shopify page with inventory for the remaining 50 Years books. This will be the final chance to get a high-quality physical edition from the offset print run. There is a lot of interest in these remaining copies, so I expect they will go fast.

Since remaining stock is tied to the specific fulfillment centers, there will be separate SKUs for US orders and EU/UK orders. If you live outside these regions, or want to order a book across region SKUs, there will be a very large shipping fee which represents my actual cost for shipping out of region-- apologies about this, but it is what it is. 

I also will have a small quantity of overstock items from the Ultimate Collector's Edition available, including extra floppy disks, hint books, posters, and game cassettes.

After the fire sale, I will really and truly be out of copies of all editions of the book, no matter how sad the sob story. However...

The Print On Demand Edition

I am prepping an edition of the book for print-on-demand, which will enable it to stay "in print" indefinitely going forward. These versions of the book will not be quite as fancy as the offset print run-- no faux-leather hardcovers or slipcases, and POD printing is not as crisp and sharp for deep blacks and images-- but they will be thoroughly readable and preserve all the content and history of the book. These editions will be largely unchanged in content from the original run, except for a few text corrections, and some fiddly layout tweaks to satisfy the different requirements of POD printers. (Amazon, for instance, does not allow you to have text running off into the margins even as a visual or design element, which I did, uh, quite a lot...)

Four copies of "50 Years of Text Games" laid out side by side, with sticky notes on the covers identifying each book's origin.
Print-on-demand proofs from various companies testing print quality.

I plan to have two versions of the POD book: a softcover, and a casebound hardcover (think school textbook). These will be available on Amazon, and also through other retailers via IngramSpark: essentially it will be listed in a catalog that any bookseller is free to pull from and list for sale. This means you could request it from your local bookstore, campus library, etc. 

I am hoping to get these editions up sooner rather than later, hopefully sometime in August. I'll announce here when they are available.

In the meantime, the digital version is currently available in PDF, EPUB, and plain text formats. 

Finally: some folks have asked what is the future for Further Explorations, the companion book from the Collector's Edition? I am not currently planning to release this as a standalone volume, so trying to snag a Collector's Edition in the fire sale is your best bet to get a copy. I may eventually create a print-on-demand edition, but this would not be until sometime in 2024 at the earliest.

That's all for now! Take care and keep cool,


All Books Have Shipped
5 months ago – Thu, Jul 13, 2023 at 08:45:16 PM

We're near the end of the 50 Years of Text Games journey... my fulfillment partners report that all 5,713 confirmed book orders have now shipped!

If your book has arrived, I hope you're enjoying it! (If it hasn't, check the "Troubleshooting" section below.) Here's a brief sampling of some photos people have posted on social media via #50YearsOfTextGames-- thanks to everyone who's shared their photos and excitement!

A montage of photos of various editions of "50 Years of Text Games."

I'd love to see more of your pics, reactions, and reviews on social media or review sites like GoodReads as you continue absorbing and reacting to the book. Please keep them coming!

Take Inventory

What's the status of the print run produced for the campaign?

All physical editions of the book have been sold out since early June, but I have been keeping back a limited amount of inventory to replace lost or damaged shipments or for other contingencies. I'm going to wait two more weeks for any issues with the last of the shipped orders to surface, but my plan is to put whatever inventory remains at that point (if any) back on sale to completely sell through the print run.

If you have any friends who missed the campaign and really wanted a copy, tell them to subscribe to the 50 Years of Text Games newsletter which is where I'll announce when this inventory is available for purchase. I expect the small amount of remaining books will sell out for good within days (possibly hours) once the link goes up.

In the meantime, the digital version is still available for sale. (If you're a backer wondering how to get access to your digital copy, check this backer update for instructions.)

There are no current plans for a second offset print run of the book, unfortunately-- the amount of interest just isn't there to get the same economies of scale as in the big print run.

However! Later in the year, I'm hoping to release a print-on-demand version to keep 50 Years in print going forward. This will unfortunately not be as high quality as the original print run, due to the inherent trade-offs between professional book printing and print-on-demand, but it will keep a physical edition of the book available indefinitely. I'll also announce this version on the newsletter and in a backer update once it becomes available.


If you expected a book but haven't received one, here are some things to check.

Note that it's easy for me to miss post comments, so if you need to contact me related to your order, please DM me directly by clicking on my name on the Kickstarter project page, then the "Contact Me" button; or email aareed at gmail dot com.

If you ordered a softcover to a US address and received an empty mailer or one with nothing but an invoice inside, please reach out to me for a reshipment if you haven't already: this indicates a mistake at the fulfillment center or a packaging fail during shipment.

Your book might still be in transit, particularly if you are not in the EU/UK or the US. Check the tracking number in your shipping confirmation email for the current status of your shipment.

Did you miss your notification email or your shipment itself? If you are in the EU/UK, you would have received a tracking email from RSE (RedSky Europe) sometime between June 10th and June 16th 2023. If you're in the US or anywhere else in the world, the email would have come from Changeful Tales LLC <[email protected]> between late June and July 11th 2023. Check your inbox or spam folder for the email associated with your pledge; the message will have a tracking number. (If you still can't find it, ping me with your full name and the email address associated with your order and I can look it up for you.)

If the tracking number indicates something unexpected in your shipment status, please try to resolve it with the shipping carrier before contacting me: I don't have any more information or power than you do over shipments in progress-- in fact, less, since I am neither the receiver nor the shipper (that's the fulfillment company). If the shipment has been returned to sender, or anything else is going on that you can't resolve, feel free to reach out.

Did you never fill out your backer survey or never pay for shipping? You can check whether you did by searching your email for a message from [email protected] with the headline "Survey Confirmation -- 50 Years of Text Games". If you didn't fill out your survey or pay for shipping, I may not have manufactured or reserved a book for you-- see the Unclaimed Pledge Rewards policy for your options.

Going Forward

Backer updates will slow down as this project winds down, but I plan to keep the 50 Years of Text Games newsletter going with occasional new content, so do subscribe over there (it's free) if you're interested in more cool snippets interactive fiction history-- I've got a great piece planned to debut there next week.

Doing this project has been a privilege and a pleasure-- thanks for coming along the journey with me, and I hope you're enjoying the book.


Shipping Update
5 months ago – Mon, Jul 03, 2023 at 09:47:45 AM

Hi backers-- a quick shipping update for you:

  • EU/UK books have all shipped. 
  • US / rest of world books are in the process of shipping. About 1500 out of 5000 orders have shipped so far, with the rest expected to be on their way in the next couple of weeks. This process is going slower than I had hoped it would, but the fulfillment center is trying their best to work through the backlog.

When your book ships, you'll receive an email from the fulfillment center with a tracking number.

If you never completed your survey, your order will obviously not be on the way, because I didn't have a shipping address for you and you weren't able to pay  shipping. The unclaimed rewards policy can be found on the project FAQ here (last question): https://if50.textories.com/faq.html

The physical edition of book is also now completely sold out (barring a few copies held in reserve for things like damaged shipments etc)! I did not expect this to happen so fast, but some great press coverage helped make it happen, and it's lovely that every one of those books printed is on its way (or about to be) to an appreciative audience. =)

Speaking of press coverage, you can see some reactions to the book here:

If you've received your book and want to help spread the word, the digital version is still available, and there's a Goodreads page up for the book. I'd love you to share your reactions, reviews, photos etc. on social media or wherever else you think folks might be interested in seeing it! And if you haven't gotten your book yet, hold on for a couple more weeks... it should be on your doorstep soon.

That's it for now-- take care, and hope you're enjoying the book,


Digital Version Now Available!
6 months ago – Thu, Jun 15, 2023 at 09:36:10 AM

I'm happy to announce that the digital edition of 50 Years of Text Games: From Oregon Trail to AI Dungeon is now available!

Kindle showing the title page of "50 Years of Text Games."

The digital edition(s), actually: read on for more details, but first, how to get it:

  •  If you were a Kickstarter backer or pre-ordered on BackerKit, you should receive an email from BackerKit in the next 24 hours with download links. If you don't get this email, check your spam folder or log in to your BackerKit survey and look for the "Get Your Digital Downloads" button. 
  •  For new orders going forward, you can purchase the digital edition at Itch.io.

The physical editions are also on their way and I'm hoping they'll be in your hands shortly. EU/UK orders started shipping today (!!) and I expect US and other international orders will be shipping within the next few weeks. When your physical book ships, you'll receive a receipt and tracking number to the email address associated with your Kickstarter/BackerKit pledge.

For new print edition orders, the remaining stock from the print run is on sale at the new Shopify store.

About The Digital Edition

The digital version of the book is available in three different formats (you unlocked all of these with your digital or higher tier pledge):

  •  The PDF version mirrors the layout and content of the print edition, and includes internal links and cross-references.
  •  The EPUB version also includes the full content of the book, in a reflowable format for e-readers and screen readers, created with an eye to both readability and accessibility. (More on this edition below.)
  •  The plain text version contains the main text and references of each chapter in unadorned ASCII. It does not include sidebars and other ancillary material that interrupts the flow of the main text.

Creating the Reflowable Version

This edition was not a copy-paste job, but was converted by a company called Electric Book Works that specializes in thoughtful digital editions of print titles. The EBW team and I did a ton of thinking about how to make this complex book work sensibly in a reflowable format (and used, for instance, the DAISY Accessible Publishing Knowledge Base as a key guideline).

The print book, for instance, is full of sidebars and ancillary material running alongside the main text. But not all e-readers can display floating sidebars consistently (and in a screen reader, they would constantly interrupt the flow of the text). In the EPUB, this material has been contextually shifted: short cross-references moved inline into the main flow, mid-length asides put in boxed full-width paragraphs, and long or ancillary sidebars-- including things like a game's detailed release history or index of other games by the same author-- moved to the end of each chapter. A "Next Chapter" link at the end of the main text lets you skip past this secondary material (as well as footnotes and other chapter end matter) to easily continue reading the primary text.

Dozens of small adjustments like this have hopefully made the ebook version much easier to read than some similarly dense books that have been less carefully converted. 

The 50 Years ebook on an iPad, showing a map from 80 Days.
The 50 Years book on a Kindle, showing a section from Zork demonstrating sidebars and excerpt text.

Another major concern for the EPUB edition was accessibility. Blind and low-vision readers have traditionally been a significant part of the interactive fiction community, so EBW took care to follow accessibility guidelines and standards, and did some beta reading with folks from these audiences. One change we made based on this feedback was adding more invisible (but audible) structural announcements to identify different blocks of text-- things like "Begin Excerpt," "Begin Quotation," or "Player Input." This helps differentiate these chunks of texts (which sighted readers rely on style cues to distinguish) when read aloud.

Huge thanks to EBW for spearheading the ebook conversion with so much thought and attention to detail!

EPUB Compatibility

The EPUB version has been tested and works great in the following environments:

  •  Kindle devices (circa 2021 or newer; older Kindles probably are good also)
  • Kindle App (Windows) 
  • Kindle App (Android phones) 
  • Apple Books 
  • Adobe Digital Editions 
  •  Flow (web-based e-reader) 
  •  NaturalReader (web-based screen reader)
  •  Dream Reader (Mac screen reader)
  •  QRead (Windows screen reader)

The EPUB works but has a few issues in the following environments:

  •  Calibre: displays properly, but in some versions you may need to go to Settings > Page Layout > Flow Mode to prevent advancing by chapter instead of page.
  •  Kindle VoiceView (screen reader): reads main text but does not read invisible screen-reader structure hints.

The EPUB is not recommended in the following environments:

  •  Kindle App for Mac or iOS: These versions of the Kindle app have not been updated as of June 2023 for full EPUB3 compatibility, and ignore most style and positioning suggestions as well as rendering accessibility text meant to be invisible. I recommend you use a different app on these devices (such as Apple Books) or try the PDF version if screen size allows.

Other Digital Rewards

If you pledged for the Collector's Edition, your unlocked files on BackerKit will also include digital versions of the "Further Explorations" companion book.

If you pledged for the Ultimate Collector's Edition, you will additionally unlock digital versions of the posters, the contents of the floppy disk feelie, and the text in the hint book (in both unobscured and rot-13 encoded versions).

This content is exclusive to backers at these levels and not available for standalone purchase at this time.

The Online Portal

One other item that's now available is the online portal promised in the Kickstarter. I haven't mentioned this much since the campaign, but the main point of the portal is to provide up-to-date links where you can download, play, or buy each of the book's fifty featured games. 

A selection of other great bonus links is included for each featured game, including great online resources like hints and walkthroughs, maps, interviews with authors, interesting videos, and other fun content.

The portal also includes a couple other extra pages, including details on the bonus items in the Ultimate Collector's Edition and a listing of errata for the book. If you find any broken links on the portal, or any errors in the book, please get in touch using the links in the footer of the portal site pages, and I'll try to keep these resources live and up to date for as long as possible.

The portal is not gated to a particular pledge level, and can be accessed by anyone here: https://if50.textories.com/portal/


It's hard to put into words how great it feels to finally be releasing this book, after literal years of work. Whether you dive in today, or are waiting for your print copy to arrive on your doorstep, I hope you enjoy the journey!

I'll be back in July with another update as folks start getting their physical editions and sharing reactions. Feel free to drop a comment if you've reviewed it somewhere! Until then, take care, and enjoy the digital edition. 

A Kindle and iPad showing pages from the digital edition of "50 Years of Text Games."

P.S.: Failbetter Games, whose Fallen London is the 2009 chapter of the book, just released a gorgeous new narrative game in the same universe: Mask of the Rose. I couldn't be having more fun with it, and highly recommend it if you enjoy gothic romance, period mysteries, great character writing, and bizarre secrets...

Until next time,