ZZT is a personal memoir about the 1991 PC shareware game that kickstarted what would eventually become Epic Games, one of the games industry's biggest publishers. ZZT is a game-creation tool that people still use in 2020, and I interviewed a bunch of people from that community about how ZZT game-making shaped their art, careers, and identities.
For a little trans kid, it's maybe fitting that a bright pink Venus symbol became synonymous with the seemingly unattainable. They represented tasks that appeared insurmountable. Every game began the same way: Purple Keys, Purple Keys, the invocation of these mythical artifacts that perhaps no one had ever actually glimpsed with their own eyes, let alone set hand on.
It's a pacing solution, you see. You can collect these arbitrary tokens in any order, and then, when they're all finally gathered, the last Door will open into the final leg of the quest, the endgame. I used to wonder what could possibly be hidden inside these magic palaces, what wonders could be twinkling on the other side of those unopenable Purple Doors, just off-screen.
“Anthropy has set the gold standard for book-length studies of games with ZZT, and I would strongly encourage anyone even thinking about writing about games to start here.”
“Her analysis effortlessly straddles computer science, design, art history, anthropology, and gender theory, all wrapped in a personal story of her childhood. It is a very easy, enjoyable, and insightful read.”
ZZT is available from the publisher's page or at selected bookstores.