Hello again! I’m back with a commercial that I intend to use in my radio show. For my product, I decided to highlight the Zork games: a series of text adventure games developed by Infocom, a part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I’ve expressed my interest in interactive fiction here and here, and I thought this was the perfect place to display it. The assignment is called 80’S Product Radio Commercial and was submitted by Kollin Carter. The description is as follows: “Create a 30-45 second radio commercial for a product from the 80’s. Add in some background music and/or sound effects to make it sound like a real radio commercial.”
You can see that I broke the time limit, though I felt as if the amount of time I took was best to carry my message. We can sit through back-to-back ads on YouTube, so I’m sure a somewhat-interesting minute-long advertisement is survivable. About the product: Zork I was released in 1980, and the final piece of the trilogy was released in 1982. One can type in commands such as ‘examine ___,’ ‘west,’ or ‘open ___’. Instead of choosing from a list of options, the player has to think of what to do next. There is a help option, but I find it neat how autonomous and ‘free’ one can be with their adventure. I like playing it in text, for it leaves a lot to the imagination. (Want to check it out? Play it here.)
About the company: Infocom and its interactive fiction stories were truly a part of the 80s, for it was started in 1979 and then was bought out by Activision in 1989. I couldn’t find a slogan or a jingle of theirs, so I ended up making a little tagline: “Come and embark on your own epic adventure and together, we’ll write your story.” I did a little bit more research and found that “all ten of its games were on the Softsel top 40 list of best-selling computer games for the week of December 12, 1983, with Zork in first place and two others in the top ten” (Wikipedia). I felt that was a perfect point to use in my script. The introduction of my script is a snippet of the game itself, and I found it through this really neat embroidery of Zork by Glenda Adams:
I recorded my vocals at the HCC Vocal Booth. Then, I cleaned them up before pitching them down. The narrative part was pitched down by around 15% and response voices by about 10%. I did my best to use a slightly-nasal voice for the advertisement part so that it sounded a little more normal when pitched as opposed to my usual inflections. I’m aware that I’m no Morgan Freeman, but the morning rasp served me well (when my voice didn’t crack). I made sure to amplify the bass as well as add echo and reverb to the narration to make it sound like a Dungeon Master (DnD anyone?).
Next, came the music. I wanted to make it sound like one was playing an 80s dungeon crawler, so I chose a 8-bit composition by Erang Dungeon Synth. This channel is totally worth the listen, check out the original work below. Doesn’t it give you a sense of dread and curiosity?
The other song I chose was the instrumental version of Tears for Fears’ song “Shout” (1985). Without the words, it completely gives me ‘dungeon’ and adventure vibes. Do you agree with me? It’s almost uncanny.
I couldn’t decide between the two, so I ended up using both. The only modifications I did to the songs was amplify the ‘click’ you hear in Erang’s music to emphasize the change in the narrative. It goes well with the idea of being trapped and in imminent danger. I also faded “Shout” in and out so that I could highlight this aforementioned ‘click’ (coupled with a bass drop that sounds like a video game dying noise). I made sure to time it so that the original melody comes in when the narrative ends, also removing the 8-bit music from the upbeat advertisement part. Other effects I used included a hall door closing to show the trapdoor slamming and the player being barred in. I also used a clip from the 2015 hit-indie video game Undertale by Toby Fox for the laughing sound effect. A little bit like Zork, one can end up on a different path from what they intended. The retro-themed music and art resembled my mental image of text adventure games.
Overall, I had a great time with this assignment: it was probably my favorite one this week. It could be cleaned up and transitioned into a bit better, though I’m certainly not upset with how this turned out. If I do end up editing it, I will likely focus on making the “Shout” and “The Dark Dungeon” instrumentals flow together better. Currently, they clash a little bit though I can’t bring myself to nix either. I’m adamant about the long crescendo of “Shout,” though perhaps that will change after a day. I hope this piqued your curiosity! (Play Zork!)