It’s that time again! Join Callie and Drew for a discussion on Plundered Hearts by Amy Briggs: a once reviled, now beloved romance adventure. We talk about our favorite characters, the suspenseful story, and ask questions about feminist critiques of the game in 1987. How do those issues look now? Join us for a very 2022 discussion about one of Infocom’s greatest games.
As a bonus, we made an unboxing video.
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4 thoughts on “Gold Microphone: Plundered Hearts”
I only tried “Plundered Hearts” once or twice when it came out but just couldn’t get into it. I was, however, enchanted with the story of how Amy Briggs became a game tester who had her own title produced, as recounted in the company’s Status Line newsletter. I only listened to the first half of this podcast as I would like to finish the game. (Can you recommend any particular simulators?) I tried making a list of Infocom titles whose protagonists were explicitly male: “Hitchhiker’s Guide,” “A Mind Forever Voyaging,” “Sherlock: The Riddle of the Crown Jewels,” “Arthur: The Quest for Excalibur,” “James Clavell’s Shogun,” “Journey”…. There were a few games whose packaging depicted a male character but not necessarily the gameplay (“Infidel,” “Deadline,” “Planetfall”/”Stationfall”?). Perhaps the most inventive use of gender was in “Leather Goddesses of Phobos,” where the restroom the user visited at the beginning determined how the game played out (with attempts to visit both restrooms yielding a snarky response).
One of the guiding principles of Gold Machine is to treat game, package, manual, and feelies as a single “text,” so males on the box count so far as this project is concerned. The Invisiclues are fair game, too. Anything related to the game release that came from Infocom is on the table.
Setting that aside, there are some hints in many games that may at first appear “neutral.” I’ll try to have some thoughts put together for the next podcast.
So far as replaying goes: I don’t personally emulate, even for games I own. I prefer the conveniences of the modern interpreter programs. If you’re on Windows, I think Frotz, Gargoyle, and Lectrote are all good. I prefer Frotz for old Infocom games, but they’re all fine. I don’t know much about Macintosh, but there is a Lectrote release for Mac and it should do everything you need. I discuss this a bit in my post, “A Note on Resources and Methods.”
Once you have an interpreter, you just need story files. I link to them in the first post of every game I cover in the blog. The interpreter opens them just like a word processer opens a document.
There is a lot of interest in emulating legacy hardware with disk images, but I’m pretty out of the loop.
Hope this helps!
Plundered Hearts is one of my favorite Infocom games, one of the few that really feels like “interactive fiction” rather than a text adventure. The puzzles are well-clued and logical. The atmosphere is spot-on and most of the time feels more like a Pirates of Caribbean movie than a “bodice ripper” romance novel. In regards to the controversial bedroom scene, I appreciate it in that the “bad end” is necessary to flesh out the antagonist character and fully understand what is at stake. If it were a movie you’d probably have a scene where the antagonist does horrible things to *other* people to show what a baddie they are, but in a game you need to fail to see all the drama inherent in the story. A perfectly played, optimal run of the game is missing a lot of the fun, as fail states are often just as interesting (and dramatic) as success.
As for the problems a lot of males had at the time role-playing a female character, I think the game was just ahead of its time. These days video games frequently have female protagonists that most males play and enjoy without thinking twice about. You can probably draw a pretty direct line from Lady Dimsford to Lara Croft (who is also a “Lady” in the original lore.)
I think it is a bit of a mix. In terms of prose style and diction, Plundered Hearts looks to books like the old Harlequin Romances for its primary inspiration (I say “old” because I last looked at one 30+ years ago). So far as Lafonde goes: Callie and I accept (and even argue in defense of) the stakes. I think it’s a puzzle design that required repetition and repeated restores in combination with the stakes that bothered us.
Still, you make a good point about the limitations of perspective. I believe the game was right at the size limit for Atari systems, so Amy Briggs couldn’t have added another scene, even if she had wanted to. The game really deserved an Interactive Fiction Plus release IMO.
As for women protagonists: that one is a bit complicated, isn’t it? I’ll try to collect my thoughts between now and the next podcast. For now, I’ll say that the 90s Tomb Raider games were massively popular with gaming’s primarily male audience, but a a sea change in gaming attitudes toward women may not be the most likely cause. Successful games headlined by women remained, in the post-Lara 90s, a very small minority.
For instance, unless we count Kazooie, Lara’s success had not led to major changes in the top-grossing games of 1998 and 1999 (unless we count the Tomb Raider sequels).
The subject deserves a whole podcast of its own; perhaps it is something to explore after the project is completed. The main challenge would be access to sources: access to mainstream print media and academic articles would be a must, I think.
Thanks for kicking off a great discussion topic!