Type Book
Date 2014
Pages 131
Tags nonfiction, games, transgender


Anna Anthropy delves into what makes ZZT--as she herself admits, "an obsolete game-making tool"--special. She interviews members of the ZZT community from the nineties, and discusses the whole experience, from playing the original game, to building new levels, to discussing it on Prodigy and IRC.

Anthropy admires the creativity of the fans who made new worlds for the game with its limited tools:

Sweeney built these commands, these codewords, into ZZT so he could test out his worlds more easily. He built them for utility. He built them as shortcuts. Authors built whole worlds around them.

Some created games far outside the original parameters:

Zem! was kind of part of a larger movement of what the community termed ‘engine games,’ making the player control a different avatar through an additional control panel,” Zem! creator John D. Moore tells me. “I got a severe joy out of twisting ZZT to do something that it wasn’t really intended to do, and even something no one had quite thought to do before. I knew I wasn’t making a perfect iteration of Lemmings in ZZT, but I was pretty thrilled to be adapting it to an altogether different medium with concessions to what that system’s limitations were, and further, exploring new territory made possible by those concessions.”

Anthropy also muses on the elements of game design as they relate to ZZT in particular and other games in general.

Throughout, Anthropy relates her experience with ZZT to her experience growing up trans:

I spent my childhood dressing up in ZZT—trying on feminine identities to see how they felt. I was reading, too—fantasy worlds like Sword and Sorceress and The Enchanted Forest Chronicles.

On the whole, this is an excellent book for anyone who wants a view on this particular niche of nineties gaming or computer culture generally.

Name Role
Anna Anthrophy Author
Boss Fight Books Publisher