Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
Guide to the Steven Meretzky papers relating to computer game design and interactive fiction history, 1978-2009 M1730
View entire collection guide What's This?
Search this collection
Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Boffo Games, Inc.
  • Biographical Note
  • Scope and Contents
  • Acquisition Information
  • Publication Rights
  • Access to Collection

  • Title: Steven Meretzky Papers
    Identifier/Call Number: M1730
    Contributing Institution: Dept. of Special Collections & University Archives
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 43.5 Linear feet (54 boxes, 1 flat box, 6 map folders, 1 map tube)
    Date (inclusive): Circa 1978-2009
    Abstract: The papers include design and game development documents, correspondence, paper files, electronic games, magazines, data disks, original game package artwork, PR and marketing materials, and miscellaneous electronic game industry memorabilia.
    Creator: Meretzky, Steve

    Boffo Games, Inc.

    Related resource: Boffo Games collection, 1993-1996. Stanford University Libraries.

    Biographical Note

    Steven Meretzky was born on May 1, 1957 in Yonkers, NY. He attended MIT in 1975 in pursuit of an architecture career, and was majoring in construction management when he changed his career goals to focus on computer game development. His roommate at the time, Mike Dornbrook, was working as the first and only game tester for Infocom, a computer game publisher specializing in text adventures (aka “interactive fiction”) titles. Interactive fiction games are controlled by the player through a text-based parser, which interprets simple instructions that the player types into the computer, such as “get lamp.” Dornbrook was play testing the title Zork I in their living room on an Apple II computer, recording any programming bugs, and Meretzky assisted (unpaid) because of his interest in the game. Dornbrook eventually left to attend business school, leaving Infocom in need of a new game tester. In 1981, Marc Blank, Infocom’s VP of Development, hired Meretzky to fill the vacated position. Meretzky worked as a game tester for one year and then was offered the opportunity to develop his first game, Planetfall, which was released in 1983.
    He went on to develop dozens of classic Infocom titles during the 1980s, including A Mind Forever Voyaging, Sorcerer, and Zork Zero, eventually gaining entry into the Science Fiction Writers of America (one of only two game writers admitted, the other being Dave Lebling, another Infocom employee). Infocom was a leading creator of interactive fiction computer games during the 1980s, gaining a reputation for high quality packaging design, programming, and writing. In 1984 Meretzky had his most famous collaboration with Douglas Adams, on the computer game version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. He has been involved in almost every aspect of game development, from writing to design to quality assurance and product design.
    Montfort, Nick. Twisty Little Passages: An Approach to Interactive Fiction. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2005

    Scope and Contents

    The papers include design and game development documents, correspondence, paper files, electronic games, magazines, data disks, original game package artwork, PR and marketing materials, and miscellaneous electronic game industry memorabilia.
    This collection is arranged into 9 series.
    Series 1. Developed Games: This series contains computer discs and software packaging materials that are related to games developed by companies where Steven Meretzky worked. These include titles by Infocom, Inc. and Boffo Games, Inc. The computer discs are formatted for use on a variety of computing platforms, such as the Apple II, Atari 810, Macintosh, and IBM. There is also one arcade board, for the game Big Rig.
    Series 2. Personal Games [temporarily removed]
    Series 3. Design Notebooks: These design notebooks are arranged into 36 subseries, arranged alphabetically by game title. They include textual materials, technical specifications, artwork, scripts, financial data, and other documents generated during the game design process.
    Series 4. Paper Files: This series is arranged into 16 subseries. Papers include artwork (character sketches, box cover art, maps, and environnment concepts), business documents (corporate logos, web pages, marketing materials, letterheads, human resources materials, and memos), technical documents (ZIL engine, R-Mode Editor), correspondence, newsletters, books, drafts of novels, playthrough notes, hintbooks, posters, and conference materials.
    Series 5. Born-digital Materials: This series consists of backups on computer discs, including saved games from Simcity Mac 1.1 1989, audio from Boffo Games ( Hodj 'n' Podj, The Space Bar, etc.), different versions of Infocom games, and assorted game design documents. Note: This Series is CLOSED UNTIL PROCESSED.
    Series 6. Periodicals: The Periodicals series contains three subseries. Subseries 1 contains issues from the Journal of Computer Game Design published between June 1987-August 1996. Subseries 2 contains issues from Questbusters: The Adventurer's Journal published between August 1991 and May 1996. Subseries 3 contains issues from the Compuer Game Developers Association Report published between 1994 and 1998.
    Series 7. Realia/Ephemera: This series contains realia/ephemera related to game publisher Infocom, Inc.
    Series 8. Magnetic Tape Media: This series contains magnetic tape media including audio and videotapes from the Game Developer's Conference, a videotape of the demos for the game The Space Bar, and audio cassette tapes containing audio from the games Leather Goddesses of Phobos 2, Hodj 'n' Podj, Reverse Alien, and The Space Bar.
    Series 9. Photographic Scans of Selected Documents: Hard drives were given to Stanford University by Jason Scott, who scanned materials in the Steven Meretzky papers (M1730) before they were donated to the Stanford University Libraries. Jason described the materials that Meretzky provided to him as a "collection of influential writings and behind the scenes artifacts that a serious student of games and self-proposed archive of gaming materials would have to acknowledge as a world-class library." (Source: Jason Scott's weblog, (http://ascii.textfiles.com/archives/1357) The scanned items provide background on both business practice and game development at Infocom, Activision, and other companies for which Steve Meretzky worked during his illustrious career as a game designer.

    Acquisition Information

    Gift of Steven Meretzky, 2009. Accession 2009-304. Gift of Steven Meretzky, 2013. Accession 2013-216.

    Publication Rights

    All requests to reproduce, publish, quote from, or otherwise use collection materials must be submitted in writing to the Head of Special Collections and University Archives, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, California 94304-6064. Consent is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission from the copyright owner. Such permission must be obtained from the copyright owner, heir(s) or assigns. See: http://library.stanford.edu/depts/spc/pubserv/permissions.html.
    Restrictions also apply to digital representations of the original materials. Use of digital files is restricted to research and educational purposes.

    Access to Collection

    Open for research, except that born-digital materials in Series 9. are CLOSED UNTIL PROCESSED. Physical boxes can be paged for use through Searchworks. Audio-visual materials are not available in original format, and must be reformatted to a digital use copy. Scans of selected documents from Series 9 are available through the media cart (dedicated offline computers) inside the Green Library reading room.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Activision, Inc.
    Adams, Douglas
    Blank, Marc
    Boffo Games, Inc.
    Infocom, Inc.
    Lebling, Dave
    Computer games--Design.
    Computer games--History.
    Computer games--Programming.