The First Steps of a New Gaming Era: Celebrating The 7th Guest
Sometimes a game isn’t always known for being the best example of gameplay or creating the most nostalgic memories among players. Sometimes, the importance of a game lies in the change of times it signaled and the way it paved for others. By today’s standards, Trilobyte and Virgin Interactive’s classic PC horror adventure game, The 7th Guest, wouldn’t be winning any beauty pageants and its archaic gameplay would require the devoted patience of a nostalgic enthusiast. Still, when it originally launched in 1993, it would become a trendsetter in its establishment of what were then revolutionary new concepts.
The story of The 7th Guest began sometime in 1990 when lead designers Rob Landeros and Graeme Devine pitched their idea for the game at Virgin. Instead of being tasked with the game at Virgin Interactive, Landeros and Devine were pushed to resign and start their own studio with Virgin’s help in order to work solely on the game. Thus, Trilobyte was born and production of The 7th Guest began. The two would soon find themselves steeped in a dedicated staff set on producing their vision.
The 7th Guest is a macabre tale that takes players to an obscure little town known as Harley-on-the-Hudson. The plot tells of a miscreant known as Henry Stauf who became a famous doll carver and toy salesmen, attracting the business of the town and building a reputation for himself. However, when the town’s children become sick, Henry Stauf disappears into his mansion and his business shuts down. The last contact with Stauf came from six different guests that were invited to his home and never heard from again.
The player takes on the role of the disembodied EGO, who is a presence within Stauf’s mansion. Players are tasked with exploring the mansion and discovering what happened to Stauf and his guests many years before. The gameplay blends exploration with puzzle solving, with each completed puzzle rewarding the player with video and voice-clips. As each clip plays out, a little bit more of the intrigue and conspiracy behind Stauf and the six guests is shown.
The 7th Guest was a pioneer in many forms. The game was one of the first to introduce a heavy combination of 3D rendered graphics combined with live-action video clips: a set of techniques that quickly gain prominence across many titles in the following years of PC and console gaming. It was also one of the first games on PC that could only played on CD-ROM, due to the size of the game being much too massive for distribution on floppy disks that were the previously standard format of PC gaming. In combination with popularity from press coverage that hyped the game, The 7th Guest became widely regarded as one of a few causes for a sharp increase of CD-ROM drives for PCs following its release.
The game did fantastic upon its initial release. Microsoft co-founder and former CEO was once quoted to have called The 7th Guest “the new standard in interactive entertainment,” according to an excerpt from The Video Game Explosion: A History from PONG to PlayStation and Beyond, written by Mark J.P. Wolf. Indeed, it, alongside other classic titles such as Myst and Doom launched a new era that could not be denied. The game is archaic as sin by current standards, but at the time, it shaped part of the industry and helped to turn PC gaming in a new direction towards a brave new frontier. For that, The 7th Guest holds a notable place in gaming history.