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This 40-year-old game is finally playable thanks to a fixed typo

Polar bear
(Image credit: USFWS Alaska)

Sometimes making a creative project means sending it out into the world and hoping for the best, then finding out it's actually been broken for the last 40 years.

You can see the end result from developer Harry McCracken - formerly an enthusiast game developer on his Radio Shack TRS-80 personal computer, now tech editor of Fast Company - on the dedicated website for Arctic Adventure right now, as spotted by PC Gamer. Granted, that's the fixed version. The version which was published in "The Captain 80 Book of BASIC Adventures" back in 1981 wasn't nearly so, um, playable.

McCracken finally took the project back up when he found a copy of the old book online and slowly, painstakingly punched in each line of the program's BASIC code into the TRS-80 emulator running on his iPad. This was the 1981 equivalent of clicking the "download" button on Steam.

"That was when I made an alarming discovery: As printed in the CAPTAIN 80 book, the game wasn't just unwinnable, but unplayable," McCracken writes on the site. "It turned out that it had a 1981 typo that consisted of a single missing '0' in a character string. It was so fundamental a glitch that it rendered the game's command of the English language inoperable. You couldn't GET SHOVEL let alone complete the adventure."

He can't be sure whether the typo which stood uncorrected for four decades was his or the publication's fault, but it's fixed now. You can play through the complete game, including some judicious updates from 2021-era McCracken ("I decided that it was my game and there was nothing wrong with continuing development on it after a four-decade break") right in your browser. And no, there's no shame in checking the hints page if you can't figure out what the hell you're supposed to do with that shovel.

We'll have to spend some time pondering where Arctic Adventure should rank in our list of the best PC games.

Connor Sheridan

I got a BA in journalism from Central Michigan University - though the best education I received there was from CM Life, its student-run newspaper. Long before that, I started pursuing my degree in video games by bugging my older brother to let me play Zelda on the Super Nintendo. I've previously been a news intern for GameSpot, a news writer for CVG, and now I'm a staff writer here at GamesRadar.