4 Ways Personal Success Is Like “Adventure” for The Atari 2600

by Brad Isaac on September 1, 2007

Remember Adventure on the Atari 2600? That was one of those games in the early 80s that critics called mature and a little too frightening for children. The theme of the game was similar to Dungeons and Dragons where you would enter a “hi-res” dungeon to fight 3 dragons of successive difficulty. The object of the game was to collect the Grail and return it to your castle.

If you want to try play the game, a developer named Scott Pehnke recreated it and made it available on his site.


My friends and I spent countless hours exploring the dungeons of the game, trying to find hidden areas and treasure. All the while avoiding the dangerous dragons and dealing with the nuisance bat that would fly by and steal things from you. The confounded bat would fly up and swipe your sword and trade it for a bridge right as you were fighting a dragon. Or it would grab the grail and carry it back into the depths of the dungeon just to get on your nerves.


But headaches like that aside, it was my favorite game on the 2600, for nowhere else at the time in history could you experience such an adventure with only your TV and a game console.


As I was talking about Adventure with a friend recently it occurred to me the game is a lot like life. Here are the 4 ways personal success is like Adventure on the 2600:

1. To Succeed You Must Face Dragons – To get your grail, you do have to get past the pixilated dragon that guards it. But first you must identify your dragon. Is it fear of public speaking? Fear of change? Fear to take the first step? All of our dragons are frightening, but in life, like in the game, you must face them in order to succeed.

I remember some kids who would come over to play didn’t like the game and would quit on the second level because the dragons were too tough. If you look around at life you can see people everywhere who see their own dragons as being too tough to slay. Only the people who see the fear and continue anyway find their grails.

2. Bats Will Get In The Way – Whether you are an entrepreneur, gardener, spouse or student, bats will get in your way. You’ll have a week or two of flawless results when suddenly; the bat swoops in and crashes your computer. A few weeks later, you find your car won’t start. The bat must have drained your battery overnight. Still other times, the bat will swoop in and trade your contentment for a bounced check or seemingly insurmountable argument with a boss or coworker.

The key to dealing with bats is not wishing they weren’t there, but instead handling them as they swoop in. Bats happen. They do get in the way, there’s no avoiding them (at least on this planet). It is best to plan for them and not give up when they do their damage. Hint: Without the damage that bats inflict, there is no adventure. A “bat free” life would mean you are not challenged. So it is ok to hate the bats as they wreck their havoc, but appreciate them because they make your story complete.

3. Creativity Can Be Better Than Fighting – In the game Adventure, you were often on the wrong side of the dragon with your sword. This usually resulted in the dragon eating you and you ending up in his belly for evermore. However, instead of fighting, you could simply outwit it. One way you could outsmart the dragon was to grab the bridge, tease the dragon so he’d chase you. Lead the dragon into a small room, and then run out carrying the bridge behind you. That way, the dragon would lock himself in the room.

This trick took much skill and practice to master, but it was immensely satisfying. The only downfall was the bat would usually pick up the dragon and drop it on you – trading the dragon for the grail. Blasted bats! Gotta love ‘em.

In life, there are many times you’ll endlessly fight and struggle, when if you stopped a second your thinking and creativity would lead to much easier paths. An employee finds that instead of fighting his boss for 6 hours that simply doing the 45 minutes of busywork leaves his schedule free for more fun stuff. An entrepreneur finds that instead of fighting to get her commercials on TV and ads in the newspaper, that by giving away 1000 of her widgets and letting the media know, that both TV and newspaper coverage happen free.

So like Adventure 2600, if you find yourself fighting, look for another path. Use your brain and come up with other solutions. You are likely fighting because of blindness. Open your eyes and see the problem from another angle and you might just find the bridge you can use to get to the other side.

4. Persistence Leads To the Secret Dot – Many players never realized there was a secret hidden in the deepest and darkest dungeon in the game. If you placed the bridge over a small square room in the middle of that dungeon and then crossed it, you could find a bonus secret called “the dot”.

The Dot was a 1×1 pixel which was barely visible, yet it was powerful in that it allowed you to walk through a wall in the game for another secret. The other secret was a revelation of the game’s creators in flashing text. You’d call the dot an Easter Egg these days, but back then, it was really something special.

In life as you quest for your grail you’ll too find these powerful secrets along the way. What appears small as a dot to the untrained eye will be of great value to you as you continue down your path. Words that reach deaf ears 98% of the time will give you hope. Tools that lie rusty and disused in other’s sheds will be well oiled fortune makers in your hands.

So keep your eyes peeled for the dots sprinkled along your way. They are always hidden where you least expect them.

Begin Your Adventure

Before you can meet your dragons, endure the confounding bats, use the powerful dots and eventually find your grail, you must first begin your journey. Like Confucius said, “The journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step.” Choose to take this step today. Not tomorrow, not the next day, but today. One step is all I ask. After that first step, then you can worry about the second and third.

Making your life an adventure means starting. Getting past the first simple dragons and facing more challenging ones later in life.

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Matt September 1, 2007 at 8:19 pm

This is one of the most awesome (in that, “Dude! That’s so awesome!” sort of way) blog posts I’ve read in a while. When I read the title I thought it was going to be a stretch at best, but by golly if you didn’t pull it off.

Man, I loved that game.

Rod2020 September 2, 2007 at 7:21 am

Wow! I have never seen such a great justification for those hours spent playing computer games – I just have to keep my kid from reading this until he is old enough to understand the bit about life!

It’s great food for thought for goal-setting as well. Stop for a second and allow creativity to ‘get in the way’ of logic, and you may find a better path to those millions you want to make (or whatever your holy grail is). Be persistent, and the path that you chose will eventually lead you to your destination.

Looking for clues to those dots is probably the most worthwhile task one can do. Blog posts like this one give such clues. Maybe the dots are mentors, may be they are books, maybe they are just a different view of the path that an outsider brings. The possibilities are endless.

Thanks, again, Brad!


John W. McKenna September 4, 2007 at 4:07 am


You’ve been tagged for the “Does Most Leadership Suck Challenge”. Check the link for details.

Take care…


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