When I think of an adventure game, I personally think Talisman. I sat down to randomly play that one time at Battleground Games and Hobbies, the local watering hole. It was my first shot at an adventure game (besides some early run ins with HeroQuest) and it was actually really interesting and fun. The problem was mainly the length. But is that really a problem though?
Sticking an adventure game next to, say an RPG, no. RPG campaigns last years and years, sometimes. Are they really that different from one another? It’s a complicated question. In spirit, they are very much the same thing: a means of telling an interactive story with a group of friends. That’s about where the similarities end, though. However, I really think that adventure games have a huge relevance among role playing enthusiasts. They’re really good at introducing somebody who, say, likes board games but thinks RPGs are weird or archaic to the concept. The Dungeons and Dragons adventure games (though I have no experience with them) seem to be a happy medium between board and role playing games. That sneaky idea won’t work with an IP as huge as D&D but something more subtle like Talisman might be appealing to someone who thinks RPG’s are silly.
I could also see adventure games being really useful in a gaming group that struggles to get everybody onboard every week. Games of HeroQuest have been played with only two people and been immensely satisfying, and that could work when only some of your group is in for the night. In my opinion, adventure games don’t scratch the same itch as RPGs but they get pretty damn close. We all know that missing a game one week can throw the whole flow of the group off kilter. Adventure games could definitely help combat that. An itch that could be scratched by adventure games, however, is that hack-and-slash type tendency that so many role players have. If you find yourself in the midst of a campaign saturated with politics and intrigue, maybe it’d be a good idea to take a break one week and play something like HeroQuest, where you literally go room to room and beat monsters up.
What’s greater still, and an important lesson I learned at that game store, an adventure game can be exactly like a role playing game but with less math-ish mechanics. The session I played in was riddled with dialogue and character interaction instead of just roll dice, move, draw a card, see what happens. It was very rich and engaging and incredibly personal. If the guys who read that remember playing with me, total shout out to you because it was an eye opening experience. Just like with most games you can get a lot more out of it if you just put some effort in.