How to Play Infocom Games on an M1 Mac

I’ve been a gamer my entire life from my early days of playing on the Atari to the latest gems on the PS5. I have to say, of the thousands games that I have played, Infocom games are my most loved.

I played with my dad, my brother, and friends around the neighborhood. We’d spent our summer days working out solutions to what seemed like impossible puzzles (and some were – I’m looking at you, Zork 3 Royal Puzzle).

Recently I bought a new Mac and decided to revisit the classics. I found that it took a little sweat and elbow grease to get the Infocom games working on the Mac but they do work on the latest M1 Macs.

If you need a little walkthrough to play Infocom games on an M1 Mac, then follow along. You’ll have your text adventures running in no time!

The Fine Print

To get started, you’ll first need an Infocom game. Infocom was bought by Activision in the mid-eighties and subsequently closed down a few years later. Activision actually still sells some of these games. This is important to understand because while Infocom games are classified as abandonware, Activision does make money from them.

So while you may be able to download any Infocom game from the internet, just know that you are wading into a grey area. But you probably already knew that. 😉

One other thing – a lot of Infocom games came packaged with documents often referred to as “feelies”. These were like fake brochures, comic books, notes written by characters – essentially, items that imersed you into the world.

These feelies also served to give game critical hints and acted very much like copy protection. Basically, before you start playing, make sure to run a google search on the game’s feelies and review them.

For instance, I’m playing Wishbringer so I searched for “Wishbringer feelies” which returned a PDF containing scans of all the various documents, including the manual.

You can see an example here:

“Installing” Infocom games

Once you have your game, create a new directory in your home folder called Infocom. Then, create a subfolder for the game like Wishbringer.

Your home folder should then look like Brian/Infocom/Wishbringer

Put your game in that subfolder. Next, head on over to DOSBox-x. This is a site that produces an open source DOS emulator. On the left-hand side, click the download link for the ARM-based Mac.

Once downloaded, install the software on your system. In your Applications directory, run the dosbox-x application. You may need to go to System Preferences / Security to give the app permission to run.

Once you do this, DosBox will run. Now comes the fun part. You need to “mount” your drive. This just lets DOSBox know the folder where your games are located. Type the following:

mount c ~/infocom

Now your C drive is pointed to your Infocom folder. Type the following to switch to your c drive:

c:

Now you can navigate into your folders. First, to see a listing of all the files and directories, type the following:

dir

You may see some items be listed with ~1. File and directory names could only be eight characters back in the day. If they exceeded eight characters, the name was truncated with a ~1. Oh yes, there was much celebration when names exceeded eight characters.

To navigate into a folder, type the following:

cd wishbr~1

The cd just means change directory. In this case, I’m entering the Wishbringer directory. Because the word Wishbringer is more than eight characters, I add the ~1 to it.

If you ever want to navigate up a directory, you can type the following:

cd ..

Believe it or not, these commands run the same way today!

To run the game, make sure to type dir to list the files. Look for the name of the game followed by either an EXE or COM. Just type it in the console.

wishbrin

You’ll notice that there is no ~1. The developers at the time always kept their names within the eight-character limit, so there was never a need for the ~1.

And that’s it! You can now play Infocom games on your M1 Mac! You’re off to the races. Now keep in mind, your saved games aren’t being backed up to iCloud. If you want iCloud to back up your save files, then put your infocom directory in your Documents folder.

In which case, your mount command would look like the following:

mount c ~/Documents/infocom

Hopefully, that shoud get you moving. And hey, if you like playing text adventures, you can read my free tutorials on how to write your own interactive fiction.

If you got stuck, feel free to let me know in the comments and I’ll see what I can do to help. Otherwise, let me know your favorite Infocom game. Cheers!

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