Plundered Hearts: Infocom, Romance, and the History of Feminist Game Design

Publication year
Feminist Media Histories

Plundered Hearts is a computer game, not a romance novel. However,

Plundered Hearts, released in 1987, was one of Infocom's last games and Briggs's first and only title. It was neither marketed nor received as a feminist work, but through Briggs's engagement with and commentary on women's social positioning and the romance genre, it offers an early model of feminist game design. It was first and foremost a romance novel, and very much a product of the 1980s. [...] The cover of Plundered Hearts [...] is itself a nod to this 1980s romantic style: excessively colorful, with turquoise and green contrasting beneath the bright orange font and romance-novel-ready portraits of the characters and pirate ship. The back of the box invites the player unapologetically into the gaze of the heroine:


You barely survive an encounter with pirates, whose plans for you include a fate worse than death. The explosives, the rocky reefs, the vicious crocodile—all these are obstacles which you must overcome with cunning and agility. True, it's not easy: but at least you can control your fate. What you cannot control is much more dangerous: your passion for Nicholas Jamison, the handsome pirate captain.