Some old school PC gamers might be familiar with one of the most user-friendly titles of its era. It was created entirely by Tim Sweeney of Epic Games, pretty much making it the older brother of other Epic titles such as Unreal Tournament.
ZZT at first may look like a typical puzzle-adventure game, albeit with ANSI characters crudely substituting graphics. You control a little blue smiley face, navigating through a world of mazes and puzzles, collecting ammo to use on enemies, torches to light up darkened areas and keys to unlock doors, all while avoiding ruffians, lions, sharks, tigers, centipedes and a ton of other hazards.
What made ZZT so unique was the fact players could build their own worlds, as well as the very early, very simplistic ZZT-oop, a scripting language that allowed players and budding programmers to program mechanics into their worlds. While limited and overly simplistic, the ZZT-oop appealed to those who worked with it and today there is a number of programmers who owe their careers to it.
It was once stated that ZZT is the game equivalent of Velvet Underground & Nico. Not everybody has played it, but those that have went on to become a game designer or involved in the industry in one way or another.
At the time of its release, ZZT utilised the shareware distribution model and continued to sell physical copies until 2013, when it was officially discontinued. It is freeware nowadays, and you can download it online from just about any site that hosts an archive of DOS programs. You can of course run it in DOSBox, but there also exists dedicated source ports such as Lyon.