Since my day is being broken up by some handyman repairs, I’ll just slip in this general babbling about some recent shopping, throw in a dab of history and season it with nerd powder.
My first personal computer ever was the Commodore Amiga. What a machine! I was really into art during the time it was released and it had amazing software available to take advantage of its unmatched color palette. Plus, I even bought a drawing tablet to plug in (which worked fabulously).
But that wasn’t my first computer…per se. That award goes to my Atari 5200. Ah, what a game machine that was.
Like all things comparative, I would have “battles” with my friends about which system was better: Colecovision (Donkey Kong) or the 5200 (Pole Position). Each boasted graphics far superior to any other game machine at the time (especially those creaky VIC-20’s and TI-99’s…16K RAM!!).
What can I say, my favorite games were Joust and the irrepressible Super Breakout. Yeah, Pole Position and some of the other classic arcade games were fun (they weren’t considered “classic” back then, by the way), but those two were the ones I wore out my joysticks on.
And let’s set this clear for you 21st century babies, we used joysticks back then, not fancy shmancy “controllers”. And those joysticks on the 5200 in particular always wore out at the rubbery base.
Most of the PC gaming in those days that wasn’t arcade was text-based. Maybe a few pictures, but mostly puzzle-solving games involving clues that you either entered in simple text (Y/N, etc.) or clicked on an object in a location.
BBS games were the simplest form of internet games going through our ancient modems (“psssshhh…rrrrrrrrr…..ahhhhhh”). Still more text.
There was a rash of DOS based games as Microsoft began its takeover of the world (via the home computer). Everyone was forced to get emulators who didn’t own a PC and oh, what a pain that was. Still, it was a leap forward from text/picture games to actual role-playing and strategy games that had some interfacing.
Then the beginning of the onslaught. For me, that started with a game called Populous. Oh, but I could play that game all day. You could either look at it as one of the first SIM type games or one of the first “god” (little “g”) games. Either way, it was tons of fun (look it up).
I started picking up the pace on a class called “strategy” games, which were like limited role-playing games (RPG) but with a building or growing theme (hearkening back to my Populous days).
During this time, I dabbled back and forth between strategy (like the original Warcraft, not the messy online thing of today) and simple RPG (like Might and Magic or Bard’s Tale).
A little later, I was snared by a demo of a game called Mordor and eventually became one of a group of testers for the developer. That game morphed and was sold and morphed again. I picked up on it once more after I “retired” back in 2009 and still keep active in it while waiting for a new augmentation.
Having more than ample time on my hands and having been able to buy continually more powerful computers (for less money each time – go figure…if only cars were that way), I occasionally wander the virtual hallways of the internet for reminisces of my game playing past.
Interestingly, the new Windows version (10) seems to work more smoothly with older games than any Windows OS since XP. It has encouraged me to cease my window shopping (no pun intended) and actually plop down some money on those old chestnuts.
Let me couch this first by stating I have never gotten “hooked” on first person shooter games. When the first Half Life demo came out for all to try, it was an astounding and eye-popping view of the “next gen” of computer gaming. But the game play itself did nothing for me. Give me my blocky, turn-based graphics, please.
So, I have added to my collection of antiquity by picking up those old Might & Magic and Heroes games. Plus I tried Baldur’s Gate (meh, too much to think about with the characters) and I even found an old copy of Bard’s Tale to plug in. Fun! And, with shrewd shopping between Amazon and eBay, everything comes in at $10 or less (sometimes WAY less, such as 99¢ – plus $3.99 shipping, heh.)
Despite what it sounds like, the games don’t actually take up all that much time. Not because I’m not just as obsessive as I was 30 years ago. Nope, it’s because my 57-year old eyeballs and back simply can’t handle seven hour game playing stretches anymore.
Which is cool, since that means those games will last me even longer than they did when I was younger.