Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Gaming: The Formative Years

This is the first in a multi-part series charting my development through the world of video games. In Part One, The Formative Years, I present a few games that got me started on this journey even before I had a computer at home. Let's get started.

Alley Cat (1984)
PC Booter


I didn't get into Alley Cat until much later than 1984, having been introduced to it by a primary school buddy of mine sometime around 1990. I went to a school that was rather advanced in computing technology for the time, and had had plenty of contact with computer games beforehand (some of which I am unable to track down on the Internet), though Alley Cat was my first experience of gaming addiction. I can remember never actually finishing the game, being continually frustrated by the stupid dog that would always kill me. These were the days when I had to give up my seat in order to let my friend have a turn, which was a pain in the ass because all I wanted to do was play again. And again. And again. This was obviously before I developed my incredible impatience with games; back then they were in essence much more difficult to complete than the games of today, many of which went on indefinitely and had no save function. This torture was taken well by my younger self, though nowadays if I pushed myself to install Alley Cat on DOSbox I know I'd last about five minutes.

Police Quest 2 (1988)
DOS


My neighbours were strange kids. The older boy was slightly eccentric while the younger sister was always trying to outperform everyone at school. I didn't care. They had a computer, which my parents didn't shell out for until a few years later. On their computer they had an assortment of games, though the one we played the most together was Police Quest 2. It was different to Alley Cat in that you could interact with the characters and type things to them. Being the bad kid that I was, typing things like "fuck you" when the parents were out of the room got my adrenalin racing and made the neighbour kids paint me as a 'bad kid'. This eventually led to me not being invited over anymore. Needless to say, I never really got too far with Police Quest 2, as saying rude things to every character was much more fun than solving crudely rendered homicides and burglaries.

Scorched Earth (1991)
DOS 


A couple of years later I was still the local bad kid and banned from my neighbour's PC, so on a trip to another city to visit family friends I was beside myself with joy when I was introduced to this brilliant game. You're a tank and your job is to blow other tanks up. Simple, addictive, fun, and still being developed today. The range of weapons and shields was almost overwhelming, and I found myself giddy with excitement when I had enough to purchase my first MIRV nuclear warhead. The kid I played with was a couple of years older than me and more experienced, so I was determined to improve my game and beat him on a return trip. This was perhaps the beginning of me begging my parents to invest in a computer, and so this will be my jumping-off point until the next installment.

Next in the series: My family gets a 486 DX2 running at a blistering 66MHz, resulting in a exponential rise in time spent gaming; my friends' parents' catch on to the computing craze; and supermarkets begin to sell 3.5" floppy demo disks packed full of gaming goodness.

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