I’m having one of those young adult/mid-life crisis moments in life where, next year I turn 30. It is under a year away, and I will hit that haunting age where there are no more fun birthdays (when I say fun, I mean like, 18, 21, 25, 27, the great ones where it’s like a riot). I perceive my next birthday to be something along the lines of a hot chocolate with extra marshmellows in, a good film or good game and getting away without having to go to work for the day.
This isn’t so much of a ‘crisis’ but more of a ‘where do I want to be in the next ten years because I should probably start considering it’ type of ‘crisis’ which leads me to start thinking of genuinely mature decisions for the first time in my 29 years of being on this planet. Things like ‘well, I want my own place’ and what not, have started flooding the mind once occupied by someone who’d rather spend £20 on 20 bags of £1 bubblegum flavour cola bottles from Tescos. So I’m not doing anything like ‘crisis spending’ on some sort of speed boat or dream car… yet.
Anyway, the reason I mention this is because with looking towards the future, I can’t help but look at where I’ve come from, especially where I started gaming. So I figured I’d do a blog about it, because well, it’s always interesting to read about the retro world.
It’s incredibly difficult to find images of the games, so please click on each image to go to the site where I found the image. I don’t want anyone not to be included!
Incredibly lucky as I was, my dad worked for Hewlett Packard as a programmer, back in the 1980s (I know, how old school!) and whilst we had no computer at home – you would have had to have been really quite rich or fluked it at that time – I used to visit my dad in work where he would sit me on his lap and play video games for me. I was about 5 – 6 years old at the time, which meant that although I could easily mash buttons to pieces, it didn’t necessarily mean I was any good at it. At least, not yet.
So I would go in and watch the full episodes of Space Quest and Kings Quest as my Dad played through them. I remember vividly the scene in Space Quest where you would be trapped between two automatic doors that won’t open, and the floor is opening up in the middle to swallow you up into goo! Seeing as I was quite young, this terrified me so much – despite how pixellated it looks now. Check it out:
What a classic. Such a classic. Anyway…
Unfortunately my Dad passed away when I was 7 years old, but left behind this ultimate nerd legacy. I can’t lie about how much I love to watch someone play games. Sure, I’ve been playing games since I was able to, sine we got a PC, but there’s sometimes nothing better than sitting down and watching someone else play through a whole game. Sometimes, I would even fall asleep as it would be so soothing just to watch that I’d get way too comfy!
Gaming at Home – 80s to Early 90s
When we did finally get our own PC, we had a number of games on it which I consider as my ‘classics’. These are the ones I can remember…
- Space Quest 1 and 2 by Sierra On-Line. A complete classic, playing as janitor Roger Wilco, who ends up making hundreds of mistakes but saving the world. Wonderful.
- Kings Quest 1 , 2 and 3 by Sierra On-Line. Adventures with different characters set in medieval times. You just need to go out and defeat stuff. Wonderful.
- My brother used to have an Atari Lynx. He had this before the GameBoy, before we all jumped onto the Nintendo band wagon. We had the classics – Paperboy and an Aliens game (although I can’t remember the name of the Aliens game, all I remember was that it was scary!)
- And of course, we both owned the GameBoy. I owned such classics as Tetris, Snoopy, Kirby and The Lion King. Hilariously, I once got very upset with my brother on holiday because he finished Snoopy before I did! Oh, competitive nature, you are hilarious.
- Some educational games that I believe used to run on DOS that were on separated by age. I don’t remember the name of the games, but they would basically have these individual games you could play, including one where there was a train running through a number of stops and you had to get it to stop at the correct answer numbered station. There were also a few other games on this, but the train game is the one I remember the most. If anyone remembers the name, let me know!
- The Adventures of Willy Beamish by Sierra On-Line. Absolutely, 100% one of my favourite games from my childhood. This was technically my brothers, but I would try and play it when he wasn’t around. It’s a difficult game as one incorrect sentence choice can end the game for you in seconds! But it was great fun.
- Monkey Island 1 and 2 by LucasArts. This fantastic series came with the most amazing box (remember when the boxes for games were just about the same size as a lever arch folder? Fantastic) as well as the best ‘password codebreaker’ which was this circular disk where you’d move the top section to the correct symbols to reveal the characters to enter on the computer. This is probably – bizarrely – one of my favourite memories of this game. You don’t get this kind of thing anymore… which is a bit of a shame. It was quirky, and absolutely awesome at the time.
- Maniac Mansion by LucasArts. I’d have to say, amongst Willy Beamish, this had to be my most replayed game when I was little. I mean look at it. And it has a character called Sandy Pantz. I am still unsure how the ending goes, because Dr Fred would always catch me in the wrong room at the wrong time. So unfortunate. Seriously, this was never-ending fun, no matter how frustrating it got to lose all your characters as you go along!
- The following SNES games: The SNES entered our lives in the early years in the 90s, a fantastic console that originally belonged to my brother that I then pinched when he moved on from playing it. We had a wonderful history with this, including Super Mario Allstars, MarioKart, Street Fighter 2, Mortal Kombat and hilariously, even Sim City.
Gaming at Home – Late 90s
As I progressed as a gamer, I did find myself having some of the most bizarre old school games (aside from this included above). These included:
- Theme Hospital by BullFrog. Amazing game where you set up and manage a hospital. Many will understand the fraught difficulty of all the rats and vomit outbreaks, as well as memorising the cheat code on the hospital fax machine.
- Dogz 5 by Mindscape. Yes, I owned this. I would log on all the time to play around with my puppies and make sure that they had other little puppies and were neatly trained. Strangely addictive at the time, I look back in horror at the amount of time I probably spent on this game.
- The following N64 games: Released in the latter half of the 90s, we were one of the cool kids with one. These are some of the games that I played constantly more than any other game on earth – for years and years, before getting an Xbox 360 years later than the cool kids. Games included: Space Station Silicon Valley (which I’m trying to hunt down) Super Mario 64, Mario Kart 64, Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Goldeneye 64 and many others.
So what now…
Okay so I totally ignore the 00’s, but come on.. that only feels yesterday! I could list all the great PC, PS2 and Xbox 360 games I owned (after all I’m sure that Age of Mythology, Age of Empires, the Final Fantasy series, Borderlands, Bioshock, Red Dead Redemption, Grand Theft Auto, Assassin’s Creed, Deus Ex, Dead Island, Limbo, Alice: Madness Returns, the Hitman series and Fable are all still very much in people’s minds as to how awesome they were.
When I look back, I can’t believe how many games I played, or how much Sierra On-Line (then Sierra Entertainment, now ActiVision) was involved in my life. You wonder whether the same individuals who worked on some of these games are still designing, producing or releasing games and whether or not they would love to know how they have been so fondly remembered.
After this brief analysis of 23 years, I can safely say I feel amazed at how many games there actually are. I couldn’t believe it. There are more that I don’t remember (that is surely a sign of old age) but I remember these ones fondly. And others, not so much. There’s a reason I never mentioned Banjo Kazooie 64.