A million years ago, you had to go to the mall when you wanted to buy a computer game. A disk or two (and, later, a cd/dvd or two) that took up very little space indeed sold in a box the size of an organic chemistry textbook. But they also put other stuff in there, sometimes. The manual, of course, but sometimes they gave you cool stuff too.
Now, of course, some of the cool stuff was copy protection. The game made you answer a question that could only be answered by the manual, say. Or a decoder wheel. A code book, maybe.
But there weren’t just ways to avoid the stick in the box. Sometimes the boxes had carrots in them. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy came with a big red button that said “DON’T PANIC!” Got a stonewashed jean jacket? Put that bad boy on there! Some games came with maps or little booklets or comic books that added to the lore of the game. Some came with stuff that you didn’t *NEED* to play the game, but that definitely helped. For example, Infocom’s game “Suspended” came with a map and tokens for the robots you were commanding. So you could look at the board, look at the computer screen, and figure out what to do next.
The games today that we consider “collector’s editions” because they come with a cloth map? Way back then, EVERY game was a collector’s edition.
Which brings me to Exapunks. This is one of the games I picked up from the Steam Sale on deep discount and then I started playing it and it was really cool with establishing you and your motivation and then the game had someone visit your apartment to give you a ‘zine. The game paused then and provided you with a PDF that you had to print out yourself and staple yourself and then you could hold it in your hand while you were playing.
And if you were running low on printer ink, well, hard cheese. You’d just have to go to Kinko’s and print it out for a cost of greater than you paid for the game.
And, once upon a time, the ‘zine would have been included in the box. Perhaps in a swell envelope that looked all conspiratorial and had cool markings on it. As it is, the game had you make your own collector’s edition schwag. Which, now that I think about it, is kinda cool. One heck of a throwback. But I haven’t really played it since going to Kinko’s.
So… what are you playing?
(Featured image is the Bard’s Tale III’s infamous codewheel.)