retro geekdom


This is what I used to do all my writing on.  And I do miss it.  Part of me just misses the fact that back in the day I didn’t have the internet to distract me.  I’d sit down with my Macintosh – the rainbow apple staring up at me – and get to the business of writing.  I had great output when I was nine and ten and really up until high school.

might-and-magic-2-ss5Of course I played games, too.  I played Sim City, and Sim Ant.  And Brickles.  I played Might & Magic II a lot – it was extremely addicting, probably one of the best RPG’s ever made – and quite frankly, they just don’t make games like that anymore.  I probably have the discs somewhere, but alas no antique Macintosh to play them on.  The puzzles were easily as good as Myst which was also a great game, but not nearly as fun as Might & Magic, which was just epic and actually had really, really hard puzzles, lots of secrets, spells, monsters….

Not only that but it was funny. You could get a sex change operation for your characters.  You could buy them all sorts of ridiculous food or get them drunk.  And the graphics – while not holding up so good against say, Oblivion – were pretty good as far as I could tell.  Good enough in any case.  I mean, this was back before graphics were the holy grail of gaming, back when the game play mattered most.

segaRight around that time I was also playing on the old Sega Master System – which I guess a lot of people don’t know about.  I had an old NES, but my best friend had the Sega.  When I mention this people always think that the Sega Genesis was the first console Sega made but that’s not true.  A lot of the same games appeared on the Turbo Grafx 16 system, and I remember another friend had it and it certainly had prettier graphics.

Golden_Axe_CoverartIn any case, the games I remember best from the Sega Master System are Wonder Boy III, Shinobi, and Golden Axe.  Up to this point I’d been pretty confined to my Nintendo games – namely Mario Brothers I and II.  Wonder Boy III (video below) was far and away the best game ever.  Wonder Boy II was pretty good, and the original – where you just ride a skateboard through the jungle – was fun, but Wonder Boy III was so much more.  You had to change into different animals to get through different levels.  The mouse-man was small and could fit in places the other characters couldn’t.  You had to change into bird-man to fly to certain areas.  It was way too much fun.

Shinobi was a good ninja game.  It was hard, though.  Like Contra hardNinja Gaiden was also good.  Those were probably the two best ninja games I played back in the day.  On NES I played a lot of Street Fighter, but I wasn’t allowed to have Mortal Kombat due mainly to the impaling and beheading and so forth.  My parents were not fond of violence in video games, but especially not fond of gore.  Come to think of it, I’m not all that fond of gore myself.  But violence is okay.

Speaking of violence, Golden Axe, if you haven’t ever played it, is still one of the best hack and slash fantasy games ever.

Then of course, video games evolved, and I moved on through the various iterations of the Nintendo system, the Playstation, and finally a really smokin’ gaming PC I built myself – but, I have to say, those early games were the best.  Probably because I was in a place where the worlds were more easily entered, where the game was more real.  I played Zelda and Final Fantasy and all the other classics.  And then later, Half Life and Counter Strike and all the modern classics.

I started to write this as a post on magic in video games – Kyle Cupp had asked me to a while back in the comments – but I don’t have that much to say about magic in video games.  The magic itself was never very magical to me.  I’ve been stunned by graphics, of course.  I’ve done my time shooting at people online.  I remember, in fact, the first time I ever played a first person shooter online.  It was Doom – the original Doom – which is still the scariest game I’ve ever played.  Anyways, I was at my uncle’s house, and this is right when the internet was first up and running for us common folk.  I didn’t even know you could play video games with people who lived across town, or in a different town.  When he logged me into the game and I was able to play against his friend it really took my brain a while to wrap itself around that concept.  That was sort of like magic, and man was it fun.

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5 thoughts on “retro geekdom

  1. I cut my teeth on a Texas Instruments PC. Games that were mostly knock-offs of other systems but the colors were fantastic and it had a voice box so you could actually get speech which was pretty revolutionary in 1981. I miss that old thing sometimes.

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  2. I’ve enjoyed going back and replaying some of the NES and SNES games I grew up playing (assuming I grew up) and some I missed out on. Never played Wonder Boy or Golden Axe, alas. My favorite game remains Vagrant Story on the Playstation: great puzzles and game-play, an unconventional, haunting story, and a spellbinding script.

    Thanks for posting!

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  3. A friend of mine told me that he liked the original Metroid because it felt like you were some place you weren’t supposed to be. His observation is kind of extensible to retro games in general–today’s games take you some weird places, but all of those places are products of human imagination–they’re focus grouped, story boarded, prototyped, programmed by intern-slaves, textured and debugged until they look and feel like summer blockbuster movies. Yesterday’s games were pixelated bleepy bloopy blinky hallucinations run by simple yet alien logics. And even better, when the cartridges got dirty, sometimes they’d get even freakier–graphics and sound would get corrupted in abstract ways, or the whole game would be replaced with dancing, scrolling fields of unintelligble digital shapes. Damn, those would give me awesome nightmares. You know what happens if you get your Wii disc dirty? Probably something boring like “disc error detected”.

    Poor kids.

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  4. Zork taught me how to touch-type. You get home from school, you go down into the basement, you’ve got some underground to explore… and, when the sun goes down, you’ve got a choice between learning to type and getting up and turning on a light. I chose to learn to type.

    That said, wasteland was the game that I still remember fondly. WWIII was that itch you couldn’t scratch for most of the 70’s and 80’s (in first grade, I experienced the joys of a nuclear bomb drill… they were discontinued the following year). Wasteland did a great job of running with that sense of discomfort and making it into an RPG.

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