I never played video games as a kid. I did as an adult, but just Project Gotham or the occasional go-around in Grand Theft Auto, which usually involved me stealing a car, scanning through a radio station, cruising town, and then jumping into a body of water and swimming to an unknown location. Let’s be frank: I’m not suited for video games, I’m an ‘adventure game’ kind of gal. And I like to choose my own. So I played computer games when I was younger. Manuals, secret keys, and tricks traded through the deepest reaches of primitive internet forums. I also want to take this moment to formerly thank Sierra Entertainment for lighting up my screen with their lime green logo every night. I mean, talk about excited anticipation.
A friend of mine just posted this awesome Mental Floss article: “10 Classic Computers You Had as a Kid.” In elementary school, our computer room was the size of a broom closet and the computers were boxier than the Sherman Oaks Galleria. My mom donated a large amount of Apple computers to the school because for a time, my parents owned and operated an innovative computer shop. I remember the green screens, the noisy buttons, and the idea that computers were really just this exotic extension of handwriting, an interface that allowed you to print something out and marvel over it.
Adults of my generation, the ones that were in elementary school from 1990 and on, remember Oregon Trail and Mavis Beacon in our classrooms for pure, educational purposes. But I thought I’d make a list of other games I remember playing at home. Can you think of any others you played?
- Wolfenstein 3D – killing nazis, collecting jewels, machine guns, first aid kits, and giant platters of Thanksgiving day turkey, coupled with that amazing music that we all had stuck in our head for DAYS?
(Created in 1991 by Catacomb 3D and later released in 1992 for MS-DOS and was the first game that popularized the first-person shooter game.)
- Prince of Persia – so early-days-of-computer-gaming it hurts. Jumping walls, missing walls, lunging, crouching, leaping. The goal was to reach the princess and free her from Jaffer in under an hour. I often failed miserably at this, but do recall finally winning eventually. And laughing a lot along the way, because it was the most ridiculously frustrating game ever made.
(Released in 1989 for the Apple II.)
- Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego – reporting your travels to some detective named Nigel, you must try to track down the infamous Carmen Sandiego all over the world, following leads and recording your finds.
- Kings Quest – was a pioneering computer game that exposed enhanced worlds of 3-D, exploring the epic and enchanting Kingdom of Daventry with main character King Graham through the following realms: Daventry, Kolyma, Llewdor, Tamir, Serenia, Eldritch, Etheria, Land of the Green Isles, Realm of the Dead, The Swamp, Dimension of Death, Underground Realm of the Gnomes, Barren Region, Frozen Reaches, Paradise Lost, and Realm of the Sun. Exploring these worlds, you had to search for clues, solve spells, and pick up ANYTHING that wasn’t glued down to the screen. This often meant hovering your mouse around an entire area to find just about anything: water in a birdbath, a locket in the dirt. The subjects of the games often revolved around mythology, highly inspired by fairy tales derived from Ancient times. The game including a Weeping Willow tree that plays the harp. Need I say more?
(Originated in 1984, but it was in 1990 when Sierra took over and created the entirely new and progressive 3-D experience.)
- Titanic: Adventure Out of Time – a race-against-the-clock action paced game that took you back in time aboard the ill-fated Titanic to try to stop the boat from sinking. (Minus Leo and Kate.) The graphic design in this game was superbly advanced for the mid-90s and, well, dare I say it – pretty beautiful. It was often easy to find yourself curiously exploring the ship instead of playing the game, because of just how accurately gorgeous and rich the history was. The protagonist is a man who was a British secret agent in 1912 when he was onboard the Titanic and survived. The game begins in the 1940s with the character caught in an air-raid and getting sent back in time to change fate. So the idea is to partake in as much Titanic cruise ship gossip as he possibly can. He has to meet everyone: Leyland Trask the psychic, creepy Reverend Trout, good ‘ol boy Buick Riviera, the unattainable Stephanie Burns who is angry at her husband and makes for a humorous couple of minutes if you try to hound her, and Daisy Cashmore who looooves to talk gossip. Note: the music throughout game-play is Chopin‘s Preludes Op. 28 No. 7
(Released in 1996 via Cyberflix and GTE Entertainment.)
- Nickelodeon Director’s Lab – the coolest game to ever exist, ever. Ever. First of all – the game was hosted by Melissa Joan Hart, in character as Clarissa Darling via Clarissa Explains It All. Various rooms were marked: ‘Screening room’, ‘Sound FX’, ‘Music Studio’, ‘Video Suite’, ‘Title Editor’, ‘Graphic Studio’, and ‘Directors Lab’. In the video suite, there was a junk drawer where you could find the most random clips: a toilet flushing, a kid bumping into a flagpole, a cartoon character with smoke coming out of his ears… Basically, if you remember the kitschy ways of Nickelodeon in the early ’90s, the aesthetic of DL was exactly like that. Think Adventures of Pete and Pete. The end result was a campy-quirky video with sound that you could either pre-mix on the mixing board yourself, or one from their archives (of which included a few short seconds of the obscure and old school Welcome Freshmen theme song!) Sound FX included beeps, growls, boinks. There were 475 photos, 300 video clips, 300 sound effects, 70 pieces of music, and 125 graphic stamps.
(Released in 1994 by Viacom New Media.)
- Home Alone – a play on the movie, where you are Kevin McCallister and you msut protect your home by setting up various booby traps, and then running through the house when the clock strikes midnight to escape the intruders. In the end, Kevin (well, you) must make it to the attic where you jump out the window and onto the zipline, across the backyard and into the safety of your treehouse while you wait for the cops to arrive.
- The Dagger of Amon Ra – part of the Laura Bow mystery adventure games, set in 1926, it focused on the Egyptology craze of the era. The main character, a Southern belle, is working for a newspaper and her first assignment is to attend this Egyptian exhibit party, but then a murder occurs at the party and she must figure out the crime. What I remember loving about this game was the gritty ambience of journeying to speakeasies, a Chinese laundromat, and encounters with the many diverse characters in the game: art students, criminals, curators, a widow, a detective, an archeologist, and some crazy French lady named Yvette.
(Released in 1992 by Sierra On-Line.)