As I read through the memories elaborated in this thread, more memories stirred from forgotten corners, shouting, screaming what about me, don't forget us.
And even away from the pc, my mind kept returning to gaming memories. Not just earliest, but over time. And like pulling a thread on a frayed jersey, each colour leading to a different pile of memories.
First exposure to computer games. Hardware to play computer games on. Finding a new game; waiting for the new release and disappointments. Venues. Time to play. Skills development.
First exposure - what Blade007 so eloquently named The 1up Days. Mine started at the corner cafe with a bag of slap chips and coke. Playing Phoenix. Asteroids a few times. Then graduating (if one can call it that) to Space Invaders, Battlezone and Centipede. And then again to Ghosts'n Goblins and R-Type. Then the affordable desktop pc came my way and the arcade game was replaced with the pc game. Tetris, no-one mentioned tetris yet. The danger this Russian invasion posed to civil society. The tittelation of the pixellations of Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards. The rest of that family of games. The one mentioned here and which I played from end to end late at night: Space Quest. Commander Keen and the early versions of Duke Nukem. The first versions of the "3D" games blew my mind. Wolf3D. I remember ducking behind a desk during my first game of Doom. SimCity Classic - building cities and trying to find ways to let the simulation run by itself to accumulate cash in an attempt to go nuts with building and getting the perfect road layout.
Hardware to play the games on was like a arms race. Initially you played in a cafe or in the arcade. Your were armed with a handful of cold hard cash: the fearsome 20c coin. You got better and the opponent (read proprietor) caught on - suddenly it was 2x20c for one game. Just because you spend most of the afternoon on just one coin. Or the game got more difficult in some strange incomprehensible way. It was only in later years with the advent of MAME that I caught on to the magic that was the DIPSwitch. The initial release of various versions of the "home computer" or games console. A cousin has one of those pong games with the fake wooden veneer look. many of the memories here touched upon the arguments to ensure fair play time for all the kids. No difference here. I first had to convince them to get out the game, and then hope the adults didn't want to watch Dallas or some other soapy on tv or else we couldn't play. And then to anxiously wait your turn and hoping that we won't be going home soon... In later years I acquired my own pc. XT with 1 Meg ram and a floppy drive. But games required a stiffy drive. Which cost Megabucks. Saving up and going to a pc store in Sunnyside to buy one. The drive home. Opening you box and installing the drive. The exhilaration when you format your first stiffy. The world was your oyster and you had storage to spare. You could make backups of those precious saved games! But now games were released on cd-roms. Which cost Megabucks. And you needed a bigger harddrive to install the game. Which cost Megabucks. And you can't really play with the keyboard, this game plays best with a mouse. Which cost Megabucks. And you should hear the sound, not the tinny speaker squeaks, Soundblaster was the way to go. Which cost Megabucks. I bought a generic version of a cheap china copy of a sound card. Which was good, because I had one and had moved on beyond tinny squeaks. Later bought a real Soundblaster card and then you think you had arrived.
Pc's now came standard with most of the hardware you needed, the pc specs was now a problem. More MHz, more RAM, more video speed. The only answer was to go back to older games for which the hardware was now more than adequate and turn a blind eye to new game releases. This is still the case, with each new release wanting more more more feeeeed me syemore, feeeed meeeee.....
Finding new games often game down to the basic of finances. 20c was relatively easy and if you were good, could entertain you for some time. In the early days of pc's, we had the No-Pay-No-Pay-Consortium. If you contribute towards financing the game, you could have a turn at playing the game. Then shareware reared its head, and at least you could play the demo levels of various games. This very often motivated to acquire the full game. The age of modems and bulletin boards opened up the shareware genie and could probably be called the golden era of shareware. And now I have gone and pulled the online dial-up bulletin board game thread... STOP, don't go there! Ok, sorry. Before the days of the internet and reviews it was difficult to get a good idea of the quality of the game, but sharing the costs helped to ease the pain when a game turned out to be somewhat of a dud. After you finished playing a good game, there was the hope for an add-on, or sequel. Space Quest was one such game where the sequels were eagerly anticipated, and worth the wait. Sim City is the one game where I bought the newer versions the moment they came out. Others will disagree, but for the most part the newer versions was worth buying. Others was somewhat of a disappointment. Duke Nukem is one where the latest version was just nor up to scratch (topic, other, day). In the modern day of today there is a plethora of channels, each with pros and cons. The siren call of the pirates, the accommodating nature of open source, Steam, Valve, Incredible Connection, Amazon eksetera eksetera.
Venues. Mmm, venues. Initially, after school and in the early days, the stoep of some dodgy cafe. A friend with more accommodating parents. I never had a computer game at home. Later in an arcade centre in a large shopping centre. And with the advent of the pc, my own home or dragging my pc to a friend with a cable to hook up for a "lan" game. And the first real lan game. Me and a friend got invited to a friend of a friend with the only requirement that your pc had a network card and you had the weekend available. Spend most of the evening getting the setup right but boy, once things worked, game on... At that stage I had a trackball, and if I remember correctly, the game was Doom. Well suited to playing with my trackball and keyboard setup. Ran rings around the others.
Time to play evolved over time. At school, you had to judge home work, extramural activities, walking to the cafe, when your parents will be back home. Not a difficult equation to balance. And you weren't exactly your own boss. But university! Ooops, you are now your own boss. Lectures were fixed, but you had to make sure your free time was spend well. Until you started to work, and then a girlfriend and wife also needed some time. Juggle-juggle-juggle. After doing everything that had to be done, the only thing left in the jar was midnight oil. And did I burn that. Made a generous contribution to global warming all by my own self.
Skill development is another interesting thread. The early days were lonely days. No internet, no shoulder surfing, no bulletin boards, no FAQ's. In the big city, you could shoulder surf, and hope for a chance at the game before you had to go home. With pc games, you could phone a friend. Not to win a million though, just to find the next pixel to click. This happened a lot when playing Leisure Suit Larry and Space Quest. With many games like Tetris, it was just click, click and if at first you don't succeed, save, reload and click again. Then came bulletin boards and usenet. Now a phone call to a friend were more often to find the phone number of some obscure dial-up board that had the newest FAQ not available elsewhere. Phone calls were replaced with email, and you were eagerly awaiting help from around the world. At this stage I also developed my abhorrence for games where you need to be able to fly a real jumbo jet in order to play the game. This has stayed with me to today. A game with easy to master controls gets much higher marks in my book than the kitchen sink and barbeque types.
Sjoe, that was a mouth full. Enough for now, and thanks for reading this far. I am eagerly awaiting comments.