Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Computer Gaming 500 - Intro

Its happened.  500.  I've finally hit and surpassed documenting 500 computer games that I have enjoyed, cursed, and marveled throughout the years.  Note, I'm talking computer games here, and not console games.  So no Atari 2600, no Nintendo, no X/PS Mobile Box.  From the near beginning of home computing entertainment, 1983; I have been counting, ranking, and summarizing.  Like most of us, I game purely for entertainment; as part a hobby, part stress relief.  Without the tinkering aspects of early computer games, I'd likely not purse engineering.  I am not a professional reviewer, nor a YouTube critic.  This has been purely for my own nostalgic purposes.  Of these 500, have I played the very best?   Perhaps not.  Life is important too, and so I game when I feel like, what I like.  It means missing out on many adventures, but the adventure of real life trumps all.

Looking back at the list, is like looking at a time capsule of my gaming experience and how life shaped what and when I gamed.  In the beginning, I was subjected to whatever the parents and siblings deemed worthy of their time, money, and interests.  I had no money.  No income.  And lots of time.  I consumed what was placed in front of me like a baby enjoying his smashed pea casserole.  If I could go back, would I pick different games, perhaps.  Perhaps not, though.  I lived in a big bookshelf boardgame family, so the titles were heavily influenced with thinking games over twitch button smashers.  This is likely why we didn't have a console, and rolled more toward the "cerebral" PC.

Eventually I was able to branch out into trading territory.  Neighborhood game swaps with other kids, computer clubs, etc opened the doors to many new games my parents would have never considered. With such arrangements, manuals tended to be optional, resulting in trial and error for the many part of the C64 era. It really didn't matter though, as many games didn't require the Skyrim gameplay hours we see today.  Just a good hint book.

 Eventually a new distribution method opened up.  Game rental.  A local business that sold games and computer hardware also began renting games.  It was great; you got a game and a manual!  Great that is, until it became popular.  Piracy was getting noticed, and publishers began to discourage the rental of video games.  Course our store worked out a loop hole; where you would buy the game with in store credit and return for a bit less then you paid whenever you wanted another game.

Hardware evolved too, I started with the Commodore 64.  Able to use existing controllers from the Atari 2600, it was a natural migration.  Having to manually load each game from a prompt, sparked thought about how a computer worked.  What is ,8,1 and what happens when I change them. Plus the crazy notion I could BASIC-ally write WRITE my own game!  Line 10, line 20 goto Line 10.  Colors weren't all that bad either on the C64 considering the monocrome/CGA era the IBM Clones were trudging through.  But alias the C64 began to show its age, and it was time the family moved on to the future.  A Packard Bell 386 with Turbo awesomeness.  I was dumped down the techie rabbit hole of sound and video card upgrades, IO & IRQ conflicts, and DOS command prompts.  A career was born, my future sealed.

Eventually it was time to walk away from gaming and the wild west of gaming consumption; and begin college as a Computer Engineer/Scientist person.  Sure there were gaming moments, and new opportunities like hooking up the stereo to Doom, and running thin-net coax cable down the halls of the dorm for some Duke Nukem PVP which would have never happened at the parents house.  But overall my gaming dropped until graduation.

When I returned to gaming, things had changed so we thought for the worse.  Digital distribution was being introduced, and PC rentals were dead.  Heck even PC retail was sparse among the heavy console-centric sellers.  Gone were the Babbages and EB Games of yore.  And the game options, crappy ports?  No thanks.  Fortunately there were some gems, and those gems would pave the way for an all new generation and now golden age for computer gamers.  Even the all seemingly evil digital distribution blossomed into something respectful and usable.  Gametap, Humble Bundle, Steam all in there own right a metamorphosis for gaming.

I'll be looking back in the next few posts, exploring the past titles from my list of 500.  How my interests have changed from kid to a parent with kids.  What I liked, and what I found disastrous.  And what good is a list, if I don't pull out some stats along the way!

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