Thursday, September 9, 2010

Games in My History

I was around for Pong.  No, my family did not have an Atari, but our neighbors did, and we thought it was really, really neat.

What my family did have was a PC.  In those days, that was pretty rare.  My father built his first one--a Heathkit H8--when I was in 6th grade.  Although that one was useless for kids, we thought it was very exotic to have one in our home at all.  (Oooooh, computers!  It was like something out of science fiction!  Incidentally, I was one of only a very few kids in my high school who was turning in word processed papers.  My teachers hated them, because our dot matrix printer did not make letters such as g or j hang below the other letters . . .)

By the time I was in high school, my dad was downloading software from whatever network he was accessing at the time (he was in the military--remember, kids, at that time, people did not have Internet access in their homes) and bringing it home to our newer computer system.  Among the stuff he brought home were some games.

One game we played was "Adventure."  The game was played in one- or two-word intervals, with no graphics. "Go north." "Go west." "Get bucket."  You get the idea.  The object was to find treasure and bring it back home. Every so often a dwarf (I think) would appear and steal your treasure, if you were unlucky. (Nothing you could do about it.)

I saw a magazine cover once which had an artist's depiction of all the places you could explore and the treasures you could find in this game, but my sisters and I didn't get very far.  We did manage to get to a room where a dragon sat on an Oriental rug.  We typed, "Kill dragon," and the computer responded, "With what? Your bare hands?"  We were stumped for days.  Finally, one of my sisters responded, "Yes."  The computer came back with, "You have killed a dragon with your bare hands."  I think that was as far as we got in the game.

The biggest challenge in that game was figuring out the accepted vocabulary.  So many times, my sisters and I would beat our heads against the desk as the computer responded over and over that it did not know that word.  We would also have to keep a hand-drawn map on the desk, so we would not get lost or confused as we explored the labyrinth.  And, of course, that dratted dwarf would steal our treasure and make us want to punch the game developers or something.

I played Snake for hours, which was a game controlled only by the left and right arrows.  The graphics were made up of letters and such.  Within a box, you controlled a snake, which grew as time went on.  Food (rectangles) would appear in random locations, and you would need to run your snake to the food.  The goal was to see how many rectangles you could "eat" before you got yourself into such a mess that you hit the box or your own snake's body.  (Not as easy as it seems, with food appearing randomly and your snake perpetually growing . . .)

I do not remember my Snake record, but I do remember my mom becoming worried that I spent too much time on it.  "But, Mom," I told her, "I'm improving my hand-eye coordination."  That didn't work.  She told me that for at least one of my sisters, she would think it beneficial, but not for me, as I already had excellent hand-eye coordination.

When I left for college, I pretty much left games behind.  (Of course, most of us didn't have computers . . .) When I got my very own computer my junior year, I had other things to do on it than play games, which weren't easily accessible, anyway.  (Much word processing . . .)

It wasn't until I had been married for a few years (and was <*gasp*> using Windows) before I found another game to play.  Despite my husband playing various computer games, I didn't play anything but the Myst series.  I enjoyed the puzzle aspect, although I sometimes did have to keep my own maps, much like Adventure, and sometimes I found myself beating my head against my desk . . . much like Adventure.  But there was no hurry, nothing was trying to kill me, and the pictures were pretty.

My husband got me involved in Dark Age of Camelot in 2002.  I had been upset with him because he was taking so much time playing "that stupid game", so he decided the best way to cure the situation was to teach me how to play it.  I wasn't very excited, but I did it.  I found I did enjoy playing, but there was concern about potential addiction in that I became very attached to my character.  (I remember a feeling of panic one day when I realized that because I was playing on an account actually owned by my brother-in-law, he could delete my character if he was feeling spiteful. He didn't, but I didn't like the feeling that he had power over me in that fashion.)  However, I hated grinding, and in DAOC, there was a lot of grinding.  I quit after my character reached level 20.

My husband also got me involved in World of Warcraft, but this time, I had my own account.  And the rest, as they say, is history.

I've seen people whose gaming history is long and varied.  (Or long and not-so-varied, as many games seem to be repeats of others, just in a different time or place . . .)  Looking at it, my gaming history is pretty limited.  But that is all right with me.  After all, I have other things to do.

Postscript:  For giggles, I looked up Adventure, and the article mentioned Wumpus.  That dinged bells in my head. I vaguely remember "Hunt the Wumpus," but I think my sister played it more than I did.  Made me laugh, though.

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