Reply To: The Good Times . . .

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(re: re: The Good Times . . .)

Hell, I think I have all of you guys beat. My uncle worked for IBM’s R&R department and he talked me father into buying a computer back in the mid to late 80’s. An IBM PC cost an arm and a leg back then, so my uncle convinced my uncle to purchase the less expensive PC Jr. Big mistake…or was it? I’ve read that the Jr. was a commercial disaster for IBM (something Ken could tell you more about, since he had a KQ/Jr. partnership) and at the time I was crushed – I couldn’t find more than a small handful of commercial, store-bought games to play, forget the early Sierra staples like Space Quest or, my personal holy grail, Leisure Suit Larry. My Jr. was just too weak in the memory department.
My father worked for a corporation that employed a lot of computer geeks. They passed on to him homemade games that would work on the PCjr. My favorite was a Mad Max type game that involved side-scrolling bi-planes. It even had a boss character – a huge blimp! And the amateur programmer even worked in campaign slogans (“Win one for the Gipper!”) for Reagan’s ’84 campaign into the game.
I think there is one simple reason why computer and video games are getting worse as the technology gets better – back in the day, a PC wasn’t a home appliance that came with dumbed-down software and user-friendly controls. It was a mystery box that could be explored and mined for fun, and only intelligent people (or extremely rich ones) owned them*. Games were tailor-made for a niche market of intelligent explorers. No wonder Sierra was so successful -it was a company founded and run by intelligent explorers.

I can only think of one game series that captures (or once captured) the spirit of these earlier games – Grand Theft Auto. Sure, the content of the games is certainly of questionable taste, but the games themselves seem to have an independent spirit and tone that suggests they were made in a basement or garage, as opposed to a corporate complex.

* I actually stole part of this theory from an essay that Al Lowe (one of my personal heroes) wrote for a PC magazine years ago. I’ll try to find the link.