Thursday, July 9, 2009

Games That Defined Me

Shamelessly ripping off, you know what they say about imitation. Anyhoo figured I should probably reveal games that helped to mold me into the gamer you now know and well, you know me. Gonna keep it to the PC games that defined my formative gaming years. Console games would greatly lengthen an already lengthy topic.

Lemmings/Danger Dave/Shareware Stuff

Okay so the deal is I didnt get a computer until I was around 7-10... I'm fuzzy on the details, and my mother refuses to acknowledge that she ever started the whole thing so I know it occurred at some point around then. Anyways those old shareware games you could find at the Shopper's Drug Mart bargain bins were what I cut my teeth on for home PC gaming. It was alot of Apogee side scrollers, although Commander Keen never wound up there shockingly. The main thing my mom bought was a typing program game because she wanted me to at least gain something from the computer. Although problem was that the computer was MS-DOS, which meant that if I wanted to play a game she had to be there to type in the cd/ and dir and all those other commands. Eventually I picked them up and figured out how to boot games up from the floppy disks.

During this time my mother had a friend whose house I was ferried off to, and they had another PC there. But it had Windows 3.0! What an amazing surprise to see you could click to play! Anyways it was really just playing more Apogee type sidescrollers, something about a guy and a jetpack named Dave, a Tetris rip-off (that was still very addicting), and a game that was beyond all my comprehension created solely to make people smash monitors. Lemmings. Oh how I tried to stop them. I made them build bridges, I made them have parachutes. I made some block. But invariably, I always lost. But the options! There was diggers, and exploders (although I couldnt fathom why you would want that.)

Anyways, eventually time moved on and so did I. Finally the mystical age of 10 hit me. Ten is big year for me. I mean I was born in '85, which meant that my tenth birthday was when Windows 95 hit. I cant remember if we got it in '95 but I remember that I got a Pentium 166 with MMX, and an S3 Virge graphics card. (I later discovered that apparently the card was one of the few ever made that actually made it harder on PCs to run games.) Now not exactly being from a wealthy family, I didnt exactly get to play a lot of games on the computer at first. I grabbed all of those old MS-DOS games and tried to get them to work. They sorta did. But for the most part the new PC just sat there. Well thats not all true. I started using my small allowance to purchase PC Gamer magazines, mainly for the demo disk, but I think I started with a Strategy Gaming Magazine and I kid you not it came with literally 40+ demos on it many were turn-based wargames only a grognard could love and I avoided them, But I foudn some fun in a title called Age of Empires, something about Hittites and spears and harvesting meat. Those kept me busy when my school work was done.

This is where friendship enters. By grade 6 I had made friends with a grand 'ole chap whose Name doesnt really matter. But eventually he showed me a little game called Doom.

DOOM/Duke 3D/Mechwarrior 2

You see this friend had an older brother and that meant he could buy things. My friend played the shit outta Doom, I had never played a FPS at the time so I just sat there and watched, as he showed me how to get every single secret in all the levels. He showed me Duke Nukem 3D as well. Ahhhh my first digital breasts. And my first hint that my friend had wayyyyy too much time on his hands. He'd use cheats to build elaborate mazes of tripwires that he'd train my FPS skills on. I never did get through them. He'd show me it was possible, but I just really wanted to see enemies get stepped on, frozen, or blown to gibs. 
Then one day he showed me Mechwarrior 2, I suppose this was probably the first simulation game I played and jesus christ, death from above, full fire, PPCs, using the fragile speedster Mech to run circles around the giant one and pick him off from afar with missiles. I never was good at Mech, but my friend was so good that I still adore the game. Most of all my friend showed me that gaming was better with a friend. Even if it meant going to his house, and having your allergies act up for a week, and possibly being mauled by his giant dog. We would later discover another game together, but that's after I played some games by myself as well.

Tie Fighter

Perhaps the first "real" PC game that I ever cut my teeth on was Tie Fighter. You see one christmas I got this gift called the Star Wars PC Gaming Collection. It game with Rebel Assault I+II, and some other ones as well. But the real crown of the collection was Tie Fighter. Full Disclosure, I sucked at the game. Really, really badly. But I was like 11, so who cares. Luckily the game had two options that rocked. "Invincibility", and "No Collisions". So technically I cheated my way through the game. But then I never actually beat the game either. Alot of the challenge in the game is simply getting the objectives done, and protecting Vader is not easy. There was also the sheer grandeur of shooting down a star destroyer with a Tie Fighter. Something I dwelled upon alot. I'm pretty sure I was a fan of Star Wars before the game. But after Tie Fighter it was alot more. 


Okay so after Tie Fighter had run its course with a mere 1000 hours or so (hey you get one good game you play the shit outta it), my Dad began to ask his friends at work if he could borrow any PC games, my Dad being a super nice guy always managed to get me some nice games. I managed to get to play Dark Forces 2, and woah, this was set in Star Wars, but you got to use a Light Sabre! It was a fun game. I even tried to play it online, but was horribly confused, stumbling into a gaming server browser called Gamespy. Anyways I, regretably, was forced to return the game to its rightful owner.  But my Dad said he had a new game for me. Starcraft. This game I did not give back. I remember getting the box, looking over the manual, reading the in depth history that Blizzard had given these races. When we went on Vacation to the lake, a place with no video games at all, I would bring the Starcraft manual with me, I loved the setting THAT much. Anyways Starcraft hit me hard. I never was good at it, in hindsight, but I didnt care, I'd play with cheats on, or stomp computers with a friend, A guy at school allegedly could rush 5 computers at once with the Zerg. I asked him if he had beat Starship Troopers. he had not. You see my love of mods is first born here. The custom map scene for Starcraft was insane, there was RPG maps, RISK maps, World War scenarios, crazy battle royals. You name it and Starcraft probably had a custom map about it. Art of Survival was perhaps my favorite. Just a single unit, against huge swarms of enemies that are mind numbingly vast and strong. Oh and there was lots of Dragon Ball Z custom maps, it was pretty big at the time. The other game brought my love of the mod scene was of course Half-Life.


I cant imagine my life without Half-Life. In game server browser! Amazing single-player. Amazing multi-player, and these strange things called mods. It was my friend who actually showed me the mod scene, well he actually just followed and he played through all the mods they presented. Typically going with the mod of week (or was it month?) but always willing to try out a new one. Anyways getting ahead of myself. 
You see my computer had become drastically slow. Oh sure Half-life ran on it. Technically. But it was pretty bad, settings as low as possible, constant jitters and stutters, it was a wonder I beat the game.

Then god, or wizards, or some great pasta bowl in the sky sent me a sign. My mother by shopping at Safeway had won a new computer! I COULD PLAY THE GAMES! granted it didnt come with a fancy 3DFX graphics card or anything, but still. Half-life became half playable. My 33.6 modem got almost doubled to a 56k modem. Starcraft ran like lightning, and I could sometimes get a ping of about 200 in half-life multiplayer. Okay so the computer was a AMD K6-2 (i think) with Windows 98. Bad sign, Tie Fighter frequently refused to boot. But sometimes would. Unreal Tournament somehow ran on it. And shockingly the PC lasted to play Dungeon Siege beyond all comprehension of mine. Yes that PC was great, I knew it wasnt the greatest, but it was free and it was all I had so I couldnt complain. Anyways, I had played Half-Life originally by renting the game from a movie store, (they actually did that!) and beating the single player. Then returned it. Then my friend showed me Uplink, Half-Life's demo. I then remember I still had the full game installed! Tried to play it. But no dice. Figured I should try the multi-player, and somehow it worked! The game did not require the CD to play multi-player. So a modding I went. As I said my friend scouted them out, and then we'd find a server, he'd ICQ me the IP address; or just host it himself (his family used cable internet way back in 1999 for a home business)


Then one day I decided to find a mod on my own. Found this strange game called Counter-Strike, was quite good I'd heard. But the download was huge. I'd need to leave the computer online a long time to get it. So I told my friend that I was coming over and we'd play it at his house first. If it was good, I'd download it later. We got it. And found ourselves in a map called De_dust. very sandy map, with a dark tunnel, and the guns rarely aimed where you shot them. My friend repeatedly would round a corner and die. Then I'd play and fair no better. The weapons system was crazy. You buy guns to use, but if you die you lose them, and most people usually died. We eventually purchased a Mac10, my friend ran at some guy near the ramp on terrorist side and somehow killed a guy. Our first kill. We were livid. Never had a kill proved so hard, or rewarding. We were addicted. We formed a clan with some other guys. My friend could join any clan he wanted with his amazing internet connection. He could host games! The only reason I got accepted was because he vouched for me. Nobody wants the guy with 200+ ping on their team. Thing was though, I was good. Beyond my friend, for awhile. Trouble was I was whenever I played my friend he was silky smooth. My computer choked on CS, and it showed. My friend was remarked at my house. HOW DO YOU PLAY? I cant remember. I just learned to play with the lag, and compensated for my poor PC by running the game as low as possible. Oddly enough whenever I played with the Clan from my friend's PC they were shocked. Counter-Strike was my birth into the multi-player FPS.  It also told me that, if I wanted to game, I needed to put the money down. It would be 2004 until I actually did that. 

Anyways that was fun. Oh the memories. How far I've come, and the industry too. My love for Strategy, & Shooters revealed. Oh and my guilty pleasure game over all that time? Carmaggeddon II. I played that demo alot, it was weird, and had these crazy challenges, but it had this timer on the demo. 

Sorry for massive text blobs.

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