I started work as a programmer in IT slightly before the IBM PC muscled in and took over. Computer games were a pretty new invention for me and the first I ever encountered was a Dungeons and Dragons game. The name escapes me. It was all done in text (no graphics back then). The opening symbol was a tombstone drawn in lines and crosses etc. It had many levels which you worked your way through. You entered a dungeon, which was a line-drawn box, nothing more. You made you way around using the number keys for movement (no arrows). In the dungeon you might find a magic sword, or armour, or have to kill a monster, which might kill you. If you stayed alive, more of the dungeon was revealed. It was seriously addictive and took up many a lunch break at the office, but it didn’t work on the IBM XT I had at home.
So I thought I’d buy a game to play during the Xmas break. It was Space Quest: the Sarien Encounter. It had ‘real’ graphics – that is, little figures that moved around, using number keys, as I recall. (Feel free to correct me) You (Roger Wilco, janitor of a ship taken over by aliens – you were asleep in the janitor’s cupboard at the time) had to evade the aliens, who shot on sight, get off the space ship, then go through a series of adventures on an alien planet. All great fun and all in sparkling, four-colour, CGA graphics. Wow.
Over the years, the graphics improved as computers evolved and I bought every game as soon as it was out there. One of the things I loved most about it was the designers had a wicked sense of humour, sending up every SF movie that ever existed. You’d recognise bits of Star Wars or Star Trek. In the picture at top left you’ll recognise the Blues Brothers and a bunch of aliens from the famous cantina scene in Star Wars: A New Hope. One of my favourites was a scene from (I think) the third adventure. Roger (you) is wandering around the prison levels of a ship and a being advances. It’s actually easily evaded but it was always so much fun to see what would happen if you didn’t, you saved the game (so you could start again when you got killed) and let it happen. So the alien comes up to Roger and gives him a huge French kiss. Then goes away. You didn’t die. Gosh. Oh well. So you carry on exploring, looking for whatever you had to do to get out of there. Then suddenly, 5, 10 minutes after your encounter with the alien, Roger keels over and a little tiny alien bursts out of his breast and scuttles off, stage right.
When you stopped laughing, you returned to the last point where you saved the game, and avoid the Alien.
What were your favourite computer games? Do you remember Space Quest? And if you do, which were your favourite bits? Give it a whirl. You might win some buckazoids. Or not, as the case may be.