Let’s face it, most of us here are children of the information age. Unlike our parents we grew up using computers, game consoles are similar devices. Our grandparents’ childhoods were mostly shaped by books they read. Our parents were products of both literature, cinema and TV industry. We on the other hand grew up immersed in all of the above plus video games. Some of you who are few years younger than me also grew up with the Internet – I did not have it when I was a kid though.
As much as we may deny this, the video games that we have played in our formative years have affected us in some ways. No, they didn’t make us into violent killers – that’s silly. But just like literature, TV and cinema they have made their mark. They allowed us to experience something new and unique and imprinted themselves upon our memory. I can honestly say that I no longer remember 90% of the games that I have played as a kid but there are few that still stand fresh in my mind. I remember them quite fondly, and reminisce about playing them every once in a while. This is what I want to talk about today.
What video games have really made an impact on you when you were a kid? Which games have you played over and over again? What game completely blew you away?
I remember several such games. One of them must probably be Another World by Delphine Software. At the time it had a revolutionary game play mechanics and game engine (it was one of the first video games in history that used real-time rendered polygons instead of sprites). What really blew me away was the unique story of a red haired scientist who accidentally finds himself in a strange parallel dimension. A story which was conveyed to the player with picture and sound alone (no actual words are spoken in the game). I have spent countless hours trying to beat that game, which in retrospect is quite impressive seeing how short it really was. You can actually see it in its entirety below.
I also loved Another World’s spiritual successor Flashback which featured similar game play but a different (equally compelling) SF universe and interesting story. Here is a sample of gameplay (I’m not going to post a speed run here because the game is much longer than Another World).
Both these games were cinematic, action packed and incredibly difficult. So I used every cheat-code I could find to actually beat them. Both also had better stories than many modern games, and that is saying something considering neither one had voice acting, dialog trees and etc…
My first introduction to the RPG genre was Ishar – The Legend of the Fortress and I completely lost my shit for it. It was an massive, open ended world populated by orcs, monsters, villages where you could recruit party members, dungeons full of loot and NPC’s that would sometimes join you. Seriously, it was pretty much a sandbox game before sandbox was even a gaming concept. It had beautiful watercolor backgrounds, interesting character designs and a cool fantasy world seeped in mystery. Here is a short game play video:
The funniest part was that my copy was all in French. It was a pirate copy of a pirate copy that got to me via friend of a friend’s brother or something like that. But I didn’t care – I played it for hours on end anyway. I don’t believe I actually learned any French because of it – it was more of a trial and error type thing. I’d press buttons and dialog options at random to figure out what they do. Sadly, the language barrier made parts of the game inaccessible to me. For example, most hints given by NPC’s were incomprehensible. The game also had a complex alchemy system (you could make potions out of ingredients) but most of the in game instructions on how to do it were in French so I missed out. Since I could not really figure out what was the main quest I have never beat it – but I spent days just wandering around, getting lost, finding interesting recruitable NPC’s and dying in spectacular ways. It was a blast.
Another game that I will probably remember till I die was Syndicate by Bullfrog. Being quite an interesting mix between a RPG and RTS game, it had you controlling up to 4 cyber-enhanced agents on various missions that ranged from assassination and sabotage or recruiting new members for your organization. What really made me fall in love with it was the fact that the game featured realistic “living” cities. In some of the missions you would have to make your way through busy streets full of pedestrians. You could get hit by a passing car or hijack it and drive it to your destination. It had working train/tram lines that you could use and buildings you could enter (though there was usually nothing interesting inside). It was mind blowing at the time.
Here is a short vid:
Heimdall 2 was another one of my favorites. It mixed action, adventure and RPG elements with a really good story. The game introduced me to the Norse mythology which turned out to be a long term fascination of mine. I also remember that it had interesting magic system based on rune stones. Each rune had some magical properties but be useless on its own. You had to put several of them together in order to make spells. So for example a fire bolt spell would require a fire rune and another rune that would be related to magical projectiles. There were dozens of combinations and discovering them was part of the fun. One summer I made myself a whole set of these runic stones out of those flat washed out pebbles you can find on the beach.
A lot of people start their point-and-click adventure gaming carer with one of the Lucas Arts SCUMM games like The Secret of the Monkey Island. I started with Simon the Sorcerer which was not only incredibly funny but also massive. Unlike most adventure games that kept you confined to a small area until you figured out a puzzle, most of the world in Simon was open to you from the get go. The game was just as much about exploration as it was about puzzles. If you got stuck somewhere you just went roaming around. Eventually you would find new items and you would go “oh, I wonder if I can use it in the XYZ location”.
I have played the original game without voice acting – hearing Simon’s voice actually ruins my nostalgia here because this is definitely not how he sounded in my head. Fun fact: I replayed this game as an adult and realized that it was way funnier than I remembered it. I assume that about a half (if not more) of the jokes flew over my head due to my limited grasp of English and inability to pick up on many of the innuendos, pop culture references and wink-wink-nude-nudge moments.
Oh, and before I forget, Moonstone – a game that me and my brother used to play a lot due to it’s competitive nature and incredible amount of gore it featured.
My brother actually made the set of dice featured in the game – as in chiseled the dice out of wood and painted on the symbols. We used to always take that set on long trips in addition to playing cards.
How about you? Which games affected you the most when you were a kid? Which games you still remember with astonishing clarity? Post them in the comments. If you can find cool youtube vids like the ones above, that would be even better!