Home > General Gaming Blogs > It all started with a break and enter…

It all started with a break and enter…

There was no such thing as “pc graphics”. The computer was a black screen and you could input text. It was a wonderful invention that made my work day so much easier. No longer did I have to use carbon paper to make a copy of a document while typing it, and I didn’t have to use “whiteout” – a product where you painstakingly painted out a typo, then inhaled those wonderful fumes and got high before you had to realign the letter in the typewriter to make your correction (which was therefore always crooked). Computers let us make all the revisions or corrections we wanted before simply pressing print and watching it slowly come out of the printer, then ripping off the tracks on the sides and having a perfect letter! Then, something even more truly incredible and amazing happened. You put in a big ole floppy disk and this appeared:

What was astounding was that you could type something in… and the computer wrote back to you! It led you on an adventure through an incredible landscape of foreign creatures and events. After exploring around the area, you found the back of the white house, and like a thief you slipped in through an unsecured window. This was my first experience with something truly “interactive” (and coincidentally also my first B&E!) Prior to that there were TV and books.. but these were passive activities, with no input from the viewer. There were of course early arcade games… you moved the joystick and your Space Invaders cannon moved, or it fired when you pressed the button – but this game was different, so very, very different. This game had a story, and over the course of several games it had an ending… not the usual typing of A-S-S or F-U-K into a high score slot on an arcade machine – instead it was interactive fiction, a personalized book of sorts that you influenced. I really don’t know if I can adequately describe how amazing it was that what I chose to type elicited what seemed to be an entirely personalized response with hours upon hours of venturing through various dungeons and puzzles to acquire the treasures for the trophy case in that white house. Zork was the game that started me and many others on our journey into a world with many such incredible moments – the world of gaming.

In many ways the success of Zork led the way for the future of video games… it was one of the first RPG or role playing games. You played the game as yourself… an intrepid adventurer. The game also frequently broke the forth wall… if you typed in something like “shit” the game responded with “you ought to be ashamed of yourself”. Ironically if you typed in “fuck” it responded with “Tough shit, asshole.” When it didn’t recognize a word, it told you and you had to try typing something else. In some ways, the game seems “self aware”… something we don’t often see in games nowadays.

As graphics were developed, the text adventure game gradually became obsolete… but in some ways it has resurfaced with games like Scribblenauts where you write/type in a word and it magically appears. The objective of the game is clear, but you use your endless imagination to think up the seemingly endless variation of objects or creatures you can “summon” through the simple use of words. In games like Little Big Planet, you can even create the environment… letting your imagination loose to create a visual representation of ideas in your mind.

The fun of these games is that they let our imaginations loose… I’m sure that many of us saw in our mind’s eye a slightly different variation on the “white house” that started Zork, and this could well be the key to gaming’s future. As technology has progressed, we now have fairly good vocal recognition and as Scribblenauts has illustrated, there is the current ability to create images in our games based on words. It’s very possible that in the future our game could start with a black screen… and a voice that says “what do you see”. Through vocal recognition we could describe what we see. The game could lead us on an adventure… but could visually create the individualized environments. Already we can customize our avatars… so why not the ability to customize the environment, the enemy creatures, and the story.

It seems to me that many people take gaming technology for granted nowadays. Possibly it’s only with the passage of time and a remembrance of earlier times, that one can more fully appreciate just how amazing so many things of today are. I’ve been lucky enough to have been there when gaming first started, and t’s nice to think about what the future of gaming can hold, but in some ways it’s roots will always be in a past that you only experience once. Even if we do get the ability to vocally create an entire game from our imaginations, for me it will never really surpass that first moment of magic when my computer seemed to have a little lifeforce living in it and responding to what I typed. That moment is different for every gamer, but unfortunately we all only had that “first moment” once. It’s easy to lose that sense of wonder in subsequent gaming moments. Still, I think it’s important to remember some of these other moments… to revel in the experience, not just for now, but so that years from now you have that “I remember when” moment.

For me, some of these secondary experiences were:

* Seeing the graphics of “Myst”… for their time they were incredibly detailed and truly beautiful. Many games since then have impressed me with their graphics… but I remember when…

* Playing Badur’s Gate and realizing that decisions I made actually impacted the story. This still isn’t entirely commonplace and the ability for games to do this still manages to astonish me, but I remember when…

* Getting my first console (a Dreamcast) and seeing games on my TV set! TV’s have gotten much smaller and their screens have gotten MUCH larger since then. Internet enabled TV’s are becoming more commonplace, but seeing a game on a TV opened a portal that today sees online gaming, online social networking, buying virtual items from that TV set – so much has changed!… but I remember when…

* Playing my first “real” online game. It was Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror on the PSP but it was astonishing to sit in a chair and be able to talk to friends while playing a game. I had tried online back when there was only text chat, but the ability to voice chat changed online gaming forever for me. I don’t think I’ve shut up since! Yeah, I remember when…

* Seeing the incredibly emotive and expressive facial animations when playing the game Heavenly Sword. It truly astonished me and it’s only now that this is becoming more commonplace with games like the current L.A. Noire – but I remember when…

These are but a few of the memories that remain in my subconscious, moments I can drag out and compare to current tech and trends in gaming. It’s when remembering these earlier moments that I am most impressed with current games. If you play MAG, take a moment to run around the battlefield when all the letters are open and see 256 people all playing in the same game at the same time! Years from now, when there are thousands of people in the same game, you’ll remember back to those few short years when online gaming jumped from 32 to 64 to 256 people. If you play a 3D game, take the time to revel in the wonder of this new technology and just pretend you’re a kid again. When we have our holosuites, you’ll remember back when you first saw 3D. So many moments seem to pass us by and I think it’s only often in retrospect that you’ll remember back to how truly amazing many of these current moments in gaming are… when you’re old… like me. 🙂

So stock up now on your “I remember when” moments!

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