Tag Archives: video games

Childhood Video Games: Part 2

Inspired by KateKintail‘s recent posts about favorite childhood video games (here and here), I decided it was high time I blathered on about mine for a little while.

This is the second post. The first was about TI-99 games. This one is devoted to PC games. We played these somewhat less frequently (Dad’s IBM was not always available) but just as passionately. These are the ones I remember playing the most often.

Ultima V

Pretty sure I traveled just about everywhere in the Ultima V universe but never got anywhere close to beating it. I got the boats and the horse and the flying carpet, and even managed to get to Lord British’s castle but still no dice. After a while we just started messing around, like killing everyone in a village that happened to have no guards (though often you’d get arrested elsewhere). It was fun to explore but ultimately got frustrating when you couldn’t make any progress. I read a walk-through years later and learned that we’d skipped a crucial step: grinding until you reached some impossibly high experience level we’d never gotten close to.

Ultima V game play video (though the version I played didn’t have music)

Return to Zork

I sucked at the original, text-based Zork. My sister was really into it, drawing maps and all that, but I was constantly getting eaten by a Grue. Return to Zork had graphics and a surprising number of celebrity cameos, and I played it endlessly. I eventually had to buy a walk-through guide to finish it, but I enjoyed it just the same. “Want some rye? Course ya do!”

Return to Zork game play video

Battle Chess

We loved Battle Chess, and it was the first thing I thought of when Harry Potter played Wizard’s Chess. Mostly we tried to play in such a way to see all the different ways various pieces killed each other. I loved how the rooks turned into rock monsters, and how the king and queen smooched before he stabbed her in the back with a dagger.

Battle Chess game play video


You have a certain number of lemmings (little purple dudes with green hair) you have to get to safety, and a certain number of each kind of special one (like one that makes stairs and one that blocks the lemmings from passing and stuff like that), and sometimes a time limit. Oh man, I played this game like a fiend. I got pretty good at it, if I recall correctly, but it’s still a little traumatizing to see the little guys plummet to their death, splashing(!!) on the ground.

Lemmings game play video

King’s Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella

This was the only KQ game (at the time) with a female main character, and my friend and I played the hell out of it. She was a lot better at it than I was, getting way farther, so I liked to watch her play so I could see all the lands I’d never managed to get to. We loved the fairy tale/fantasy theme of it, and having a fairy with butterfly wings didn’t hurt any. Looking back, the graphics were actually pretty good and interestingly designed.

King’s Quest IV game play video

Other Sierra Games

I’ve lumped these all together because I didn’t get far in any of them and graphically they were all pretty much interchangeable: King’s Quest III (dammit, Manannan!), Space Quest I (I never even got off the ship), Police Quest I and II, and Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards (which probably would have been more titillating at a higher resolution – mostly it was just silly). I liked playing them but not often because I always got stuck in the same place – not because I couldn’t figure out the puzzle, but because I didn’t know how to find the next puzzle to solve, so I ended up just wandering around until running into someone telling me I’d lost/died/whatever because I hadn’t done something I didn’t know how to do.

Game play videos for King’s Quest III, Space Quest I, and Police Quest I

Apogee Games

At some point I discovered the joys of shareware. On one disk we had two games: Secret Agent: The Hunt for Red Rock Rover, and Cosmo’s Cosmic Adventure. Secret Agent was a fun side-scroller puzzle game, where you had various obstacles to overcome and enemies with predictable and repetitive patterns of movement. Cosmo was more Mario-like, jumping on enemies and setting bombs and stuff like that. I played it so obsessively that I actually beat it several times. Come to think of it, it may be the only video game I’ve ever beaten in my entire life. Huh.

Cosmo game play video
Secret Agent game play video

Castle of the Winds

I take that back. I beat Castle of the Winds. This Windows 3.1 shareware game was so addictive that my sister and I ultimately convinced our parents to purchase the second part. It’s pretty simplistic: you’re a little icon running around villages and dungeons made of other icons and you kill things by walking into them. There are traps and monsters and treasures. This was my first encounter with the Enchanted Pack of Holding, though I know now that Bag of Holding is an old D&D term. I think the best part was when we were able to combine this game with an icon creator program, meaning our hero could look however we wanted. We did a few, but the one that sticks in my memory most was the Floating Radioactive Banana of Doom. (Long story; don’t ask.)

Castle of the Winds game play video

Tetris and Faces…Tris

You all know Tetris and the only thing interesting about the version we played was the change in backgrounds each level. Faces…Tris was something else entirely. You had pieces of face (chin/mouth, nose, eyes, hair) and you tried to match them up. It was crazy-hard but we enjoyed all the weird faces we could make by mixing up the people.

Faces…Tris game play video

There were others, of course, that I can’t recall now. A generic horse-racing game we’d get all riled up over, Dig-Dug (which I only played a couple of times), some weird fly game where the fly moved way faster than your cursor so it took more luck than skill to swat it…and surely many others. Mostly I recall the grind of the disk drive being a warning that something awful was loading on the next screen and you’d probably have to back out as fast as possible or else die immediately.

What PC games did you love back in the day?

Childhood Video Games: Part 1

Inspired by KateKintail‘s recent posts about favorite childhood video games (here and here), I decided it was high time I blathered on about mine for a little while.

I’m going to split this into three posts. A lot of the games in this first post will probably seem almost-but-not-quite familiar to you, because our main gaming console was a TI-99 computer, and thus most of our favorite games were blatant Atari rip-offs. We never owned an Atari or Nintendo, so this is all we knew (though I remember watching friends play Q*Bert, Legend of Zelda, and Duck Hunt). And I say “we” because it was usually a group of us huddled around the computer, watching someone else play and not-so-patiently awaiting our turn.

TI Invaders

It was only several years after playing this game that I was even made aware of the existence of Space Invaders. I did pretty well, even getting to levels where new aliens were added, but of course it’s not a game you ever actually beat.

TI Invaders game play video

Tunnels of Doom

My first real RPG, and we just loved it. Watching actual gameplay on YouTube is excruciating, though – I’d completely forgotten how you had to wait a few seconds for the screen to reload every. single. time. you took a step. This is one I don’t recall ever winning, but I do know we often played as a group, each claiming a character and telling whoever had the controller what they wanted to do next.

Tunnels of Doom game play video


Another one that’s super annoying to watch now, as the music restarts every single time there is another sound. Which was a lot, since this entire game is about tanks blowing things up.

Blasto game play video


TI’s answer to Pac-Man, only instead of eating dots you leave a chain in your wake, and the monsters change every level.

Munch Man game play video


You play a tiny mouse trying to get through a maze without getting eaten by a gigantic cat. (Seriously, the mouse was about the same size as the cat’s eye.) I got pretty good at it, but I preferred to make the cat dumb. I was kind of a wimp. (Still am.)

A-MAZE-ING game play video


“You forgot to duck!” The theme music to this game was Anitra’s Dance from Peer Gynt by Edvard Grieg, and you can imagine my excitement when I later played it on the piano. What was most memorable about this game was the reasonably sophisticated (if maddening) voice synthesizer. We often would protest, “But I can’t duck!”

Alpiner game play video


A side-scroller with a ship blasting its way through the cosmos while trying not to crash into rocks. That’s…pretty much it, actually.

Parsec game play video

Car Wars

Cars making horrendous noises as they race around a squarish track until they smash into each other. We had simple pleasures back then.

Car Wars game play video


Pretty sure this game is a rip-off but I don’t know the name of the real one. It’s the game where you’re a snake and every move you get longer and the idea is to last longer than your opponent without running into them or yourself.

Return to Pirates Isle

I only mention this one because we played it – or at least tried to. We never could figure out the proper commands to input in order to actually accomplish anything beyond finding the glasses.

What did you play in the 1980s? Did you have a TI-99, or was it an Atari or Nintendo or something else? What were your favorite games?

MAGFest 2010

Ring in the new year with video games, music, and general geekery at MAGFest in Alexandria, Virginia. I’ll be there with my dear husband and a bunch of folks from OverClocked Remix. Should be good times.

Centauri Dawn by Michael Ely

Centauri Dawn by Michael Ely: I have never played the video game on which this book is based (Alpha Centauri) nor its more famous predecessor, Civilization. This probably hampered my enjoyment. Though you do not need to be familiar with the games to understand the plot, I suspect that anyone not obsessed with the game will feel much the way I did: meh. Basically, Earth is tearing apart itself with war so a colony ship is sent off to another planet. It breaks up in space and each pod, holding roughly one thousand people and one leader, lands on a different part of the planet. The leaders are the diplomat, the warrior, the farmer-hippy, the economist, the professor, and two others I can’t recall just now. Anyway, they each found their own groups following their personal philosophies, thus creating large numbers of walking stereotypes. The warriors (who call themselves Spartans, natch) are the most grievous offense here, obsessing over honor and battle even more than your average Kling-on. They are not in the least bit sympathetic, fighting the other groups for no more reason than they feel like it. The author makes some weak attempts at motive but it’s not convincing. In short, this is not something I would recommend to a lover of science fiction…or to anyone, in fact, except those who simply cannot get enough of the Alpha Centauri universe.

Also posted on BookCrossing.


Doom: Light on plot but heavy on zombies leaping out from behind corners. In other words, pretty much what you’d expect. For those of you unfamiliar with the video game, a bunch of Marines get sent to Mars where genetic experiments have gone horribly wrong (shocking, I know – that never happens in movies). Much shooting ensues. Honestly, I was a little bored. There wasn’t quite enough suspense to be scary, and not nearly enough action to be exciting. On the bright side, there was a brief segment filmed in the first-person shooter style of the game that made me laugh pretty hard, so it wasn’t a complete wash. I didn’t really need to see this one in the theater, but it’s a worthy flick to watch in your livingroom over beer and pizza.

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