From The Basement to the Attic

My Five Favorite Computer Gaming Memories
March 04, 2008
Considering the fact that my favorite pastime is sitting on my ass, it should come as no surprise that I am a devoted video game fanatic. As a kid, I didnt like standing up all that much because it took too much energy, so the arcades never really interested me. I mostly played computer games because back in the 80s and early 90s, they were the ones that had the better graphics and sound, and I could play them while sitting down.

My father loved computer games as well. He has owned hundreds of games on his various computer systems over the years. In fact, he still plays video games to this day, but he has mostly moved on to the PS3 and Xbox 360, while I still gravitate more towards the PC. There is just something about the control that a keyboard allows that a joystick or controller does not. Its a more personal gaming machine. And even though I have to shell out hundreds of dollars on upgrades every time a new game comes out, I still love my PC.....and I want to marry it.

In this article I will be sharing with you five of my very favorite computer games that I grew up with. Every time I happen upon a screenshot, or god help me, a flash version of one of these games, I get a warm fuzzy sensation deep inside one of my cockles. I hope that this article will do the same for you.

Lode Runner - 1983 - Commodore 64 - Broderbund

Back in the mid 80's my mother had a friend named Margaret that lived in a run down apartment building in Maine. She would go over there a couple times a month to chat and drink a couple beers, and I would always love when she brought my father and me along. I don't think my father really minded too much either because it gave him the chance to catch up with Jimmy.

Jimmy was the dude that lived in the basement of the apartment building. I don't quite know for sure why he lived in the basement, because he made good money working at the local shipyard. Maybe he just liked the smell of mildew.

It really doesn't matter why he lived there, all that matters is that Jimmy had a Commodore 64, and a crap load of games on floppy disk. This is what a Commodore 64 looked like:

A later model (Commodore 128):

And for all you kids out there that don't know what a floppy disk was, (I'm sure there are a few), it looked like this:

A Commodore 64 used a 5 1/4 floppy disk that held 360kb. By today's standards....or even the standards set 15 years ago......360kb is not a whole lot of memory. It only took one of them however, to store one of the coolest games in the history of computer gaming. It was called Lode Runner.

These pictures really don't give it justice. There was no other game at the time like it.

Basically, you played a white stick figure....and the object of the game was to avoid the blue stick figures, and to collect all the gold. Once all the gold was collected you had to make your way towards the top of the screen in order to complete the level.

The most addicting aspect of the game was that you could dig pits to trap your foes in. They would struggle to get out but once they were trapped, the pit would eventually close in on them and kill them, forcing them to reappear and fall from the top of the screen.

It was necessary, in the more difficult of the 150 levels, to dig a pit for yourself in order to capture some of the gold buried underneath. See below pic:

This became tricky because the pit could close in on you as well, and you would lose a life.

I loved this game. Even the smell of cigarettes, spilled beer, and body odor wouldn't prevent me and my father from sitting for hours on end watching Jimmy progress through the levels. Eventually however, the stench became too much of a needless distraction, and my father purchased his own copy. Because of this we stopped hanging out at Jimmy's as much until eventually we just didn't go over there at all anymore.

Sorry Jim. We only liked you for your computer.

Defender Of The Crown - 1986 - Commodore 64 - Cinemaware

I happened upon Cinemawares website a couple of days ago, and they actually have a flash version of the game you can play for free.

This was the first strategy game that I have ever played, and it's also one of the best. I'm not much of a deep thinker, as you can probably tell by reading this article, so I don't like strategy games that take you hours on end to complete. This is probably one of the reasons why I liked this game so much, because once you got the hang of it, it wouldn't take you more than 20 minutes to beat.

When the game starts you have to choose one of four characters, all of them equally medieval looking. They all had their own strengths and weaknesses, but I don't think it really mattered much who you picked.

Once you choose your character, you are brought to the main map screen where you have to use your campaign army to take over the rest of the territories.

The more territory you conquer, the more money you make. The more money you make, the more troops you can hire. If you run out of money you are pretty much screwed. But every couple turns you can ask Robin Hood for help, and he always gives you a bunch of "merry men" to play around with.

It's set in the middle ages so it's not as gay as it sounds.

Eventually if you earn enough cash you can buy catapults and use them to siege an enemy castle. If you conquer an enemy castle you automatically take over all of the land that they occupied. I've found that pretty much as soon as you are able to buy catapults, the game is over. You win.

This is in essence the entire game. Like I said before, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to beat. There is however, one aspect of the game left to talk about. The joust.

Occasionally throughout the game, an enemy lord will invite you to a jousting tournament. The graphics and effects of this level were very good for 1986. An enemy gallops towards you with realistic sounding hoof beats, and you have to aim your lance at his shield in order to knock him off his horse. I'm really trying my best not to sound gay in explaining this...

In any case, I don't think I ever won a joust. Maybe it was the C64s keyboard that screwed me up so much...who knows...

A humorous side-note.....I got so mad one time after losing one of these things that I crumpled up one of the game diskettes. When I realized what I had done, I tried to flatten it out by placing it in the middle of a thick hardcover book and sat on it for a half hour. It didn't work very well. When my father got home he saw what I had done and was about to whoop my ass, but surprisingly the disk still ran fine. Gotta love those floppies!

Wing Commander - 1990 - MS-DOS - Origin Systems

After wearing out our C64, my father purchased a new IBM computer...I think it was a 286. It used the MS-DOS system, so we had to type in commands in order to install and play games. I can still fart around in MS-DOS to this day, but I am nowhere near as good at it as I was back then.

The first game that my father brought home was Wing Commander. In my opinion this was and is the best space combat simulation game ever released.

*Sigh* Yes it's better than X-Wing you friggin Star Wars nerds.....

If you have a DOS emulator, this should probably be the first game you play. What makes it so ridiculously fun and addicting is its story line.

Here is a brief plot synopsis:

The year is 2654 and you play the role of a Terran Confederation pilot stationed on the TCS Tigers Claw.

Humans are at war with a race of highly evolved kitty cats. They are called the Kilrathi. And they have a notoriously bad temper.

The Kilrathi reminded me of Klingons. They valued honor, and generally considered themselves to be the finest warriors in the whole of the universe. I cannot think of any other differences really, other than the fact that the Kilrathi were furry and they didnt have any of those creepy skin folds on their heads like Klingons do. Im looking at you Worf! Wash your head you dirty bastard!

The AI in this game was amazing for the time that it was released. Its called Wing Commander because once you were in the cockpit: could toggle a chat box and command your wing man to perform certain battle related tasks. This usually worked very well....although occasionally they would get in the way or take some kills from you.

My favorite wingman was Maniac because...well....he was a maniac.....

If you completed a mission, and depending on how many Kilrathi you took out, you would sometimes receive medals or promotions, and the story would progress in a positive way.

If you failed missions the Terran Confederation would begin to retreat and you would ultimately lose the fight.

The game spawned a bunch of Sequels, my favorite one has always been Wing Commander III because it starred Luke Skywalker, and it was the first of the Wing Commander games to feature full motion video.

In 1998 they made a Wing Commander movie LOOSELY based on the game.

If you have ever seen this film, you are probably in agreement with me that it sucks ass. I almost spilled my lemonheads on the floor and walked out. The casting people should have at least hired Mark Hamill to star in the thing, because he did an excellent job in Wing Commander III and all of the later sequels. Why does Hollywood have ruin the things we love?

Wolfenstein 3D - 1992 - MS-DOS - Apogee Software

One warm summer night in 1993 I awoke to the sound of machine gun fire and a bunch of Germans barking indistinguishable orders. It was coming from my parents room! Sensing that something was amiss, I wiped the snot out of my eyes and I slowly crept towards the noise. I got to my parents closed door, kicked it open, did a combat roll, and saw that it was only my father playing a video game and not the Gestapo looking for his hidden porno mags.

I had never seen anything like it. This was the future of video gaming as we knew it. It was called a first person shooter, and holy crap was it awesome! I unblinkingly approached the computer screen and plopped down on the floor next to my father. I sat mesmerized watching him open doors and shoot the shouting Nazi guards. I'm pretty sure he was mesmerized too because he didn't seem to realize that I was in the room, even though I had inadvertently squashed the cat with my combat roll entrance.

I stayed up until 3AM that night watching my father play through this fully rendered 3D world. He wouldn't let me play it, but he let me watch. And that was enough for me because I knew that he had to go to work sometime, and when he did it would be my turn.

Sure enough, the next day after he went to work, I invited my friend Tim over to check it out. I wouldn't let him play it, but I let him watch. And that was enough for him because he knew that sooner or later I would have to go to the bathroom, and when I did it would be his turn.

In Wolfenstein you play an American soldier named BJ Blazkowicz. This dude BJ kicked some serious ass. Literally. Just look at the cover art!

He's not even wearing a shirt! If I was thin I would recreate this picture in real life, only I would have a 40oz in my hand instead of a gun, and I would be kicking Richard Simmons face in instead of a Nazi because I really can't stand that guy.

Anyways, the gameplay consisted of you guiding BJ through the castles many rooms, and you had to shoot and kill both the Nazis and their deadly dogs in order to escape.

It's not a very complicated storyline.

Wolfenstein 3D was released as a shareware program originally. This was before the internet, so in order to acquire the game you had to locate a local BBS (Bulletin Board System) that had the file available for download. I'm pretty sure that this is how my father happened upon it, although later he purchased the full version that had three times as many levels.

The ending boss in the full version was ROBOT HITLER!

And when you killed him he shouted "EVA AUF VIEDERSEHEN" which Im pretty sure means "EVA! DAMN YOU FOR SELLING ME A USED ROBOT SUIT!"

I played this game so damn much that I grew potatoes out of the mold growing on my ass. I can still hear the sound effects to this day as clear as if I had heard them yesterday. This is truly a classic game, and I'm pretty sure most of the people that are reading this have played it. I could probably go on for hours on end going through every intricate detail but I'm too lazy....

However, I will mention as a side note that I still play the sequel called Return To Castle Wolfenstein on an almost daily basis. This game came out in 2001 and the multiplayer game mode is still as addicting as the day it came out. ID Software also put out a free Wolfenstein game a few years ago called "Wolfenstein Enemy Territory" that is just as fun.

You can still find Enemy Territory online if you look for it, and it has a very large, very dedicated player base.

DOOM - 1993 - MS DOS - ID Software

I was addicted to Wolfenstein, but when I finally got my hands on Doom in 1995, it took complete control over my life.

If you were around in the early 90's and owned a good enough computer, you have probably played this game. It was hugely popular. I actually owned this on my Playstation as well, but it was nowhere near as good as the computer version.

In the single player game mode, you took the role of a space marine that was deported to Mars for assaulting a senior officer. The military stationed on Mars is experimenting with teleportation and something goes seriously wrong. A portal to hell opens up and soon the entire base is overrun by demonic entities.

There are three episodes of the single player campaign. The first episode "Knee-Deep in the Dead" was the shareware version that you could download. If you bought the full game you got the other two episodes "Shores of Hell" and "Inferno". I owned them all, as well as Doom II and in 2004 Doom III.

The weapons in Doom were unique. You could use a chaingun, a shotgun, a rocket launcher, a plasma rifle that shot bursts of energy, and the coolest weapon of all the BFG 9000. BFG stands for "Big F**king Gun" and this is no exaggeration. One strategically placed shot from this thing and you could take out a whole room full of zombies.

This was also the first game of it's kind in which you could use a chainsaw!

Let me tell you, there is nothing more satisfying than hearing the death gurgle that a "Pig Demon" makes as you hack into it with a chainsaw. I hated those pink bastards....

Doom offered two modes of mutiplayer. You could play a cooperative game, or you could go head to head in a deathmatch.

I would go over to my friend Tims house on an almost daily basis because he had a couple 386 computers with 4 megs of ram set up in the attic. His brothers and I would stay up all night playing against one another. To do this we just took a regular telephone cord and plugged them into each of the computers 14.4 modems. Man those were the days...

The five games listed above were my favorites, but there were many other PC games that I enjoyed playing as well. I will list some of these honorable mentions below. I may be wrong on the operating system that some of these games played on and I am sorry for that, but my memory isn't as good as it used to be. Thank you for reading my article! I hope that you enjoyed it!

Ghostbusters - 1984 - Commodore 64 - Activision

Space Goose - 1988 - DOS - Logotron

Civilization - 1991 - DOS - MicroProse

Catacomb Abyss - 1992 - DOS - ID Software

Privateer - 1993 - DOS - Origin Systems

X-Wing - 1993 - DOS - Totally Games

Space Quest V: The Next Mutation - 1993 - DOS - Sierra

Heretic - 1994 - DOS - Raven Software

Duke Nukem 3D - 1996 - DOS - 3D Realms

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