Becoming a Gamer Again

I am on a mission. I have a quest. My goal is to rekindle my love of games and gaming.

To do this, I've opened somewhat of a time capsule in my brain, stepping back down memory lane to my earliest PC gaming experiences.

I need to point out right away that I didn't start PC gaming until I was about 14, in 1994-5 or so. My friend Greg had a 386 PC (later upgraded to a 486), on which we used to play countless hours of Jetpack and Wacky Wheels and Scorch. Another friend, Glen, had Prince of Persia on his PC, but I never played it enough to get any good at it.

A couple of years later I borrowed enough money to buy my first PC – a second-hand Pentium 100 from one of my other friends, Cookie. It had 32MB of RAM, more than enough to play Quake with the full "-heapsize 16384" or Grand Theft Auto (when it came out, and we acquired it) from inside Windows.

Before that, though, I'd played the usual '80s educational games at school, like Farmer Jane's Ponds and Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?, and Apple Logo (not technically a game, but I played it anyway!)

And of course, it being the 90s, I was already a fairly well established arcade and console gamer by then:

Oh man, glory days.

But back to the PC...

When I bought the computer off Cookie it already had Quake installed. So, of course, I played that. A lot. A really, really lot. I was the first of my friends to include "+mlook" in my autoexec.cfg. I installed the Omicron bots, and trained myself up to pwn them in deathmatch. I finished the original game (did anyone else find Shub-Niggurath to be a bit of a let down? You play for hours, against harder and tougher and scarier monsters, and then you beat the final boss with a telefrag? (SPOILERS!) I was a bit "meh" when I eventually worked it out.) and both Scourge of Armagon and Dissolution of Eternity. Greg and I got our 28.8k modems talking long enough to play almost 10 minutes of DM from our own homes one time. I used to beat my friends in deathmatch using only the axe. I vividly recall one time snatching a jumping bot out of the air with the lightning gun and pinning it to the corner of the ceiling until it gibbed. I got a QuakeC compiler and created a mod, with things like laser pointers and monster-seeking missiles and teleporting rockets&grenades and AI that prefer to fight different types of monsters over the player. I lived Quake, and breathed lightning bolts, and rocket-jumped like a pro.

Real time strategy was a hip new thing back then, too. Sabin's RTS of choice was Warcraft, but most of us played C&C and then Red Alert. Hours of fun an shenanigans were had. It was heaps of fun at a LAN party, with everyone sitting around a big table, when everyone's SoundBlaster speakers would announce in turn: "Nuclear launch detected." Everyone would mutter, glance annoyedly at the one person who's speakers hadn't emitted the warning, flitter nervously around their base, then laugh when one of us groaned at their dudes being burned alive. Also: a convoy of well-pathed harvesters is absolutely devastating against an infantry formation.

And between the FPS and RTS, I still made time to play Jetpack and Scorch, and Worms Plus+Reinforcements. (Oi! Nutter!)

These memories are fifteen or twenty (or more) years old now, but you can probably tell from my writing that they're still vivid, powerful, very happy memories. This was the gaming of my youth (before I moved out and Half-Life came along and changed (my view of?) the entire gaming landscape.) If I want to resurrect my love of gaming, I think I have to try to reawaken those feelings, and I figure a great way to do it is to play the old games.

One of my great regrets in life is letting Mum get rid of my Segas when I left home to go to university. There were only a couple of really big games, so I could probably rebuild my little library with a bit of clever eBaying (after gaining due approval from the Ministry of War and Finance, of course), but in the mean-time I already have a PC. Through the magic of XP's compatibility mode and emulators like DOSBox and my old CD boxes and various abandonware sites around the web, I've been able to reinstall Quake and Scorch and some of the other games of yesteryear (Hi-Octane is another one we used to play a bit at LAN parties; my memory of that one can be summed up as "frenetic").

I haven't gotten much gaming in yet, as such, but they're there, ready for me, and I'm definitely making the time to get back into them. As a general taste, here are two short clips of me first dipping my toes back into Quake and Scorch (with much thanks to Fraps).

The first two levels of Quake, using GLquake; my first play in at least a decade.
A single play-through of Scorched Earth, from memory, not having touched it in years.

Yes, yes, I know there's no challenge in playing against "Tosser"s, and I've since remembered that you have to actually energise the shields for them to do anything. Like I said, this was my first play in a very long time. I will definitely play more realistically in future!

Of course it wasn't just the games, it was also the people with whom and the circumstances in which I played them. So, please, join in. Tell me which games you played and loved, and which have stuck with you. Let's share our experiences in games and gaming, and see if we can't rekindle a bit of that youthful glee we once knew.


Matthew Kerwin

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games

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