One of GameCentral’s oldest readers recounts a gaming life spanning from a 1950s interactive TV game to the modern PS5.
I am one of the oldest players, I am a retired engineer. I played Winky Dink and You in the early 1950s on a black and white television, it’s the first video game. I was young, but not too young to be seriously disappointed. Basically it was a transparent TV support that you drew on with chalk.
When it was used in one of the cartoons, there were things like Winky Dink having to cross a bridge, but there was nothing there and you had to draw it in the overlay. It was lame because if you didn’t draw the required stuff on the screen the action would still happen, and at five or six years old I probably wasn’t drawing the right stuff fast enough.
My next video game adventure was Magnavox Odyssey. Furthermore, a big disappointment. Pong and hockey were played. It had three buttons to control the paddle. It was apparently designed for a Venusian, because without three hands it was virtually impossible to play.
Then came the NES, Atari Jaguar, Genesis, 3DO, Neo Geo, Commodore 128, Timex Sinclair 2068 (I did the cover art for three Spectrum games for a company founded by some Timex engineers), Xbox, PlayStation 1 , 2, 3 , 4, 5, Atari 5200 and many computers. [The reader is American, so the Genesis is the Mega Drive and the Timex Sinclair is the ZX Spectrum. We’re not sure if Winky Dink and You was shown on British TV, but we doubt it – GC]
Most had fun games, but with the exception of the NES joystick and the Neo Geo Sticks, the controllers on all of these other systems made the games almost unplayable. There is almost no sign of the horrible Atari 5200 analog stick that fell over when released. This stick made every game on the 5200 completely unplayable.
I built a digital joystick that works perfectly. I probably have the only digital joystick for an Atari 5200 in the world. The 3DO game will input random commands if you rotate it even slightly while holding it. The Atari Jaguar gamepad was an almost useless piece of plastic, the original 2600 joysticks were much better.
I cracked the save code for the PS1 Doom 1 and 2 disc and generated a whole bunch of save codes with full armament and ammo and it was published in an old EGM article. I kept a code for myself that starts Doom 1 in the first level with all the weapons and ammo, including the double barreled shotgun that you normally only get in Doom 2. One day I will release this save code in case anyone is ever interested, maybe speedrunners.
I bought a Commodore 128 and learned Basic. Had a lot of fun with it. I bought over 100 games for it before I stopped using it. I would say some of my greatest experiences have been on this machine. At least until I played Tomb Raider on the PS1.
Later I bought a lot of computers and got involved in MMOs. I played Ultima Online the first year it came out, and then many other games for about a year each: EverQuest 1 and 2, Asheron’s Call 1 and 2, Anarchy Online, Dark Age Of Camelot, World Of Warcraft, and Star Wars Galaxies.
I will never forget an experience I had in the first few days after Ultima Online was released. It had already been in beta for a while, so there were some experienced beta players who were of course practically invincible; They were allowed to keep everything they had in the beta.
I was in this one area and there was a whole bunch of people killing each other. These two guys walked down the aisle in the middle of the action and no one attacked them. They were both carrying crossbows (from Vanquiishing, no doubt) and anyone could tell they were Beta veterans and those bows would have shot anything in the game. You could then see everyone’s speech bubbling and saying to each other as they walked past all this craziness, “The good old days.”
Another memorable experience was seeing a huge train in EverQuest. When EverQuest first came out, it followed you no matter how far you ran. It didn’t take long for someone to figure out that they could walk around annoying things and create a huge train of monsters that would follow them, leading them to a victim where the train would turn aggressive and kill that person . Pretty hilarious when you see it for the first time, unless you are the victim. They patched it after a while, and I don’t think any other game has made this mistake again.
But I think the most fun I’ve played is today’s game commentary and the topic of the article. I bought a lot of games for my Commodore 128. Almost all of them were a completely new experience (since I managed to buy a decent controller after trying many controllers over the years). The developers tried everything they could think of in games and they managed to do what other developers did and not copy it.
Nobody bought up studios and destroyed the creative spark. That’s the problem with games today, and it’s only going to get worse if Sony and Microsoft buy up all the game development studios. If they all take control of Sony, they will all do the same thing. There will be no creative spark left and the games will be a homogenized mess of the same old stuff over and over again.
Instead of looking for something new that works, there is now too much searching for something old that can be copied. Starting a brand new game on my Commodore 128 was always exciting because I never knew what to expect.
From reader Glenn