In the latest episode of Freak Show - a german podcast about life, technology and everything - the team talked about games that changed their lives. Hearing the podcast sparked some feelings of nostalgia and resulted in the following list of games from my gaming past, which had a big influence on me. Whether or not they actually changed my life is hard to say but they definitely did something to me.
The games are all from times long past, not only because my active gaming time is already way behind me but also because it seems to me that there aren't any genre defining, life changing games released these days. Don't get me wrong, there have been some very cool AAA titles, like the Assassin’s Creed series, and also brilliant indie titles, especially on mobile platforms, in recent years but none that really changed the way I think about games or technology like the following.
You probably haven't heard about this gem from 1983 and I honestly don't really remember it that well myself but International Soccer was the very first game I ever played on the first computer I owned, a Commodore 64. I received the C64 as a christmas present if I remember correctly but awfully have no idea in which year. International Soccer came along with it on a cartridge. Playing International Soccer was more or less the kick that got me interested in games and computers in general so it probably paved the way for everything I'm doing today. Strange thought.
The Secret of Monkey Island
"My name's Guybrush Threepwood, and I want to be a pirate!" - This line was the start to the most clever and fun thing I ever played. And by ever I mean that there isn't much that comes close even today. The Secret of Monkey Island has the perfect mix of a great story, tricky puzzles and humor - some of which I probably didn't even get back in the day. Be it the copy protection "Dial-a-Pirate", classic quotes like "Look behind you, a three headed monkey!", the fighting mechanic using insults and comebacks or the infamous "Insert Disk 22" joke, many things got me laughing and wanting to play on and on. For me it really kicked off the adventure game genre although Maniac Mansion and Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade did a pretty good job a few years earlier as well.
I also loved the remake The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition which was a great makeover regarding sound and art. The best feature was the ability to switch between Special Edition and Classic Mode seamlessly at all times, though.
Walking through the genres and having sports and adventures already covered it's time for some real-time strategy and the genre defining title in this area: Dune II. I have to admit that I'm a hopeless Dune fanboy having read the books back and forth in multiple editions and languages which might cloud my judgement but this game was a revelation to me.
I recently fired up Dune II in an emulator again and that was one of the times where I realized that game design made a big step forward and that memories are often euphemistic. The genre evolved a lot since the release of Dune II in 1992 and compared to todays standards - and games like the Command & Conquer series or Warcraft III leading there - Dune II plays really bad. But that's ok, I loved the game and a lot of real-time strategy titles that came afterwards.
Doom / Quake
These two games go hand in hand for me and I couldn't decide which was more influential. Both of them beat everything I mentioned before easily and both of them accompanied me through the years and continue to do so today.
Let's start with Doom, a game so intense that it literally kept me at the edge of my seat. Wolfenstein 3D was fun and all but starting up Doom and hearing the sound of the first door I opened got me hooked instantly and I couldn't let go. After spending countless hours playing the single player missions and even more hours deathmatching good friends on the first LAN parties in airless basements (after hours of troubleshooting the BNC network that is) I discovered that Doom is modable and you can create your own maps: I was in paradise. Right now I'm looking forward to the new Doom.
Just three years after the release of Doom, in 1996, another game rocked my world and managed to make me put even Doom to the side: Quake. I was an okish player and had my share of fun at LAN parties (especially playing TeamFortress in a clan) but the thing I got the most out of was the mapping I started with Doom. There was nothing I loved more than starting up the Quake soundtrack by NIN, cranking up the volume and getting carried away mapping my own mulitplayer arenas. You can find many of the results of my mapping endevours over on the Maps page.
I keep firing up these two gems from time to time and even haven't given up on mapping completely. I don’t have the time to really finish a map these days but sometimes, when the urge takes over, I place a wall or two and a rocket launcher in between...
Writing these lines a couple of other games came to mind. I don't want to write anything about them as they didn't influence me as much as the ones above but still mention four of them which really deserve it in my humble opinion due to consuming way to much of my time: Tetris, Dynatech, Master of Orion and Warlords.
Coming to a close I realize that there is not a single role-playing game on my list. This is strange on the one hand as I really like the genre but I guess rather plausible on the other hand as no computer RPG is able to top the pen and paper experience of which I had my share.