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There seems to be a trend regarding books listing 1,001
things you should experience before you die. I've seen them for books you
should read, movies you should watch, songs you should listen to, places you
should visit and even beers you must taste...all before you die. Are there really
that many beers? I suppose there probably are.
Well, the one you and I are probably most interested in is (book, not
1,001 Video Games You
Must Play Before You Die.
I actually learned about this book from friend and fellow
gamer, dean "born4this" and even blogged about it almost 2 years ago after I
received my copy from Amazon. If you're interested, you can read it here
or buy it here.
Admittedly, I haven't read the book cover to cover, but I
have flipped through it and I'm quite surprised (and pleased) how many of the
games I've already played. I've been contemplating what to do about this book,
and decided that every Sunday (time and energy permitting) I'll go through the
book in order and respond to one or two or a few...who knows, I'll play it by
First up, the 1970s.
1. The Oregon Trail
"The Oregon Trail is a
computer game originally developed by Don Rawitsch, Bill Heinemann, and Paul
Dillenberger in 1971 and produced by the Minnesota Educational Computing
Consortium (MECC) in 1974. The original game was designed to teach school
children about the realities of 19th century pioneer life on the Oregon Trail.
The player assumes the role of a wagon leader guiding his party of settlers
from Independence, Missouri, to Oregon's Willamette Valley over the Oregon
Trail via a Studebaker Wagon in 1848. The game has been released in many
editions since the original release by various developers and publishers who
have acquired rights to it." -Wikipedia
If you've never heard of this game, chances are you've still
heard of a meme made popular by the game - "You have died of dysentery." Well, I
played this game. No, not in 1974 when it was released (firedude3663, don't say
it). It was a few years later in school, although I have no idea what grade or
how old I was. But I do remember playing this game. We didn't have computers in
the class room, but we did have around five of them in the library. And when
most of the kids were on break or at lunch, I would go to the library and play
video games. I actually preferred Where In the World Is Carmen San Diego, but
if the computer (some version of the Apple - IIE I think) that had that game
was already being taken, I would hop on this one and play it instead. The irony
is not lost on me that you used to be able to play video games in school and
now they carry this stigma of causing violence or making you lazy. Well, The
Oregon Trail was definitely geared towards the learning experience and
educational value. Not the first game I ever played, but certainly one of them.
If you want to play it, it's been released on a number of systems with state of
the art graphics, or you can find plenty of websites and emulators and play it
in its original glory.
A game that should need no introduction or explanation, Pong
is often attributed as being the first real video game. And if you're a regular
reader of my blog you may recall a few weeks ago on November 29, 2012 - the anniversary
of the release of Pong, I posted a blog
titled, From Paddles To Controllers - My Tribute To Pong. In that blog I talked
about how the very first video game I recall playing was a Pong clone on the
Radio Shack TV Scoreboard. Since the 1970's Pong has found its way into the
arcade, onto cell phones and even hidden away as a mini-game in other modern
era games. I don't think I need to tell you about Pong, and if you've never
played it you can certainly find plenty of places where you can.
3. Break Out
"Breakout is an arcade
game developed by Atari, Inc. and introduced on May 13, 1976. It was
conceptualized by Nolan Bushnell and Steve Bristow, and influenced by the 1972
arcade game Pong, also by Atari. The game was ported to video game consoles and
upgraded to video games such as Super Breakout. In addition, Breakout was the
basis and inspiration for books, video games, film, and the Apple II personal
computer. In the game, a layer of bricks lines the top third of the screen. A
ball travels across the screen, bouncing off the top and side walls of the
screen. When a brick is hit, the ball bounces away and the brick is destroyed.
The player loses a turn when the ball touches the bottom of the screen. To
prevent this from happening, the player has a movable paddle to bounce the ball
upward, keeping it in play." -Wikipedia
So, imagine Pong, rotate the screen so the paddle is on the
bottom instead of the side, add a bunch of tiles you're trying to break and you
have Break Out. Once again, another game I played. I played it on several
systems including the Apple, the Atari and even in the arcade. It had several
clones and sequels, but the truth is I was never a fan of break out. Truth be
told, I've always been somewhat of a clumsy kid and my hand - eye coordination
and reaction time aren't the greatest for this sort of game...so, suffice it to
say...I sucked at it. So I didn't' play it. If you'd like to give it a try, here's
a website that lets you
play it for free. I decided to give it a try, just to see if I got any better...and
with God as my witness, I missed the very first ball as soon as it launched. I
didn't even hit it once. I gave up after that. I still suck at it.
*Note - Even though I don't like Break Out, I do own a copy
of Super Break out for the Atari 5200.
4. Boot Hill
"A classic one or
two-player western gunfight game. Each player uses a small joystick to move
their cowboy up and down the play area, while a second, much larger joystick is
used to aim the pistol and shoot - this larger stick also has a trigger button.
The game's single goal is simply to shoot the other player, who is situated on
the opposite side of the game area. Wagons and cacti litter the middle of the
play area, providing temporary cover from the opponent's gunfire. These
obstacles slowly disintegrate as they are shot." -Wikipedia
When I was a youngster, I was huge into the whole cowboy theme...(and
yes, I love Toy Story). I had a pair of six-shooter cap guns and a double
holster you would seldom find me without. I didn't play Boot Hill a lot, but I
remember the first time I played Boot Hill was at an arcade in Dogpatch USA at the
Lake of the Ozarks. I thought I would be great at it, because I was a cowboy
after all...and I kept dying in no time and got mad at the game. But the coolest
feature of the game was the controls - they were shaped like pistol handles...and
I remember long after my mom stopped giving me quarters, I'd still hover over
the game when no one was playing it, imagining those pistols were my six
shooters. Ah, the mind of a child.
"Combat is an early
video game by Atari, Inc. for the Atari 2600. It was released as one of the
nine launch titles for the system in October 1977, and was included in the box
with the system from its introduction until 1982. Combat was based on two
earlier black-and-white coin-operated arcade games produced by Atari: Tank (published
under the Kee Games name) in 1974 and Anti-Aircraft II in 1975. The 27 game
modes featured a variety of different combat scenarios, including tanks,
biplanes, and jet fighters. The tank games had interesting options such as
bouncing munitions ("Tank-Pong") and invisibility. The biplane and jet
games also allowed for variation, such as multiple planes per player and an
inventive game with a squadron of planes versus one giant bomber." -Wikipedia
Heck to the yes I've played Combat. I've blogged about it
multiple times and showed off my Combat cartridge I still own, even though I
don't even have a system to play it on anymore. This was the one and only game
my brother and I had for the longest time for the Atari 2600 and we played this
game all of the time. The invisible tanks and tank pong were by far the best
modes. I remember we used to play the planes, and he would always play the
triple small planes and make me the big fat jumbo plane (less maneuverable). I could
tell you some stories about Combat. Let's just say I'm rather fond of this game;
more so than any of the others on this list.
And there you have it. I'm off to a great start. The first
five games from the 1,001 video games you must play before you die, and I've
played them all. Only 996 left to check and verify. Stay tuned for the next
episode, tentatively scheduled for next Sunday.
Hope you all had a great weekend.