Welcome to the next episode in my weekly series I post every Sunday where I take a look at games listed in the book, 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die. If I've played them, then I share my memory of the experience and if I haven't, then I find an online version or an emulator and I play them. This is a book every gamer should have in their library, and if you're interested in purchasing it, you can find it here.

Episode 1: 01 - 05 (here)

Episode 2: 06 - 10 (here)

Episode 3: 11 - 15 (here)

For devoted gamers as well as those interested in groundbreaking graphic design, this is the first, most comprehensive, and only critical guide ever published to video games. The video game has arrived as entertainment and as an art form. This is the first serious critical evaluation ever published of the best video games and is a testament to the medium's innovativeness and increasing emphasis on aesthetics. Organized chronologically and for all platforms (PC, Xbox, PlayStation, etc.) and covering all genres from the bold (Grand Theft Auto and Halo) and dark (Resident Evil and Silent Hill) to the spiritual (Final Fantasy) and whimsical (Legend of Zelda), the book traces the video game from the rough early days of Pong to the latest visual fantasia.

So, last week there were two games that I never played before so my homework was to play them before posting this blog. I'm happy to report I found and played both of the games.

#13 - Eamon

It was a challenge to find this game online, and truth be told I don't know that I found the complete game. I did however find a website hosting a Java version of parts of the game. You can find it here if you're interested. The Java applet does a convincing job making you feel like you're back in the 80s playing on an old Apple computer. The game is like many of the other text adventure games from the same period - a lot like the original Zork. I've played a game very much like this one, and it might have even been this one. It has a certain degree of familiarity to it. It's one of those games that transitions from the traditional pen and paper roleplaying games like Dungeons & Dragons to computer based versions of them.

#15 - Rogue

An online version of this game was easy enough to find (like this one), but this game probably takes over the record as the most rudimentary game I have ever played, and that's from someone who played Adventure a few weeks ago. What surprises me the most is this game has an entire sub-genre named after it, the "rogue-like". Oh well, at least I can say I've played it now, which I did for about 30 minutes. Hey, the book says, "must play"...not "must finish"!

Okay, so now I'm all caught up - fifteen games down, and I've played them all now. But it's another week, and another round of games. This week we continue on in the 1980s, arguably one of the greatest eras in gaming. Let's see what games are up this week, and whether I've played them or not.

#16 - Tempest

"Tempest is a 1981 arcade game by Atari Inc., originally designed and programmed by Dave Theurer. The objective of Tempest is to survive as long as possible and score as many points as possible by clearing the screen of enemies that have landed on the playing field. The game takes place in a closed tube or open field which is viewed from one end and is divided into a dozen or more segments. The player controls a claw-shaped spaceship that crawls along the near edge of the playfield, moving from segment to segment. This ship can rapid-fire shots down the tube, destroying any enemies within the same segment, and is also equipped with a Superzapper, which destroys all enemies currently on the playfield once per level." -Wikipedia

I don't know if it's spatial relationship or what you call it, but I have always struggled with games that require you to "see" things in perspective, so of course I suck at games like Tetris (I can have the blocks aligned and ready to get a Tetris, get a long piece, and then choke and place it next to where I meant too), so I was never very good at Tempest. It doesn't mean I didn't try, because I did. The game had crazy sounds and a little wheel or dial to control your "claw shaped spaceship" (although admittedly I had no idea that's what it was). Not as huge as Pac-Man or Space Invaders, but it was definitely a popular mainstay in the arcade. I've spent plenty of quarters on it.

#17 - MUD

"A MUD (originally Multi-User Dungeon, with later variants Multi-User Dimension and Multi-User Domain), is a multiplayer real-time virtual world, usually text-based. MUDs combine elements of role-playing games, hack and slash, player versus player, interactive fiction, and online chat. Players can read or view descriptions of rooms, objects, other players, non-player characters, and actions performed in the virtual world. Players typically interact with each other and the world by typing commands that resemble a natural language. Traditional MUDs implement a role-playing video game set in a fantasy world populated by fictional races and monsters, with players choosing classes in order to gain specific skills or powers. The objective of this sort of game is to slay monsters, explore a fantasy world, complete quests, go on adventures, create a story by roleplaying, and advance the created character. Many MUDs were fashioned around the dice-rolling rules of the Dungeons & Dragons series of games." -Wikipedia

I was pretty young still when MUDs were in the height of their prime. I remember watching my brother and his friend participating in them, but I don't know that I ever did. I don't really know that I will be able to recreate this experience now in present day, but I'm going to at least do a little more research on it and see what I can find. MUDs were like a precursor to games like Warcraft - very community driven. If I can't find anything on them, at least I can say I was exposed to them as a kid...

#18 - Pac-Man

"Pac-Man is an arcade game developed by Namco and licensed for distribution in the United States by Midway, in October 1980 and first released in Japan on May 22, 1980. Immensely popular from its original release to the present day, Pac-Man is considered one of the classics of the medium, virtually synonymous with video games, and an icon of 1980s popular culture. Upon its release, the game-and, subsequently, Pac-Man derivatives-became a social phenomenon that sold a bevy of merchandise and also inspired, among other things, an animated television series and a top-ten hit single." -Wikipedia

Has anybody not heard of Pac-Man? I guess it's possible gamers today might not have actually played it, but I'm sure everybody has at least heard of it. I don't know how or why I remember this, but I resisted calling it Pac-Man by its official name for a long time after its release. You see, my brother's best friend called us at home (on the old analog phones -we didn't have cell phones back then) one day and told us about a new game down at the arcade. He called it "Gobbler" because you gobble up the dots. You have to remember, we were just kids. So, I called Pac-Man - Gobbler for a very long time. Needless to say, I've played Pac-Man extensively; I was there in the 80s for Pac-Man Fever; I collected the trading cards and stickers; I watched the cartoons. Yes, I know Pac-Man very well...or Gobbler, as I like to call it.

#19 - Phoenix

"Phoenix is a shoot 'em up arcade game developed by Amstar Electronics (which was located in Phoenix, Arizona) in 1980, released by Centuri in the United States and by Taito in Japan. Bootleg versions of Phoenix were released by TPN and others. Atari also ported the game to the Atari 2600 console in 1982. Like many arcade games of that era, Phoenix is a top-down outer space-themed fixed shooter similar to Taito's Space Invaders. The player controls a spaceship that moves horizontally at the bottom of the screen, firing upward. Enemies, typically one of two types of birds, appear on the screen above the player's ship, shooting at it and periodically diving towards it in an attempt to crash into it." -Wikipedia

It sounds familiar and if it was in the arcade I can't imagine not having played it...but I am not completely sure that I've played this before. It looks a lot like Space Invaders or Galaga even. Since I can't say for sure and don't have any personal stories to tell about it, I'm going to do some further research on this one and try and actually play it to see if it triggers a memory.

#20 - Zork I

"Zork: The Great Underground Empire - Part I, later known as Zork I, is an interactive fiction video game written by Marc Blank, Dave Lebling, Bruce Daniels and Tim Anderson and published by Infocom in 1980. It was the first game in the popular Zork trilogy and was released for a wide range of computer systems, followed by Zork II and Zork III. It was Infocom's first game, and sold 378,987 copies by 1986. The player steps into the deliberately vague role of an "adventurer". The game begins near a white house in a small, self-contained area. Although the player is given little instruction, the house provides an obvious point of interest." -Wikipedia

I played Zork on my brother's Commodore 64 and it is one of the first games I recall playing where I actually used a pen and paper to take notes and map the game out. Zork is a classic that defines the text adventure, and it's also a game that generated such recognizable quotes like, "You are likely to be eaten by a grue." and, "You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door. There is a small mailbox here." It's amazing the immersion and imagination a text adventure game can generate, but Zork sure succeeded at doing just that. A game you play by reading text that can scare you? I know it did me...because when your light goes out, you are definitely going to be eaten by a grue.

This concludes another week's review of games found in 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die. There were some great games from the 1980s definitely earning a spot in the book and only one or two that were obviously influential that I need to research further. This week's homework assignment - Phoenix and MUD.

Until next week - happy gaming.