Her latest gaming obsession is the very popular Peggle, or in her vernacular, Peggle Peggle Peggle! For those not up on such things, Peggle is the greatest "time waster" computer game to come along since Tetris. At first glance it is obviously derived from the old analog Pachinko machines that were popular many years ago. Upon closer inspection however, it is so much more. Everything from the sound effects, the game play, and the graphics are just simply first rate. You can play it over and over again, and have a different experience each time. The higher you score, the more surprises you get. Another great thing about this game is that it will run fine on the most modest of computer hardware. It also runs very well under the Wine program in Linux. And, if you get beaten by a certain 3 3/4 year old, you get to hear your name followed by the words "fail fail fail!" Heck, the only thing I can recall from that age was learning all the amazing things you could do with a stick.
Now "my" computer gaming career began at a much later age in life. I think I was 14 or 15 when my family got one of the Radio Shack Pong consoles for Christmas. I also remember the "new" wearing off after about 2 weeks. Back then, with computer gaming being so new and limited, you just did not get as absorbed with it as today's kids do. Beside, my obsessions at the time were Tennis and Cycling. I did not get into serious computer gaming until I got my first real console, a ColecoVision. It was not the first console out there, but its main advantage for me was that it had the game Mr. Do! I had become somewhat obsessed with this game at the local arcade. If I still had all the quarters I threw down the slots on this game, I could have probably hired Bill Gates to shine my shoes! Other favorite Coleco games were Donkey Kong, Qbert, and Zaxxon.
Computer gaming, my early years...
Computer gaming, my early years...
To me, the graphics on the ColecoVision were the closest to the arcade machines of the time. Not quite as good, but good enough. The game play was also superior to the other consoles available at the time in my opinion. I did do some horse trading a bit later on, and got an Atari 2600, along with various cartridges. Some of those games were not available on ColecoVision. Even at this stage, computer gaming was not that big a deal for me. Just something to do at night, and on rainy days. I did continue with these consoles until later in the 80's when I got the Commodore 64C mentioned in my previous post about "Why I like Linux." My favorite games on the Commodore were John Elway's Quarterback, LeaderBoard Golf, and 10th Frame.. There was also a tennis game in there somewhere of some sort.
Of course the really serious gaming came later when I got the first "real" PC, the 386 machine also mentioned in the Linux post. I mainly got into PC gaming when I got my first modem. I had never owned a modem before, but discovered it was necessary to use this new AOL dial up service that came bundled with the Geoworks Ensemble software I was running. I learned that using this AOL thing you could, among other things, "download" this stuff called "shareware". This was software you could try out for a short period of time, and if you liked it, you could send off for a full version on floppy disk. The memory is a bit vague here, but I think the first game I got this way was a football game similar to the hand held LED games at the time. However, instead of having several little red LED's shifting across the screen, you had actual full teams represented by letters corresponding to their positions(ie: C for center, Q for quarterback, etc.), all on a green field with stripes, yardage markers and everything! All you did was call the plays, and watch the action ensue. I cannot recall how many hours I wasted on that game. I wish I could find it again so I could play it on DOSBox. During this period, I also discovered another software distribution method called Bulleting Board Systems(BBS for short).
The sheer amount of games I tried during this period are too numerous to mention, but I will list a few notables. The first would be the Commander Keen series distributed by a then local company called Apogee Software. This genre was known as side scrollers for the 2D looks on the screen. I had every disk in this series, paying about $10 each as I recall. Later I would add the Duke Nukem series. By the time I had mastered all of those there was a new game everyone and his brother was talking about, Wolfenstien 3D. This was no ordinary side scroller. This was actually three dimensional, and was known as a "first person shooter". I did not bother getting the shareware version, opting instead to purchase the full version right off the bat after seeing it running on a friends machine. While I was not overly enamored with the whole World War 2 theme, the game play and the graphics were the real stars here. There had never been another game like this before. It was the game that truly changed computer gaming forever. And it was made by some local boys at a company called id Software to boot!
The later years and today
While I continued to play various games during this period, I was getting totally hooked on this new 3D, first person shooter genre. The other games just paled in comparison. In later years, and continuing today, the 3D FPS and its variants have become my preferred genre. I have tried, and will continue to try other games, but really nothing compares to matching wits against a computer in a FPS. Playing online against others is just not as satisfying to me. My all time favorite in this category is the game known as Far Cry. To me it was simply the pinnacle of both game play and graphics. I mean, hang gliding off a cliff while shooting down a helicopter? It just does not get any better. There were numerous others such as the Doom and Quake series', the Splinter Cell series, Half Life Series, and on and on. Sadly these days are slowly coming to an end for me. Constantly upgrading to an ever more powerful machine just to play the latest game has become a tired act. Even the game makers are finally recognizing that this business model is becoming unsustainable. It will not die out overnight, but I think that most now see the "handwriting on the wall."
More and more new titles are coming out for consoles only. Die hard PC game makers like id now have divisions dedicated to not only consoles, but also for handheld devices such as the iPhone and its cousins. Personally, I do not really care for console gaming. I do not like the modern game controller, and the game play itself is a bit "Mickey Mouse" to me. It just does not reach the level of complexity you see on the PC. They could of course fix this by adding a keyboard and mouse to consoles. They are after all, just a different type of PC. I will say that some of the newer controller devices coming out are intriguing. The Wii has the right idea with its controllers, but does not yet have the type of titles I like. Until the consoles improve to my satisfaction, I will stick to the older titles that run just fine on my minimal laptop. I can still find the occasional "new to me" old title in the $9.99 bargain bins. These older games do not have the graphical "wow" of the newer titles, but that is not an issue. At this stage, game play far outweighs fancy graphics. For that matter, I can play Crysis and a few other more modern games on this little laptop with the settings on low. Even on low settings, the newer games look fine to me.
I can also still pull out the old Mr. Do! ROM file which has miraculously survived all these years. I play it through a program called an emulator. It still looks the same, and is still just as much fun. And lastly, I am bound and determined to practice Peggle until I too can yell FAIL FAIL FAIL at a pesky little 3 3/4 year old!