Archive for November, 2010


What I Was Thinking…

Recently I found a bunch of old work on some forgotten ZIP discs, some personal, some work-related.  Given that my current project is about early videogaming, I thought I’d post this one,  a 1998 note about my introduction to video games.


It’s ironic that I can’t recall the first time I saw a video game.

I’ve spent the better part of my adult life in work related to or revolving around video and computer games, yet, I don’t have a clue when I saw my first video game.

My first memory of a video game is rather dim…a Magnavox “pong” game my family received for Christmas 1977. I don’t have strong recollections of it, just that we wanted it desperately and tired of it quickly.

My first distinct video game memories are associated with my brother’s Atari Video Computer System: he and I struggling for supremacy in countless rounds of Warlords, my sister’s addiction to Asteroids, our cat Bashful’s fascination with the ball in Super Breakout, and our parents’ utter incomprehension of our mania.

Memories of a Space Invaders machine are loosely associated with this time, but, truth to tell, I can’t recall when first I saw it, or even in which year my brother first got his Atari.

On the other hand, I do have a crystal clear recollection of my first exposure to computer games. The year was 1981, the game was The Wizard and the Princess, the platform was an Apple ][+, the fellow who owned it was Gary Click, and I was just getting out of high school and had no real direction for my life. I recall being fascinated.

At the time I had no idea that these earnest questions were the first steps in what would become a career path I would have never expected to pursue: a career in computer and video games.

February 22, 1998


The piece ends there.

Since then I realize that I most likely saw my first “video game” in Virginia City, NV, in the mid 70s, where I recall seeing some mechanical arcade amusements and pinball machines really for the first time. But, again, I can’t be sure. Still pining for those memories…

On the plus side, this brings back one but of trivia that relates to a photo I have somewhere: we had a cat named Bashful who loved watching the ball in Super Breakout.

Here’s to you, long-gone video-cat!


Pangs for the Memories

As Jim Shelton and I were driving together yesterday we got to talking about some old computer games I had worked on and on which he’d also been involved. We got to talking about Rules of Engagement 2, and I was bemoaning how we’d made a mistake of listening to the hard-core fans of the first game and catered to their suggestions, with the result that the second game was too complex.  Jim surprised me by reminding me that we’d also done the opposite: in exploring the idea of turning the first game into something capable of being run on an NES (Nintendo Entertainment System), we’d discussed how the super-complex interface would have to be simplified and some features made automatic. As a result of that, I’d actually added some features to simplify gameplay: the auto-fire for the ship’s weapons seen in Rules 2, for instance, came right out of noodling on how to do it for the NES.

A graphic of mine from Rules of Engagement 2

What I find troubling about this is that, once again, I am forced to realize how much I fave forgotten over the years, and how the narrative I have in my gray matter of “that’s the way it was” ain’t necessarily so. It’s one thing not to recollect a conversation or a dinner or something, but to forget work you’ve done, problems you’ve solved, and even how you got there, well, that’s just disturbing.

It makes me long for the memories I’m sure I’ll never get back…whatever the heck they were.