The Games That Made Me

The Games That Made Me

Show me the boy at seven and I’ll show you the man. Does that phrase hold true for videogames, too? How strongly do the games we played as a child shape the games we play as an adult?

Last week, Luke detailed the games that made him, a list in which retro staples like Mario, Mega Man and Castlevania were sidelined in favour of numerous quirky C64, Mega Drive and DOS titles.

I thought I’d do the same. I’m a little bit older than Luke, but we share an ignorance of the NES and a love of the home computer. He stopped at age 13/14, but my list continues a bit longer into my late teens in the early ’90s. These, then, are the games that made me.

Colossal Cave (PC)
Yes, you’re going to watch a video of someone else playing a text adventure. And you will do it in order to appreciate the first computer game I ever played.

The Ancient Art of War (PC)
My first taste of strategy gaming – in fact, I reckon it was pretty close to the first ever real-time strategy game way back in 1984. This VGA version would have astonished by 10-year-old eyes accustomed to the gaudy pink and blue of the CGA graphics, but you can get a sense of the depth on offer through supply lines, formations and the importance of terrain.

Bruce Lee (C64)
There were better platformers around in the mid ’80s, but the one I played the most was Bruce Lee. Being able to play it co-op with my sister helped, but I think I was hooked when I first opened that trapdoor in the second screen and realised there was a whole underground world to explore.

Doriath (C64)
You’ll have to skip ahead to 4:11 in this clip to catch what is apparently the only glimpse of Doriath available on Youtube. Its rarity, however, belies its quality as one of the era’s finest action adventures. I didn’t play Metroid until years later; Doriath was my Metroid.

Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar (C64)
Ahhh, that music! And instantly, I’m transported back to Britannia. With its enormous world to explore, dozens of characters to talk to and loot to collect, Ultima IV was the game that made me a role-player. But more than that, it presented a world resonant with culture and ethics like no other RPG before it.

The Bard’s Tale (PC)
At the same time I was gaining a deeper understanding of virtue from Ultima IV, I was hacking and slashing through the dungeons and temples of Interplay’s primitive but addictive RPG. It did freak me out a little that both games had a town called Skara Brae.

Geoff Crammond’s Grand Prix (PC)
Despite playing through several full race length seasons on the game’s highest difficulty level, I honestly do not remember the hilariously jaunty intro seen in this clip. Despite the idiotic driving you’ll also see in this clip, Geoff Crammond’s sim series was as authentic as you could hope for at the time. Perhaps that’s why it cemented my love of the sport of Formula One over and above racing videogames.

Civilization (PC)
It’s terrifying to think of how many hours I’ve put into this and various other iterations of Civ over the years. I’ve never been a big strategy gaming fan, beyond Civ and its turn-based ilk of Master of Orion and Heroes of Might & Magic, but I’d credit Sid Meier’s game for kickstarting an interest in history and politics that has endured to this day.

Day of the Tentacle (PC)
This was LucasArts at the height of its point-and-click craft. Not just the funniest of their graphic adventures, but the tightest, too. The manner in which the puzzle design threads three characters in three timezones in the one location is simply masterful. I’m not sure I’ve ever truly enjoyed a point-and-click adventure since, as each one has failed in some way in comparison to the mighty Day of the Tentacle.


  • Great stuff David!

    My used C64 came with “Classic Adventure” (Colossal Cave) on cassette, but I gave up playing with it, when I ended up in the “maze of twisty passages, all alike” and no matter how far N,S,E or W I went, I was still stuck in that stupid, featureless maze. Oh, and if anyone hasn’t played one of these games, the original is playable online here.

    Bruce Lee! Awesome game, but (a) Too short and (b) The baddies were a little too dumb.
    Thankfully both of those things have been rectified in a recent freeware remake ‘Ultimate Bruce Lee’ which features awesome unlockables, like ‘Tron’, ‘C64’ and ‘ye olde movie’ graphics modes.

    Hmm… didn’t play Geoff Crammond’s Grand Prix on PC, but I did *love* Stunt Car Racer on the C64. Incredibly gripping high-stakes (& high altitude) racing in wireframe 3D on a machine that really shouldn’t have been capable of such things.

  • I am just going to pretend you didn’t call Bard’s Tale “primitive”…

    Good list, kudos for Bruce Lee and Civilization in particular. I think Civ may have warped my childhood understanding of international relations somewhat though – the game doesn’t teach you that people having nuclear weapons is a bad thing – just that other countries having them *before you* is a bad thing….

  • DOTT was a totally kick ass game, but I probably spent an equal amount of time wasting my life with microprose formula 1 aswell! That was a kickass game in it’s time!

  • Like Luke’s, great list Dave! Great to see that the humble home computer can still hold influence over Mario and his cronies. I’m a bit too young to remember some of those games, but I sure as heck remember Day of the Tentacle and Civilization!

    • Some of my earliest memories are of dad playing civilization in black and white and teaching me how to play.

      I remember being insulted when they moved to colour. I spent so much *time* memorizing the black and white patterns which separated races. In hindsight that sentence could be about the loss of innocence in the discovery of racism.

  • I reiterate; c64 is the greatest gaming system in history. If you could only have one system for the rest of your life except the c64, you would never run out of quality games to play.

  • Let’s see.. I’ve been a computer boy since getting a C64 at age 5 (1984!), but things started a bit earlier than that.

    Ghostbusters (c64): I remember seeing this running in a computer shop out at Fyshwick. I couldn’t tell you the name of the store or what I was wearing, but I do recall being amazed at the how amazing the graphics were, the pumping rendition of the theme song and that digitised speech! We eventually ended up with a C64 a couple of months later (after a brief stint with a Vic 20 that got taken back straight away).

    Impossible Mission (C64): The game that taught me patience, specifically having to wait 20 minutes for the tape to load up so I could play it. It also taught me that making your Agent fall down holes over & over was highly amusing.

    International Soccer (C64): I hate soccer, but this was one of the first multiplayer games I got into and spent many hours playing with mates who came around. It did shape my competitive nature too, with several game ending with me yanking the power cable out in frustration at getting beat 😛

    Commando (C64): Another early C64 game I used to play far too much of. The shooting action was addictive, but the music was what I loved the most (I still listen to the SID tune and love it).

    Zork (PC): I remember playing this on a terminal at my Dad’s offices in Duntroon when he was in the Army. Was all of about 7 or 8 and had just started reading novels on my own, so the whole text adventure thing struck a favourable chord with me.

    Skipping forward a few years now..

    X-Wing (PC): This is what triggered the resurgence of my Star Wars fandom. Borrowing it from a mate at school because I was curious about how a space sim based on Star Wars would work. After installing it I was re-lost in the galaxy far, far away and have been ever since.

    TIE Fighter (PC): Same as above. My X-Wing addiction lead me to getting into TIE Fighter in a big way. I still go back to both this & X-Wing on a regular basis for a bash, although Windows 7 makes that harder.

    Transport Tycoon (PC): Was always a big train kid, so being able to build & run my own transport empire appealed to this side of me. It was complex enough to be a challenge, but not overtly so like other entries in the transport sim genre.

    World of Warcraft (PC): Yeah, I’m a WoW player. Enjoy the immersion and getting to play alongside mates. It’s bad, but hey..

    • EVERYONE played The Ancient Art Of War! Or at least those of us of sufficient age did. In addition to many of the above greats, I want to mention Elite (C64), International Karate + (C64), Stunt Car Racer (Amiga), Sensible Soccer (Amiga), Rocket Ranger (Amiga) and Lemmings (Amiga). I could go on for hours…

  • I’m only 16, so mine aren’t as quirky, but…

    Silent Hill:
    Didn’t play it myself, but watched dad do it. In my mind, it was a perfect piece of storytelling, and I compare most horror/drama games to it nowadays.

    Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time:
    My favourite game of all time. I played with my nanny and brother, and I think it’s what made me fall in love with videogames and the fantasy genre.

    Super Mario 64:
    I didn’t really play this firsthand, but I acted as my brother’s guide while playing, helping him through. A sort of Navi for him. It shaped me to love Mario, and to be a know-it-all.

    Bubsy (A SNES game):
    My first Co-op game (I think. May actually have been Vikings or the Avengers on either of the NES’s, but this is the main one I remember) and made me fall in love with co-op play and beating my brother 😛

  • I think you’re missing a first in the sentence below? 😀

    Yes, you’re going to watch a video of someone else playing a text adventure. And you will do it in order to appreciate the computer game I ever played.


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