A project by the Slovak Game Developers Association has seen a collection of Communist-era early video games receive their first English translation, and a digital release, offering a unique insight to early ‘80s Eastern Europe.
Video game development in the early 1980s was a really exciting time. While familiar names were already coalescing (Activision, Ubisoft, etc), there was also a Wild West atmosphere, where anyone with a home computer and some ambition had the tools to create a competitive game release. And with the spread of cheaper computers like the ZX Spectrum, it meant even those growing up within Czechoslovakian communism were able express themselves through game development.
In an essay accompanying the digital release of this collection of classic, almost unknown games, the Slovak Design Centre’s Maroš Brojo describes the project as revealing “a key part of the history of home production, which, like other historical works, belongs to our cultural heritage.”
The motivation behind the translation work was to allow Slovakian game development to be more easily recognised by researchers and historians when studying or teaching the history of gaming.
Information-laden text adventure games, which often touched on various socio-cultural phenomena in our territory or even reflected on the previous regime, can thus only be described by researchers from the indirect narratives of the Slovaks who played them. Translations of these games would allow a wider professional and academic public worldwide direct contact with our gaming history and would bring greater visibility for it worldwide.
There are a total of ten games included in this collection of behind-the-iron-curtain creations, dating from 1987 to ‘89, including one rather intriguingly titled Pepsi Cola. (Sadly it has the most bemusing text interface, and some terrible instant deaths, and I recommend switching off its (excellent) music if you want it to play smoothly.) The whole lot can be downloaded as .TAP files, and then played in your Speccy emulator of choice — they link to Fuse.
It’s also worth reading all about the project from those involved, to find out why it was so important to them, and how games were still able to be made despite the Communist regime of the era.
(Big thanks to Andrada Fiscutean for the link.)