Eastern Front 1941 [1981]

(Content warning: Nazis. White supremacy, genocide, anti-semitism.) The first Game Developers Conference was held in 1988 in founder Chris Crawford's house. This is funny, if you know a little bit about both. GDC is about as inside-baseball as it gets and is I believe now owned by a marketing company and the cheapest tickets are … Continue reading Eastern Front 1941 [1981]

Computer Bismarck [1980]

My dad and my grandpa love a movie called Sink The Bismarck [1960] and every few years they watch it together. Everybody else in my family hates this movie. That includes me. I think it's terrible in a really unique way, though. Sink The Bismarck takes extraordinary pains to drain its character interactions of any … Continue reading Computer Bismarck [1980]

Cathode Ray Tube Amusement Device [1947]

Apologies for the shuffled chronology here, but it is a war game and I was inspired. When Philo T. Farnsworth first demonstrated his all-electronic CRT television to anyone outside of the laboratory where it was invented, he said "here's something the bankers can understand" and turned it on to produce an image of a dollar … Continue reading Cathode Ray Tube Amusement Device [1947]

Hamurabi [1968/1973]

(Content warning: Plague.) The Sumerian Game [1964-1967]/Hamurabi [1968/1973] [sic], as that dating indicates, has a particularly convoluted and amorphous release history that I'm going to have to spend the first few paragraphs here just walking through. There were more or less three variations by different authors, although I could expand that all the way into … Continue reading Hamurabi [1968/1973]

Castlevania [1986] + Dark Castle [1986]

Just from reputation, I expected to have to turn around and eat my words from the Super Mario Bros [1985] post, the ones about how it inaugurated a new kind of thoroughgoing consideration towards player onboarding which quickly became gold standard. But instead, I saw it more or less confirmed. The gameplay begins with a … Continue reading Castlevania [1986] + Dark Castle [1986]

A Mind Forever Voyaging [1985]

(Content warnings: My suicide attempts. Racism against black and Asian people. Animal cruelty. Police brutality. Fascism.) Continued. Around these parts it feels like the world never even started. That's by design. Trust me, I've helped build these rows of tract housing at a remove from the cities. Not even suburbia, which is immediately adjoining a … Continue reading A Mind Forever Voyaging [1985]

Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? [1985]

The genre of the "detective game" predates the video game, but it suits the medium like two gears meshing. The narrative impetus to piece together discrete units of information in some systematized way or another suits the computer. Though the genre likely peaks here in the 1980s, it's a perennial genre that never really goes … Continue reading Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? [1985]

King’s Quest [1984]

The most infamous puzzle in King's Quest [1984] is the Rumpelstiltskin puzzle. Schematically, this puzzle is strikingly identical to the hideous Odysseus puzzle in Zork [1980]: Based only off knowing the general milieu of reference material (fairy tales here, Ancient Greek mythology there) and a loose aesthetic association (between Rumpelstiltskin and a hut made of … Continue reading King’s Quest [1984]

Portopia Serial Murder Case [1983]

(Content warning: Police abuse, suicide. Spoilers for Portopia.) While both Colossal Cave Adventure [1975/77] and The Portopia Serial Murder Case [1983] are nostalgic reveries of a real location from the author's life crammed into the computer, Portopia must abridge its Kobe City. It's not as geographically exacting, instead compressing locations into composite sketches and eliding … Continue reading Portopia Serial Murder Case [1983]