An Overdose of Nostalgia

Wednesday, July 10, 2013
There is an old school up the road from my parents place that I remember as the first place I played video games. I remember the Nintendo, seeing people blow on the cartridges as though it were some kind of ritual. Punchout was the first console game I ever played, and I played it there, in front of a wooden cabinet TV. I also remember sitting in the office with my dad playing Scorched Earth and how excited I was when I figured out how the shields worked.

Not long after this we got our first PC at home, a Packard Bell with a 28.8 modem and an amazing 250 MB hard drive. SO much space that we'd never fill it all. I spent all my allowance on games. Space Quest, Syndicate, Dune 2000, Warcraft, Doom, X-COM; my shelves filled with games as fast as I could buy them.

More than just the place I played games, the school was where I first discovered Led Zepplin, the Ninja Turtles, Transformers, and all manner of things incredibly awesome to a child in the early 90's.

That school shut down while I was still in elementary school, but it stood there for years after, a constant reminder of where I'd gotten my start. A few years ago, someone bought the property and moved in. I didn't think too much of it, other than being perturbed that I couldn't use the dock there to swim anymore.

Three weeks ago they started tearing down the main building. I stopped my car the first time I saw it gutted. The roof gone, all the siding and insulation heaped in a giant dumpster, sledgehammer leaning against an exposed beam. It's been hard looking at that every time I drive out to visit my family. As though some part of my past I thought immovable has been stolen away. In more irrational moments I've wondered how callous the current owners must be to destroy such an important part of my childhood.

In the midst of this, my family has been clearing out old things from their house, and two nights ago, while throwing out old, crumbling Star Wars models, I came across something that nearly turned me into a six year old again. Observe...

While not all of the games you see here are representative of my early gaming history, it's a great window into the games I played and where I started. Here's another pic of some of the earlier games in the unearthed collection.

And no, you're not confused, that is in fact two copies of Jurassic Park. I really loved that game, and the first copy that came with our Packard Bell was corrupt so we ended up getting a second copy. The other floppy disks that filled the case from the first picture are the backup disks I made of all the speech files I made for Worms: Armageddon years later.

In that second pic, you'll find a couple outright favorites. Sim City 2000 was a constant, as I really enjoyed the alien invasion disaster. Comanche 2 and the IndyCar racing Sim were both games my dad played more than I did. But Jurassic Park was one I spent hours with. In comparison to many of today's games, the first person portions of JP were pretty timid, but back then they scared the shit out of me. Raptors, man. God damned raptors.

I only found one disk of my old Tony LaRussa Baseball game, but that was another early favorite. I was stunned that I could make my own team with their own team name and uniform colors. Amazing! Hence, team Mantis was born, and they swept four world series titles in a row. Truly one of the greatest teams to ever grace MLB history, their pitcher, Doodie Farthat will always be remembered as a leader and visionary player.

DinoPark Tycoon was fun just because I could build my own little Jurassic Park. Even though it was probably a little too complex for me at the time, it had a certain sense of humor to it that really sold me on it. DinoPark Tycoon was made by MECC (makers of the Oregon Trail). Amazon Trail and Africa Trail were big hits with me as well, at least until Africa Trail spoiled it by being impossible to beat. Seriously, you cant take a shortcut in that game without losing the trail and falling off your bike. You apparently play as Mr. Glass, because any fall from your bike means multiple fractures and Malaria.

Later, while sorting some other books and CD's, I found my copy of Dark Forces and NovaLogic's WolfPack. While I'm sure you're familiar with the first, WolfPack may be a bit more obscure. It was        essentially a Naval combat sim focused on WWII era submarine combat. You could play a campaign, individual missions or even set up custom scenarios to play. It was great fun, and the graphics (though laughable now) blew me away.

Rediscovering those old games was like looking through an old photo album. I remember specific events less than I do how I felt playing them; an especially welcome reunion after seeing the old school torn down. It was a return to my roots, and one that I hope to continue soon. After all, I never did find my copy of Syndicate or Total Annihilation.