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My 1980s Gaming: '86-'89

On 09/21/2019 at 09:27 PM by KnightDriver

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College years. I had an Apple Macintosh Plus computer, mostly used for writing assignments but also some games. I had a single arcade cabinet in my tiny college town, and I went to arcades when home. I didn’t know the Sega Master System, Sega Genesis, GameBoy, or Atari Lynx even existed. 

 On my Mac Plus in ‘86 was Dark Castle, a 2D action adventure game I really liked. You moved in a black and white 2D space and threw rocks at bats and other creatures while you jumped and climbed to the next fixed screen. The sound effects were fantastic for the time, and I still remember them vividly.

 I was also figuring out the puzzles in Shadowgate. This a kind of graphical version of Zork. Each fixed screen had a puzzle to solve so you could move to the next one. You got text but also a graphical environment where you could take objects and manipulate levers and such. I also played the sequel to Dark Castle, Beyond Dark Castle. The jetpack in Beyond Dark Castle was exciting to me. None of these were in color. That’s another word for hardcore. Remember that.  

In the arcades in 1987 there were 1943: Battle of Midway and Sky Shark, two vertically scrolling shooters I really liked. Mark and I played 1943 two-player co-op. Sky Shark was in a tiny pizza shop in my college town, and when my roommate and I weren’t playing Chess at the coffee shop, we played Sky Shark. I still love the graphics of this biplane shooter by Taito.

Tangentially related are a few board and pen-and-paper games I played in school. I joined a DnD group for the first time. I used to just design levels and play one-on-one with a friend of mine before that. It was fun. I played Steve Jackson’s Car Wars from 1983. This is a pen-and-paper car battle game that takes place in a post-apocalyptic world.  You build combat cars and fight each other. I played the WWII board game Squad Leader, whose last expansion, G.I. Anvil of Victory, came out this year. I used to own all the expansions to Squad Leader. I wish I still had them. What was great about it was the voluminous rules and procedures of play and the detail. You fought with the smallest units, a squad. You had morale to compute and environmental effects like fire to determine every turn. Fantastic!

Then I met my current girlfriend in ‘88. Games vanished seemingly over-night and romance and a six-year voyage into radical therapies, health food, music performance and menial jobs ensued. I think it might have been 1994 that I started hanging out with one of my childhood friends again and the gaming resumed.



Cary Woodham

09/22/2019 at 09:03 AM

To this day, 1943 is one of my all time favorite shooters.


09/22/2019 at 08:44 PM

The music is running in my head right now. I'll probably never get it out. I don't mind. 


09/22/2019 at 05:50 PM

The era of the first two Zeldas, the first Dragon Quest, the first Metroid, and Kid Icarus. What a time to be a gamer.

1943 is a great game.


09/22/2019 at 08:39 PM

Yeah, I discovered those NES games in '94 when I started getting all the old systems I'd missed. 

Matt Snee Staff Writer

09/23/2019 at 09:00 PM

Squad Leader sounds amazing. 

I was definitely a Genesis and Gameboy kid. 


09/23/2019 at 10:05 PM

I was really into Squad Leader. The rules were like an entire book and the sequence of checks you needed to make every turn took up a whole page. I think it created a level of realism. 

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