Showing posts from December, 2012

#13 Freddy Pharkas Frontier Pharmacist

I don’t have a standout memory to share about Sierra’s classic adventure game Freddy Pharkas Frontier Pharmacist, but yet the game sticks out in my memory of one of my favorite games from my childhood. I’ve played many other adventure games that are arguably better, but few others left the lasting impression that this game did.

By the time this game was made Sierra had polished their adventure game craft to the point where they were at the pinnacle of not only the genre, but also the computer gaming world. Although it was overshadowed by games like King’s Quest VI (which up until Warcraft II came along was the best-selling computer game of all time), Freddy Pharkas is one of Sierra’s finest games,  an example of their wonderful hand-painted landscapes, engaging storytelling, unique characters, streamlined interface and exceptional voice acting coming together to form a undeniably fun game. Even the frequent deaths that required obsessive saving indicative of Sierra’s adventure games …

#14 Sid & Al's Incredible Toons

Back in 1994 or 1995, the hard drive of our 386 started making weird buzzing noises one morning while I was playing Quest for Glory III. I walked in to speak to the oracle atop of Tarna and within a few seconds the computer shut down and would not power on again. While it was tough being without a newer computer for a few months, the best thing that came out of this crash was that we got a new computer: the Compact Presario 586. For months, I had be reading Sierra Interaction magazines and longing for a variety of CD ROM adventure games, like King’s Quest VI or Quest for Glory IV, that I could play if only we had a CD ROM drive. The adventure games would all have voice acting and even videos. It would open up a whole new world of gaming that would not be constrained by the handful of megabytes that would fit onto a few (or sometimes more than a few) floppy disks.

The first few times booting up the Compact Presario was like opening up a window to a whole world you didn’t know existed.…

#15 Subspace

I first saw Justin in the hallway when one of the guidance counselors was showing him around our high school on his first day there in the winter of our junior year. A few minutes later he came into my chemistry class and ended up sitting next to me. Justin and I were also in world history together and over the first couple of days working on chemistry problems and answering questions about the Ancient Greeks, we became friends and started sitting together at lunch.
One of the first things I found out about Justin was that he was not entirely happy with moving to Raleigh away from all his friends in Texas, so his parents had agreed to buy him upgrades for his computer. When I would go over to his house, we would usually partake of a selection of the Mr. Reed stash of Doritos and Cokes and then head upstairs to Justin’s room in the attic. The first games he showed me on one of my first visits over to his house was Fallout II (which almost made the list, but, after many days of intens…

#16 Warning Forever

Around the same time I was working on “Cutting Leaves of Grass,” I was had a job at Quiznos. As a “sandwich artist” at Quiznos, we would be hit with intense RTP lunch rushes from about 11:30am to 2pm where time would fly by as I made one sandwich after another only breaking to grab more ingredients out of the cooler.  During these moments my muscles would take over without much conscious effort from my brain. My arms knew how to cut the bread without looking, the right amount of meat without weighting it, the right order to stack the tomatoes and cheese and the way to slide the sandwich into the oven.  My muscles worked like a computer: customers would say their order to me and my muscles would output the sandwich within a few seconds over and over and over.
After nights of closing the store at Quiznos, I would come home and play Warning Forever, still dressed in my black collard Quiznos shirt and think about Chris’s racist theories on black customers or which evening station was the…

#17 Photopia

Our house in Jefferson, Maryland had an enormous quartz rock sitting in the corner of the front yard. My best friend Wes Rowh and I used to play on that rock while waiting for the school bus. Going over the Wes’s house that year was my first exposure to video games where we would play Duck Hunt and Super Mario Brothers on his NES for hours and it was a frequent topic for imaginary play during our bus stop time. We touched the tulips in the flower beds like they were fire flowers and then pretended to shoot fireballs at the cats like they were goombas.

My interested in designing computer and video games started one day when we decided we were going to make our own video game system called Nintari (a combination of Nintendo and Atari). We brought papers and crayons out to the rock and scribbled tons of game designs. I don’t remember any of the games we invented except for one: Fire Against Water, where one person played fire and the other play water and then you fought against each oth…

Come On Eileen: #18 Carax’95

Doing something simple over and over and over again can cause frustration in attaining the same undesirable results, like a bullying victim who repeatedly does nothing but ignore the insults and the swirlies. Doing something over and over and over again can cause boredom with an overly familiar task like searching out every line of code in a program to prevent the Y2K bug. However, with the right kind of task that has the right balance of challenge, hand-eye coordination and the that wonderful release of dopamine that video games provide, such repetition can be a comforting and even spiritual experience.
I discovered Carax’95, a Japanese freeware space shooter developed by BIO 100%, while in a freeware downloading phase during my senior year in high school and quickly became engrossed. A few hours after walking across the stage at my high school graduation, I arrived back home and wondered why I didn't feel any different. I was now a high school graduate and would be heading off …

In the Jungle, the Mighty Jungle: #19 Rockstar

In my 8th grade math and language arts classes, I stood on top of chairs and sang silly songs about imitation mayonnaise and Inky the Cat. One day in social studies we watched a video about Africa in which, for some reason, they played the song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” My friends Ben and Danny were amused at the long and high part of the song and we starting singing it for the rest of the period. On my turns, I decided to go all out and sung with a squealing, high pitched voice, holding out all the notes for as long as possible for dramatic effect (aweeeeeaeeeeeeeeuu!). My friends found my rendition hilarious and encouraged me to sing it repeatedly throughout the rest of the week.
With my new found stardom, the next logical step was to go to the recording studio and lay down a full length album. So, I spent the night at Ben’s house, he left me listen to his Green Day cassette, we played NBA Jam on Sega Genesis in his basement, we wrote out a track list and recorded every goofy 20 se…

#20 Oregon Trail

The last week of summer vacation before 5th grade, Lynn Swanson told me that I was going to enjoy Mr. Nykerk’s class next year. I was dreading coming back to school after summer vacation, attempting and failing to slow down time in my mind and I certainly wasn't sure how any teacher was going to make me feel any better about it. Sure, I had had good teachers in the past, but how could any teacher make me excited about leaving behind the freedom and fun of summer vacation? I looked at Lynn skeptically and thought that Mr. Nykerk better give us ice cream and let us play video games every day to make me change my mind.
Fifth grade with Mr. Nykerk ended up being one of the best years of my life. Every day I was excited to come to school. I developed lifelong passions for creative writing and fantasy baseball. I blossomed socially from a quiet kid into a classroom leader. My grades improved and my confidence soared. If I had had a terrible teacher in 5th grade, I might be passed out d…

This Year's List

Even though I skipped it last year (damn that Egyptian Rat Snake that enslaved me and forced me to polish his porcelain pig collection in an underground cavern all last winter!), this post marks the triumphant return of my year-end top ten lists. Except this time, I’m doing twenty instead of just ten! Partially this is to make up for the ten all of you, my adoring readers, missed out on last year, but mostly it is because I had so much trouble getting my list narrowed down so I decided I should just do 20. Therefore, without further ado, I present to you my list for this year: My Top 20 Favorite Computer Games!!!

So, I know before I attempted to make a list of the top twenty best computer games of all time, but I abandoned it for a few reasons:

1. Lists like that are so subjective. It is often leans more towards a list of games that the author liked most or is most familiar with, not so much the best ones. Also, it’s not like I have any hard data on number of sales/size of the compute…