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Gameless - the funcrunch files


Mar. 2nd, 2013 10:53 pm Gameless

Fresh off my unplugged day, and enjoyed the vacation from the Internet. Must have more of that.

I recently realized that I have not played a single video game of any kind yet this year. For me this is unprecedented.


I've been a moderate to heavy gamer ever since I got my first home computer, a Commodore VIC-20 back in '84 or thereabouts. That was a truly crappy machine (5K of RAM default - 20 character lines on the screen, which doubled as our tiny B/W TV set - optional tape drive for storage) but it allowed me to learn the rudiments of BASIC, and my Dad actually learned machine language as well (after expanding the RAM to a whopping 11K or so) and wrote a few simple games for it. We did get one game cartridge, Cosmic Cruncher, sort of a Pac-Man variant, which I played excessively. The Commodore 64 was more capable, and I spent more time typing in BASIC on that computer. Yes, back then, I got a paper magazine which had code in it which you were expected to type line by line into your computer and hopefully if you didn't make any typos a playable game would materialize.

Then came college and my first real PC, the Zenith Eazy-PC 8086 running DOS, with two 3.5 inch (ooh) not-so-floppy drives. Didn't even get a mouse for it until sophomore year. I played games like Dig-Dug on that one. Also spent a lot of time down the hall in a friend's room who had a slightly beefier PC which could play Leisure Suit Larry 3, with many, many floppy disk swaps. More on that game later...

College graduation brought my first, long-awaited Mac, the Classic II with its tiny built-in B/W screen. But I had a real hard drive, a decent modem, and memberships to a local BBS and to the Berkeley Mactintosh User Group with its hundreds of shareware and freeware disks filled with games and other goodies. Early in '93 my then-boyfriend, future-and-now-ex-husband Robert introduced me to a game that I would play intermittently but obsessively over the next 20 years: Nethack. Took a year for me to "ascend" for the first time, but by then I was hooked. I spent many, many, many hours playing that game, on every computer I owned and some I didn't.

My first full-time job allowed me to upgrade to my first computer with a color monitor, and thus gaming became even more fun. One of my favorite games from that time period was Heaven and Earth, a feast for the senses, and a nice peaceful change from slaughtering hordes of imaginary monsters in Nethack.

In all this time, I never had a game console until Robert and I married in '97 and he got a Nintendo 64 for the purpose of doing game reviews (for which he was paid in said games). I got hooked on Super Mario 64 for awhile, played Yoshi's Story for a time, and enjoyed watching Robert play Zelda, but that was about it. Console gaming never had the same appeal to me as playing on a computer. I was more interested in turn-based games like Nethack than trying to master the exact timing and sequence of button presses to execute a perfect triple-jump.

After Robert and I divorced my gaming remained focused primarily on Nethack for awhile, until I met boyziggy, who in the year 2002 introduced me to SimCity 3000. I got not just hooked on but addicted to this game. I would stay up until 4 a.m. playing it on worknights, wanting to bring my city through just one more year so I could see the Thanksgiving Day parade with its tiny little floats go by one more time. It made me deliriously happy for some reason.

From SimCity came The Sims, first just the base game and one expansion but soon of course I had to have them all. Then the great failed experiment The Sims Online, which I finally had the good sense to quit before it imploded. I was playing all these games on my Windows PC at the time, reluctantly as my main computer was still a Mac.

From The Sims came The Sims 2 and most of the expansions, but not all as I had decided to play only on a Mac at this point and had to wait months after each Windows release for Aspyr to port the games. I briefly played SimCity 4 on Windows but forced myself to stop when I saw the same pattern of addiction coming back. Ziggy meanwhile was playing first-person shooters like Unreal Tournament which I had no interest in. I still played Nethack, even participating in online tournaments, and began to acquire a pretty impressive set of statistics at alt.org. (I'd already won with every role, race, and gender offline, but did it again on that server to have a public record of the feat.)

The Sims 3 came out in 2009 and now both Mac and Windows versions were available simultaneously. This was fun for awhile, but despite the greatly expanded gameplay, I was disappointed with how un-challenging the game had become. Plus, it was dawning on me how silly it was to command my little cartoon people to do the same things that I could do in real life (for the most part).

Meanwhile I was exploring games on other platforms. Ashamed to say I got hooked on FarmVille for awhile, which I started playing only because my bass teacher Steve wrote the theme song for it. Angry Birds on Android was another huge time-suck, ending only when I had to wipe my malfunctioning not-so-smartphone clean and lost all my high scores and levels completed in the process.

Later Sims 3 expansions started to get buggy, and it became clear the Mac community was becoming marginalized. By the latest expansion as of this writing, Seasons, the game had become virtually unplayable for many, and loud complaints were made to tech support and in the official forums, to no avail. I'd always played without any mods or third-party content and had enough RAM and a good graphics card, so I knew these weren't the issue. Realizing the only real workaround would be to acquire the Windows versions and play under Bootcamp, I simply decided to stop playing instead.

By this time, my last saved Nethack game on alt.org had been languishing on the server for nearly a year. After 20 years of playing Nethack, and nearly 10 years since the official version had last been updated, I was finally losing interest in this game.


So here I sit, two months into 2013 and I have not played a single game on my computer or smartphone, and can't say I've missed gaming at all. However, I can almost guarantee this streak will end, as I was a contributor to the Leisure Suit Larry Kickstarter, and am determined to get my $25 worth. If the game ever makes it beyond alpha, that is...

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Comments:

From:angelbob
Date:March 3rd, 2013 11:25 am (UTC)
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Oh, man... Heaven and Earth. I used to play that in college and my cat would jump up and bat at the screen when I got the card game combinations with the little animations and sounds.
From:funcrunch
Date:March 3rd, 2013 04:12 pm (UTC)
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The card game was my favorite. The sounds were especially beautiful.
From:funcrunch
Date:March 4th, 2013 08:57 pm (UTC)
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I've played quite a bit of Tetris too. Haven't tried Civ though.

I think frivolity has its place, but if I'd spent even a quarter of the time I spent gaming making music instead, I'd really have something special to show for my efforts.