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Sunday Time Waster: The Gaming Tree

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On Friday, when I started thinking back to the days of Darklands, a couple of other ideas skittered across my brain.

First, those of a different generation (younger people) likely have no idea how uncool videogames used to be. Today, videogames are as accepted by mainstream society as movies. In fact, I think you’re likely more of an outcast today if you don’t have a major console in your house.

If you are a younger gamer let me tell you – hoo boy that wasn’t always the case. In the 80s and into the 90s (until DOOM came along making it possible to shoot your friends in the face with a BFG) gaming was, quite simply, a pretty nerdy thing to be into. Even post-DOOM games didn’t get truly hip until graphics began to catch up with ideas and games became essentially rated R…

As much as I loved and adored an RPG like Darklands, it wasn’t something you’d bring up at the weekend college house party. “Hey did you know that I discovered a witch coven last night!” Lines like this would make non gamers look at you funny as they quickly sauntered over to the next group of people.

Today, a story about a Call of Duty match might make for accepted behavior.

“So I shot that fucker right in the face!”

“Woo! Let’s do a shot of Jäger!”

I have always possessed the ability to blend in with pretty much every crowd. I played sports growing up, played sports games growing up and knew more about sports than most of my dad’s friends. I could tell you the starting lineup for the Cincinnati Reds in 1978. I was 6. I knew the bullpen, too.

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I also knew Star Wars politics better than I knew actual politics.

Being able to talk swords and sorcery one minute, the history of the Roman Empire the next, and then slide into a deep discussion about why the DH is the work of Satan (which it is) has served me well all these years.

My other thought was that of the Gaming Tree.

We all have one – even young gamers have the beginnings of weak branches. We are the gamers we are today because of this tree. I grew up playing a variety of games on a variety of systems and platforms. My formative years were spent with the Commodore 64 playing fascinating games whose ideas were far ahead of the technology available.

Interestingly my tree is different than yours. Likely – very different, even if we come from similar backgrounds; we have platforms and specific games that shaped the gamers we are today. I never played Wasteland, for example. That’s front and center in Todd’s tree. I’m sure of it.

My gaming tree is missing a lot of stuff – and I stopped tracking it at the end of the 90s. I should add onto it to really finish it because in 1999 I bought a Dreamcast and it was the first console I owned since the Intellivision.

I’d love to see Danielle’s gaming tree, her being the Nintendo platform fan that she is. I was exclusively a PC gamer until the industry basically forced me to jump into the world of Dreamcasts (because of NFL 2K) and later the Xbox. But if there was a brilliant original PlayStation game I never played it. The games in my tree, it should also be noted, aren’t just “the best games I played on system X.” I played a hell of a lot more games than this, good games, too. But the games in my tree are the games which played a role in shaping the gamer I am today.

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Omni Play sports showed me franchise mode in the late 80s; Front Page Sports expanded on it. MicroLeague Baseball showed me I didn’t need a joystick to love a baseball game. Utopia on the old Intellivision was basically the first “Civ” game. These games all had enormous influence on me.

If you are a gamer, if gaming is a big part of your life, the games in your tree are an important part of your history. As much as the books you loved and the movies you have watched umpteen times, your games are a big, big part of who you are – not only as a gamer but as a person.

It’s kind of neat when you look at it like that.

Here’s my tree, in its PC loving glory.

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Bill Abner

Bill has been writing about games for the past 16 years for such outlets as Computer Games Magazine, GameSpy, The Escapist, GameShark, and Crispy Gamer. He will continue to do so until his wife tells him to get a real job.

24 thoughts to “Sunday Time Waster: The Gaming Tree”

  1. This is a brilliant idea. Unfortunately, I’d never be able to do it.

    My gameing history is a mess of things I can’t really remember. Like, I can remember owning a Sega Mega Drive, and a Win 3.1 PC, but I don’t know which I got first, or what order I played them. It gets even messier if I start to think of consoles I borrowed or games I rented rather than just what I owned.

    Even now, my PSN Titles folder on my PS3 is over 50 titles strong. that doesn;t even include my “Retro games”, “Neo Geo,” “Retail titles” or “Dreamcast” folders. Then there’s the 60 odd disk PS3 titles I’ve played, and thats just the PS3. I could put “Sonic the Hedgehog” under 4 consoles from re-releases.

    I’d never have the patients. 😛

  2. Holy crap Bill this is a neat column. I am of that younger generation so my tree starts around 1994-ish but I find stuff like this really interesting.

    I haven’t even HEARD of a lot of those.

    Omni Play sports games?




    Wild stuff.

  3. Addendum:

    I need to edit in the Great Battles of Alexander/Hannibal series from I-Magic at the end of the 1990s on PC.

    Game changed my views forever on tactical ancient wargames.

  4. Is almost exactly like Bill’s. When I was in college I was the only one who played a varsity sport (baseball), and played Magic The Gathering every Sunday in the student center. On the C64 my games of choice were Jumpman, Elite, MULE, and Super Bowl Sunday. In the early days on the PC I played in a local Front Page Sports Football league where we all had custom offensive and defensive playbooks with hundreds of manually created plays. Civ, XWing, and Tie Fighter were also prominent in my early PC years. I moved to the Dreamcast and then the original XBox due to one game. The NFL 2K series. These days I am primarily a console FPS/Rock Band/Madden gamer. On the PC I wish I was better at RTS’s like Starcraft 2, Dawn of War 2, and Company of Heroes, because I still enjoy trying to play them. Instead of twitch based sports games I now play management games like OOTP baseball and Football Manager 11. Getting old is a bitch.

  5. I was lucky in that I didn’t game on pc a huge amount, or have a huge variety of consoles. Never had a game boy. My first nintendo handheld was a second hand DS. My tree wouldn’t change platforms a lot.

    All my PC gameing was big name FPS and RTS. Doom, Quake, C&C, Populous etc. Only game I ever really, really played a lot on PC was Homeworld.

  6. I actually have a few games I need to add to it. I got my dates wrong on some, so I’ll edit it in a sec.

    Games like AoE II and Diablo and both Baldur’s Gate games should definitely be on there. I never played Fallout and to this day I have no idea why.

    Star Wars Dark Forces 1 and 2 as well.

  7. Bill! How could you do this and leave off those games!

    This is a neat idea, and we at 3MA did a podcast about the games that made us who we are back in episode 73.

    Might be something worth exploring on JTS?

  8. I think the games that were most influential to me would have to be the original mario, donkey kong country 1, age of empires

  9. Yes. Oh hell yes.

    It’s interesting to see how much my favorite games overlap with yours, though I started somewhat later than you. I’d say 90% of the PC games you have listed are all favorites of mine.

  10. Great Idea. Mine started with the Atari 2600 as well and from there to an 8086 PC with CGA graphics.

    I remember the first game that I dreamt about after playing it, Tetris. I still remember tossing and turning as falling blocks invaded my sleep.

    I have fond memories of Diablo as well. Once I drove home for lunch which was 20 minutes away so I only got to play for 20 minutes before I had to head back.

  11. Holy cow, Bill. Great article. I think everybody loves to get all nostalgic about games they’ve played way back when. I’m certain that dozens of people are creating their own versions of this right now. I know I want to. 🙂

  12. That is awesome Greg.

    I played a lot of those, too. Never did play Mail Order Monsters and even though I played the Gold Box games (Pools) they never grabbed me as much as they did others for some reason.

    AND good on you for picking some Atari games. I tried 🙂

    My shame for never playing Wasteland continues…

  13. Replace the sports stuff with platformers and brawlers, throw in every console other than the Colecovision and the PS2 along with a couple of key console titles like RE and MGS, and Bill and I might have EXACTLY the same tree.

    Mail Order Monsters? HELL YEAH!

  14. Mail Order Monsters took the Archon style of multiplayer combat and let you customize your character to the Nth degree, which was absolutely fantastic. Then you could do capture the flag missions or fight cooperatively against “The Horde”

    Autoduel was a similar concept in that you could build a car and give it all the parts you wanted, and then take that car on a RPG quest. You could pick your chassis, tires, power plant, and armor on each of five sides. You could also choose from a slew of weapons: machine guns, rockets, mines, spikes, oil slicks, and lasers if you could afford them. My favorite? A rear-mounted flamethrower, because the smoke cloud it produced would block enemy lasers.

  15. Autoduel was the game based on Steve Jackson’s Car Wars…and I ADORED it. I loved how you had earn money to upgrade the car and all that…pretty complex stuff for the time.

  16. Wasteland is quite possibly my favorite game of all time. I still use the phrase “explodes like a blood sausage” in just about every board game we play.

  17. TsunamiMud!!

    I still remember my Amiga with absolute fondness… it took years for the PC graphics and sound to catch up.

    but yeah we did always have the same game tree which was why we got along I guess.

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