In the summer of 1987 my older brother graduated from elementary school. As a gift from my parents, he received something that we’d never had before.. a computer. Owning a computer wasn’t as commonplace in the 80’s as it is today, so this was a pretty big deal. Obviously by today’s standards the Commodore 64 was about as primitive as a rotary phone is compared to an iPhone, but at the time we were blown away by this technological marvel. It was a whole new world for us.
Obviously what I remember most about the Commodore was the games. The first online game that I ever played was a text based wrestling game where you would type your move in and then wait 5 minutes to see how the other person would counter. A carrier pigeon would have communicated faster than our internet connection but we didn’t care. This was the future. We also had a neighbor who had a Commodore 64 and he would load up floppy disks (if you’re under 30 ask your parents) full of games to give us. Dozens of video games crammed onto these magical black squares for us to discover. Each floppy disk would be a mystery grab bag of titles from Impossible Mission & Yie Ar Kung-Fu to a terrible port of Super Mario Bros. And while these games have aged less like a fine wine and more like a half empty 2-liter of Mr. Pib that you found in the back of the refrigerator, they still hold a certain nostalgia for my earlier days of gaming.
Law of the West was an adventure game that had you meeting a cast of characters in a wild west town. The game may have been overly simple and short, but it introduced the concept of branching dialogue trees decades before they would be popularized in games such as Mass Effect and The Witcher 3. You had to watch how you spoke to the townsfolk or you’d find yourself testing your quick draw skills against the likes of The Mexicali Kid.
The Bard’s Tale was a Dungeons & Dragons inspired first person dungeon crawler. It was the first role playing game that I had ever played and it blew my mind with it’s complicated systems and combat. In the days before Final Fantasy or Dragon Age, this level of attention to detail was unheard of. It was probably as mind blowing to my 10 year old brain as playing Skyrim was for the first time so many years later.
California Games was a collection of sports mini games, kind of a Wii Sports for the Commodore. Everything from surfing to Frisbee and Hackey sack were there. And it’s probably the game I remember struggling with the most control wise. The problem with having 20-30 games on a floppy disk is that none of them came with instruction manuals and almost none of them did a good job of telling the player how to control the game. But with a little perseverance and a lot of patience I remember being able to do some pretty sick tricks on the half-pipe.
And of course who could forget the classic Samantha Fox Strip Poker. I didn’t know who the hell Samantha Fox was but all I cared about was getting the first glimpse of pixelated boobies that my pre-pubescent eyes would ever see. After all, it may have been the 80’s but PC gaming was still PC gaming. I don’t even think I knew how to play poker.
Looking back now at those games it would be tough to call any of them good and they’d probably be pretty much unplayable today, but they didn’t have to be good. To me they were an incredibly diverse collection of games that planted the seeds for my love of gaming and showed me that games were capable of much more than the slew of platformers that console gaming had to offer. The introduced me to role playing games, adventure games, strategy games and of course strip poker games starring B-list celebrities.
Do you have any Commodore memories? Share them in the comments below!