Eras of Gaming: 1980 - 1984

Eras of Gaming: 1980 - 1984


This first entry in a series of retrospective articles will take you back to the golden era of gaming. A time when games were played on cassettes and floppy disks, and just about everything had never been tried before!

Captain Patch

When computer games first started to appear in the early '80s, I had the most ideal situation a gamer could want: Manager of a game store. Of course, video games only amounted to less than 5% of the inventory back then. Still the old TRS (Trash) 80 we kept around for customers to sample these new-fangled things was seriously popular.

Zork (1981) - Infocom, Amiga

Eras of Gaming: 1980 - 1984

At the tail-end of 1981, Infocom released a "text adventure" game entitled Zork: The Great Underground Empire -- Part I. It was a more sophisticated expansion of an earlier text adventure game entitled Adventure (1976). A text adventure is something like a Dungeons & Dragons game where the Dungeon Master verbally paints a picture of the setting, then the players verbally tell the DM what they will do in the current situation. With those early computer programs though, it was best for the player to describe his actions in as few words as possible.

The player starts as a nondescript "adventurer" and begins with "You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door. There is a small mailbox here." Your ultimate goal is to collect the Twenty Treasures of Zork and place them in a trophy case in that house. Like practically all Adventure games right up to today, you wander around, snarfing up everything you find, hoping that one or more of those items will enable you to get past obstacles between you and your objective. Despite the absence of any graphics, the game was and still is great fun. (Beware the grue when you have no light source!) This game differed from later Adventure games in that the solutions made sense. Later Adventure games drive me crazy because the designers often put in so many insane conundrums, what the player ends up doing is simply going through his Inventory and then Uses each item, one after another until one clicks, with no thought or logic applied.

Crush, Crumble & Chomp (1981) - Epyx, Commodore 64

Eras of Gaming: 1980 - 1984

The first game that ever got me to do an "all-nighter" was Crush, Crumble, & Chomp. Like most video games of that era, it was based on an earlier board game from Simulations Publications, Inc. entitled The Creature That Ate Sheboygan (1979). Unlike the source of it's inspiration, CC&C expanded from just one obscure town in Wisconsin to cover the major movie monsters and the cities where they wrecked havoc. Players could choose between Goshilla (Godzilla), the Kraken, Arachnis (a giant spider), The Glob (from "The Blob"), etc. Each monster had a minor amount of RPG customisation at the start by tweaking a basic design framework with "crunch credits"; additionally, the more devastation it did, the more its abilities could grow. The unfortunate cities to be ravaged consisted of San Francisco, New York City, Washington DC, and the world champion city to attract giant monstrosities, Tokyo. Each city was depicted by a 2D grid of city blocks with only a slight variation of terrain features like rivers and parks. Overall, the game was very cathartic, allowing players to vent any pent up frustrations by laying waste to entire cities. Just remember to stay away from the Mad Scientist at all costs! CC&C makes for an interesting challenge, and I found myself repeatedly saying, "I was sooooo close to winning that time!"

Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord (1981) - Sir-tech Software, Apple II

Eras of Gaming: 1980 - 1984

On the very last day of 1981, Sir Tech Software, Inc. released Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord. This was one of the first D&D-style games to be released and because of that one fact, it was incredibly popular. It was actually the first such game to offer color graphics (Though, in truth, those color graphics were rather "bleah" quality, even by the standards back then). It was also the first true party-based computer RPG, allowing the player to build a party of up to six characters. The game proceeds just like most D&D adventures: Enter a dungeon, wander around killing monsters, evading traps, gathering loot, return to town to rest up and heal and hopefully gain a level. Repeat often until the entire dungeon is mapped out and thoroughly stripped of valuables. The most valuable element of completing the game was that the player then could take that party into the next game in the series, Wizardry II: The Knight of Diamonds (1982).

Despite it's simplicity, the game is rather addictive. I can attest to that because I did NOT play the game! It was maddening to see that the store's PC was constantly tied up with one customer after another logging on to play Wizardry. I had to wait until after the store closed before I could lock the doors and boot up something else. So, kind of left-handedly, Wizardry was one of a handful of video games that had a LARGE impact on my gamer lifestyle.