In The Black Box


08-365 (Computer Games!)

with one comment

This brought back memories.

—————————————Reading back on this i realise that this may seem like it’s from the mind of a true computer nerd. You can think that if you want, but if you have any problems with the tiny details go find a very high cliff to jump off because i dont give two shits if you know more than me.. a monkey knows more than me…these are just memories————————————————————————–

I can nearly still smell the varnish on the wooden floors of my best friends dining room, where, like a great big paper weight the almighty IBM personal computer sat humming like a beehive. Everything was massive…the disks were massive, the buttons were massive, the pixels were massive…all except for the screen, which by todays standards would be fairly tiny!

The old 8″ floppy disks were by no means compact and barely had enough space for even todays smallest word documents. But for the two of us, still only 6 or 7, these plastic cards meant incredible amounts of fun even if we hadn’t a clue what we were doing! I distinctly remember one game, Digger  – fairly close to the graphics of pacman or there abouts. We would only be alowed play however when the older siblings were there to set it up, and then again only if they even let us have a go!

This is the very first memory i have of computers…. next to come was my brothers Atari ST and wonderful games like “Super Hang on“, “Rainbow Island – The Story of Bubble Bobble“, “Dizzy” and a simple painting and typing application that barely ever worked. Between, the Nintendo in constant use at my friends house, and their brand new Gateway 2000 with windows 95 my life was set to revolve around computer technology for many years to come as it still is today! While the Nintendo was providing the two of us with such treats as Mario 1 to 3 and the included Duck Hunt (With the collest bright red gun …EVER) and other games like “Goal!”, “California Games” and “Top Gun”…. the PC was altogether a whole new kettle of fish to the two of us. 

It amazes me now to think of how capeable we were as computer users nearly 13 years ago. Regardless of our age, anyone who remembers loading anything on the first windows PCs will recall the knowledge required to boot certain games. “C: ….C:Worms ….C:worms run…” and if you were lucky the little white flashing dot would dissapear and our favourite childhood game would play its forever hillarious introduction video. Barely ten years old we were starting to explore the PC and try things without ever knowing what we were doing. We must have absolutely destroyed that poor computer, nothing was too important to delete or too broken to be fixed.. if something went wrong we knew how to fix it, or at least we knew how to hide it! 


I don’t think we had a computer in our house until my Dad finally gave in a couple of years later.. i was probably about 10 years old and it was a good old Siemens with Windows 95 that gave me an opportunity to explore at home. It is amazing to think just how interesting a computer can be to a 10year old. These were the days when the Internet was just a “did you know” article at the back of the Sunday newspaper… so while it may seem now that i was restricted to “just a PC” , to me that PC would forever have a room i had not gone into, a corner where i had yet to check for something “cool”.

The “cool” things would include “Hover” and a video of a Weezer song on the Windows 95 cd… i cant remember how many times i played those two things, always felt new. Microsoft golf would provide the catchphrases of my child hood with phrases like “oooo that’s on the beach” being belted out in our best “American twang “at every apropriate moment. 

Among the most memorable of PC games from this period was Daggerfall. I remember my brother convincing my dad while out buying presents one dark  Christmas Eve, that the Skeleton with rotting flesh that was jumping out from the cover of the box was nothing to worry about, and that it was just a harmless game. My dad buckled and Christmas day my brother installed one of the games of my childhood. Daggerfall Elder Scrolls Vol. II  was to me the most incredible feat of computer game production ever. While i never did finish the game the opportunity to create a completely new individual and exist in an endless world of characters and adventure was always truly appealing. For years me and my friend would fall in and out of love with this game..rediscovering it every so often on a rainy day.  Bethesda Softworks have continued to add brilliantly to the Elder Scrolls name and have brought it into the world of modern game-play, maintaining its quality and unique character. 

Along with this would sit the almighty “Sid Meier’s Civilization“. There is something invaluable about a game which both entertains and teaches.. but of course we were unaware of the teaching part. Not until I started studying history in Secondary School did i realise that i already knew of the Crusades and Sun Tzu’s War Academy.. and of the natural progression of the historical ages and developments in technology. Of course i was aware that Babylon’s Hanging Gardens did not in reality automatically provide every Babylonian city with a granary but the basis was there… and now that i think of it, that is fairly invaluable.

Need i mention Warcraft II…..pure brilliance!

And so time moved on, Nintendo developed to SNES and on to the N64, while Windows 95 grew to 98 and 2000. The games came and went also, the Kings Quest series developed nicely though the ages and Kings Quest VI would often find itself being reinstalled as the lack of a manual meant Alexander could not go any further (this would be fixed later in life) “Eee gaz is that cold!” … On the SNES “Secret of Mana” was the perfect challenge, while extremely difficult it was possible to finish it in time, and the co-op option was a real first for us. This game would prove to rear its head often in my life and will again in the future i am sure! Along with SOM on the SNES came Rock and Roll Racing “Ivan is in another time ZONE!!” and all the other obvious classics! Sensible Soccer provided a constant frustration for me while the Apache series was always a bit of fun. With the Nintendo 64 came the unbeatable, and in my opinion the best shoot-em-up of its time, “GoldenEye“! The idea of four players and a forever smooth game-play and realistic graphics made this simply the most playable game of its time. Even today in the days of physics engines and intense reality in shoot-em-up games, GoldenEye would be able to capture the attention of anybody young or old. It was simply fun. And if you ever got bored there was always MarioKart 64 battle mode which was simply perfect and endless fun.

I never owned any of these consoles and my experiences were always thanks to my friend and his brother who would religiously update their Nintendo at every opportunity. The never did invest in playstation or Sega, those games never really did feature in my childhood except for those that were also on PC and this was and is often the case. There was always a slight animosity towards the other games console…you were either Nintendo or Sega, Playstation or Nintendo.. and this still exists today to an extent. However i feel that Nintendo has maintained a constant individuality that forever cemented its commercial value.. Mario cannot be found anywhere else, and today with the Wii they have even isolated much of the game-play and interaction with the games…thus there is only one way to really play Mario Galaxy…and thats on a Wii.. i dont believe Playstation have this quality. 

I could always buy those games on PC anyway.. and while there were many many games, certain ones stand out. I was getting older and thus had less time for games, but in a way the games began to grow with me. “Quake” I, II and III were beyond anything i had experienced with blood and gore… while the first “Grand Theft Auto” introduced me for the first time to drugs and crime on a computer game..the cars were cool and fast and anything seemed possible! Other games were just ridiculous, “Carmageddon” was fairly evil but provided hours of mindless fun, while “Theme Hospital” would always seem appealing until you remember just how hard and annoying the second level was! Then there were the franchise games that made an effect, while there have always been games to back up the movie or popular TV programme of the time, most of these were truly awful and just badly made…those that i remember being fairly good include “Earthworm Jim” and “Star Wars:Jedi Knight II“, the latter being a bit of a jump into the future i know but it was such an enjoyable, well made game i think it needed a mention here. 


One cannot forget to mention the EA sports series of sports games here.. personally for me, that would mean Fifa ’97 and Fifa ’00 which really showed great leaps in football simulation and proper graphics (mainly Fifa 97 because Ginola was the MAN!).

While there are so many games worth a mention, especially as we get closer to todays quality, i think there is only one more that truely had an effect on me and was able to properly surprise me. 

I think “Half Life” truly reminded me of how far computer games had come. A friend of mine who passed away recently gave me the game for free when he told me that he was not allowed play it because it was too violent and detailed. This of course interested me hugely. It was no lie. The games unique intro sequence as your character enters the Black Mesa complex by train was just the first in a series of brilliant story telling and unique qualities to this game. Extremely intelligent AI and realistic game-play and interaction with the environment meant you were hooked in seconds…that is of course if you had a computer strong enough to play it. It took me time to get one of them. Half Life II, while lacking in story and uniqueness did introduce for the first time a truly staggering detail in graphics and the now renowned physics engine that reflect a true interaction with nearly everything in the game. 


It is amazing how a visit to the Computer museum at the Grand Arch of Paris would prompt such a response from me but i guess some things in your life are hard to forget, and some you just don’t want to. It would be ignorant of me to deny that any of the games mentioned above or any of the tens of others that i have not mentioned, did not have a great effect on my life and my ability to do the things that i do today…. the life between the tips of my fingers and my laptop is based entirely on a giant 8″ disk being slotted into a giant IBM computer with a tiny screen on a dining room table in my best friends house 15 years ago..

.. i better not get started on the effect of cartoons….perhaps ill do that another day!


Otherwise today i took a lot of photos of modern architecture! How refeshing  here in paris to have a touch of modernity, i will be back there. hope my photos work out in dublin. good luck to all the TAF people of trinity next week and every body go check it out!


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  1. […] Between, the Nintendo in constant use at my friends house, and their brand new Gateway 2000 with windows 95 my life was set to revolve around computer technology for many years to come as it still is today ! …. One cannot forget to mention the EA sports series of sports games here.. personally for me, that would mean Fifa ‘97 and Fifa ‘00 which really showed great leaps in football simulation and proper graphics (mainly Fifa 97 because Ginola was the MAN! …Read More […]

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