I’m following in the footsteps of the pantheon of Blaugers, and @Tipa specifically, and will be releasing this identity post in two parts: Then and Now.
I believe the “then” post will be easier, because the benefit of hindsight and that particular trick of memory where we tend to recall the best of the best times (and the worst of every other time) should lend itself to cherry-picking what my subconscious believes to be the Most Import Games Of My Formative Years.
Monkeyshines – Magnavox Odyssey 2
I’m not lying when I keep bringing up the Odyssey 2. My aunt had actually won this game system, I think, and kept it at her house in Pawtucket, Rhode Island for when my brother and I would visit. We’d play Monkeyshines for hours (simpler time, etc.). The goal was “punch monkeys” (again, simpler time) to get points, which made them turn red. When red, touching a monkey would freeze you, and you’d be out of the game. Naturally, each player would want to punch a monkey so it would fly off into the other player. Bonus: It came with a level editor and several game modes including “elevator”, where the platforms would shift upward, and “invisible”, where the platforms would only appear briefly when you landed on them.
Trade Wars 2002 – Commodore 64 (or anywhere with a modem)
My first online game (outside of services like CompuServe and AOL, of course). I played Trade Wars 2002 religiously after having discovered the world of the dial-up BBS. I played through a local service run interestingly enough, by a girl my own age who I later met because she was a friend of the woman I dated in college. Trade Wars was all text, although there was some preamble ASCII art, and later, versions were released which featured ASCII art throughout. Your goal was as stated on the box: buy low, sell high. Somehow, they got away with calling their main enemy NPCs “Ferengi” and the controlled space “The Federation” despite not being associated with Star Trek in any way. Bonus: I bought a TW2002 license many years ago (and you still can), and the current maintainer of the game worked for Cloud Imperium Games for a spell (they’re making Star Citizen).
Phantasie – Commodore 64
If I had to pick one RPG over all other RPGs in my lifetime, it would be Phantasie, hands down. This game was a product of the game publishing powerhouse Strategic Simulations, Inc (SSI). After building a party of 6 characters, you’d venture forth to solve…some kind of mystery; I don’t remember why we were doing what we were doing. It predated the SSI “Gold Box” games so it was a lot more simplistic, and whether it was intentional or a bug, the game wouldn’t end; there was no level cap to speak of, so I would often escort new characters with my most powerful characters into the final dungeon where we’d kill the ultimate boss, Zeus, over and over. Bonus: I used to name a party member after whichever girl I had a crush on at the time.
Starflight – C64
Starflight was ahead of its time. It was an open-world roguelike that tasked the player with managing a crew on a mission of exploration and resource gathering…on the Commodore 64. There are games today which can’t get this formula right, yet Starflight (and Starflight 2) really nailed it. Bonus: Starflight is one half of my long-suffering inspiration to create a more modern game in a similar vein (the other half being Trade Wars, of course)
Mechwarrior – PC
I have been a BattleTech fan since its launch, playing with the included carboard standees and even going so far as to draw a map on my parent’s concrete basement floor so my brother and I could play with Transformers. Needless to say, Mechwarrior was a Big Deal to me. It worked like the modern CRPG treatment does: you’re in charge of a mercenary company, taking jobs, paying bills, and blowing up mechs for fun and salvage. It was one of the first FPS games I had played at the time. Bonus: I didn’t own this; my friend Mindstrike did, for the PC he bought without his parent’s knowledge, and which he kept at my house for a while until he could get it home.