304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
Unfortunately, I must compel you to recall the distant past once more in order to answer a weekend question, but the future is terrifying, so let’s all retreat to Lemmings, Zoombinis, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego, Oregon Trail, or whatever the one good game on your school computers was at the time. And if you had a game like Halo or Doom or anything to play in class, feel free to prank on the rest of us who were forced to type.
Liero. Students and IT staff at my school were engaged in a kind of arms race as we illegally installed this MS-DOS classic on school computers and enjoyed it for as long as we could before it was eventually discovered and uninstalled, and we were forced to wait until the next time we could sneak it back onto a computer and enjoy it once more. The game Liero can be thought of as a real-time Worms for individuals who did not have a fortunate upbringing. You control a small character in a completely destructible environment, swinging around with a grappling hook and shooting bombs at your teammates. We thought it was an absolutely brilliant piece of art. What’s more, you know what? It’s most likely still valid.
Despite the fact that our computers did not have any games installed, we did have access to the internet. In other words, whenever I had a study session in the library (read: a period of slacking off), Newgrounds was my saving grace. When I arrived early, I set up a computer in a corner that was A) out of sight of the librarian and B) far enough away from the entrance that if the headmaster came in (he liked to surprise us with unexpected visits), I would have enough time to close the browser and load up something related to what I was supposed to be studying. It worked like a charm. Newgrounds was, and continues to be, a treasure mine of wacky, imaginative Flash games, and it was, for some reason, never added to the library’s extensive list of websites that were barred from access.
The Impossible Trivia Game. Although the computers at my school did not have any games, we spent a lot of time playing browser games, with The Impossible Quiz being the most popular. An IT lesson in which the teacher was absent caused everyone to become engrossed in a frenzy attempting to figure out who could run the greatest distance and then give each other the answers. Because there were two kids per computer, there was a great sense of camaraderie among the participants. Newgrounds used to be a popular hangout before my school prohibited access to it.
Mathematical Motion. While the BBC Micro machine in our primary school was educational, and yes, for some reason there was a 5.25-inch floppy disc with Dr.J and Larry Bird bouncing around, it also taught me a lot about vectors, Formula 1 racing, and pushing the machine to its absolute limits, in the immortal words of Peter Bellotte.
Maths in Motion, which was available at the time (and is still available today), allowed you to configure your vehicle for qualification and then racing, using vectors to navigate around the track. In both qualifying and the race, we were able to fine-tune our engine to the point where it would burst right before the finish line, which was a first for us. The team was usually victorious, but the drivers were less fortunate. But hey, at the very least, that configuration would make F1 and NASCAR more intriguing in the IRL.
Computers? Schools? I don’t think you realise how old I really am, do you? The first computer I was allowed to be near in a learning setting was at University, where there were rooms full of magnificent PCs to peruse and experiment with (that were slowly replacing dumb terminals). My favourite game was a little, time-sucking title called Civilization, which came out in my second year (first-year students having little hope of actually acquiring access to the computing holy grail). Because computer time was carefully regulated, I had to sign an A4 document stating that I was working on an essay, project, or some other such bullshit, and then pull an all-nighter trying to wipe away Ghandi and his ilk from the face of the earth. Despite my best efforts, I can’t sit down and play a full game without keeping an eye on the door in case a lecturer happens to walk in unexpectedly.
I was a lonely, imaginative, and whimsical child who grew up watching LA Story and believing in the power of imagination. When I opened a Word document, there he was, looking at me.
Clippy, a magical paper clip, came to me and asked if he could assist me with what I was doing. For a long time, I would spend countless hours penning messages to Clippy and watching his adorable animations in the hopes that one day his response would not be canned and that we would become friends.
What began as a game quickly turned into an addiction, and many a study session was spent attempting to persuade Clippy to break his reserve, say something amusing, or simply’sing do-wa-diddy’ (sing with me) with me. Even today, whenever I open Word, I hope that Clippy has returned. Assuming he does… I’m hoping he remembers who I am….