Going by the comments left around the site recently, it seems that nostalgia is in (has it ever really been out?). With that in mind, I present My First Gaming Experiences, and reveal what has been, until now, a secret known only to two people (I being one of them).

I wasn’t always a great adventure gamer (cough). Once upon a time, back in the dim age of the 8-bit machines, I was a rank beginner like anyone else. Right after my Apple arrived (ah, my beloved Apple ][+!), I went out and bought four games. You want to know what they were, so: Pyramid Of Doom, Wizard And The Princess, Adventure and Zork: The Great Underground Empire.

The very first I played was Scott Adams’ Pyramid Of Doom, on tape. Tape? Yep, at that time, there were still some games on cassette, though disk drives were becoming popular. I was waiting for my drive to come by mail, but I wanted to play something right now, so I took PoD on tape (the other three were on disk).

Loading it was supposedly simple. An RCA plug was attached to the tape recorder and to a port on the back of the Apple. You typed in a mystery command, started the tape on play, and waited. With fingers crossed, because after several minutes, the game would be in, or else you’d get the dreaded “Beep! Error” and have to do it all over again. I had to do it again several times before the load took.

After that, everything was fine. Of course, there was the usual screaming and muttering, but I was making good progress with Pyramid. Feeling quite proud, too, to be doing so well with my very first game. Eventually, though, it was time to stop for the night, and save the game. Onto tape.

I put a blank cassette in, typed save, and hoped for the best. Silly me. Next day, after getting the game to load (finally), I tried to restore. Tried and tried and tried. It just wouldn’t load in. Had to play the whole thing over from the start. That went rather well, actually, since retracing my actions from before was easy, as I knew what to do. But I wasn’t exactly happy about having to do it.

Fortunately, I was able to finish Pyramid without needing another load. It was hard, but short; one of those “find items and drop them here” games. And when it was done, I made a vow: No More Tape! Ever!

So of course, when I signed up with CompuServe, and thought I needed their Vidtex software to logon, I could only find the Apple version…on tape. Fortunately, I soon learned that wasn’t necessary, and bought – on disk! – a program that was much better.

Meanwhile, the next game up was Zork, and it became my dark, shameful secret. This game was far superior to PoD, which was very no frills: “You’re in the kitchen. Visible exits: West North South”. Zork had beautiful, detailed descriptions of areas, and a parser that could handle: “Drop all but the red basket”. Very sophisticated stuff for its time.

Still, it was much like Pyramid in one way: it was a “gather goodies and leave them here” adventure. In this instance, “here” was a trophy case. There were twenty prizes to store. I eventually managed nineteen. Couldn’t find the last one, no matter what. Over and over I wandered through the GUE, to no avail. Finally I moved on to other games.

Time passed and I became (ahem) famous. There was the GameSIG (Games Special Interest Group) on CIS, and writing for Computer Gaming World. Through mail and messages, I was helping people with games, including Zork. I’d give a nudge here, an answer there. Often, people would write back: “Thanks, Scorp, I finished the game”.

You did, did you? Then why can’t I complete that unprintable game?? This took a terrible toll on my ego, despite all the other games I’d finished since Zork.

Finally, one night online, I grabbed a reliable (would keep this secret) person, we went into chat, and I asked her help. Just give me a list of the treasures, I said, maybe from that I’ll see what I missed.

So she starts in: the trunk of jewels, the bauble, the emerald, the egg, the bird, the platinum bar, the……

The BIRD?? OH-MY-GOD. The egg is a special treasure that can only be opened by the thief (after which, you kill him; such gratitude!). Inside is a bird. In all that time, it had never occurred to me to Take The Bird Out Of The Egg. Two years in a mental abyss, and I’d had all the treasures all the time!!! GAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!

You know, it takes real talent to overlook the obvious. And not only am I talented, I tend towards being literal-minded. Over the years, I’ve managed to control that a bit, but in the beginning, it tripped me up now and then.

During my journey through the GUE, I found a collapsed raft. It was meant for a trip down the Frigid River. Naturally, it had to be inflated first. What to do?

Well, I had a tube from FrobozzCo labeled “All-Purpose Gunk”. So….

Me: Inflate raft with gunk
Zork: Surely you jest

You know it’s bad when the game itself jeers at you. After my swift completion of Pyramid of Doom, Zork taught me something about humility. Also about not taking things too literally. Still, I’ve sometimes wondered: should I have sued Frobozzco for deceptive advertising…?miniscorp