Tuesday, 7 September 2010

What Dune 2 taught me about Gaming: Part 1

Its 1993 Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner are stinking up the screen and the charts, John Major (Aka Pantsman) is Prime Minister, there's a weird new football division called the Premier League, and I'm trying to persuade my friend Lee that Dune 2 on the Amiga is the greatest thing since sliced bread.

My Amiga was a thing of wonder to me,and as I sat there with my A500+ it would seem implausible to me that the company behind it was already in a slow decline. In December Doom was released on the PC in all its 3D glory, changing the face of gaming and driving another nail into the Amiga's coffin. By April 1994 the fight was over and Commodore would be bankrupt and the Amiga dead.

At age 11 such things didn't register with me, nor would they have really mattered to me because at that moment all that mattered to me was I had a new game. Games typically cost around £30 which since I got £1.10 pocket money meant they were a huge investment for me. I spent months scanning issues of Amiga Power before making a decision on a which one i was going to buy next. I typically got 2-3 games a year and the wait was unbearable, though I soon realized that if I didn't spend my lunch money It virtually doubled my spending power. I mean whats a bit of food compared to a new game?

So there we are sitting in the spare room and I'm talking about the game, I don't remember my words but  I do remember what I loved about the game. The colourful and detailed graphics, the atmospheric sound, the bright yellow and red explosion trigged by the destruction of a tank which left behind a satisfying crater, and about how you were fighting for a entire world over a map where you chose where to strike next.
But most of all I would have talked about the Sandworms giant tank eating behemoths who were a ever present menace. They meant Dune wasn't just a battlefield to play out my dreams of being a general, it was a world which was beyond my control and would leave my plans in ruins if I took my eyes of it for a second.

After my eleven year old brains tide of enthusiasm finaly ran dry I loaded up the games opening sequence and sat back convinced my friend would be in awe just as i had been.

Here it is in all its glory

“The Planet Arrakis, known as Dune.

Land of sand, home of the Spice Malange

Whoever controls dune controls the Spice

The emperor has proposed a challenge to each of the houses

The house that produces the most spice will control dune.
There are no set territories, and no rules of engagement

Vast armies have arrived

Now three houses fight for control of dune

The noble Atreides

The insidious Ordos

And the evil Harkonnen

Only one house will prevail

Your battle for dune begins now..”

The intro finished and I waited in silence to hear his response to this gem, this masterpiece, this king among games I had found.

The silence was unnerving me a bit, perhaps he just needed a  bit of a nudge

Me: “So what did you think?”

Him: “Who's The Spice?”

And that is how at age 11 I discovered how easily a love for any game or fiction can completely blind someone to how incomprehensible it is to others. Looking back its easy to see how my friend was confused but at the time i just didn't understand.
It was my first brush with objectivity. As a child something is either awesome or its terrible, you never consider the possibility someone else might not think the same.

Yet so many people seem to have forgotten that lesson, and i'll talk more about that in part 2

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