Screenshot: Man jet packing to B-Liner Balloon Ship. Image Source: Myabandonware.com
So, I won’t bore you but my Digital Rhetoric, while discussing the importance of old Commodore 64 code and the like, wasn’t too interested in my ACTUAL working knowledge of the C64 and its “affordances” (fancy, two-bit academic jargon that means advantages) of the software that I had as a child (& what helped shaped me into the person I am today). I’m going to take a moment (probably on Mondays, though they may appear on other days) to just quickly go through some of the quirkiest and/or most relevant software and relate how they might apply to today’s world.
Two games that I remember that were the strangest and most intriguing games that I ever got for the C64 were by the same company–Spinnaker Software. They were called In Search of the Most Amazing Thing (ISotMAT) and Snooper Troops (ST). While I have the manual for ISotMAT, I don’t have the manual for ST–I can’t remember if ST was bundled in or if it was stuck in the ISotMAT box accidentally (things like that did happen in the early days of software), or what, but I remember that they came together, but that we (my uncle and I) had to figure out how to play ST whereas we had the manual for ISotMAT.
ISotMAT was sort of a “sci-fi” game in a world underneath/beneath the “real world.” Fraggle Rock was a new and different thing at the time and it had that same “Fraggle Rock” feel. I remember that it took a while to figure out how to play ISotMAT, but once you understood it, you could have a decent amount of fun with it. The problem with the game is that it was SLOW. It took forever for the game to “draw” critical systems onto the screen. Now perhaps this was a limitation of the C64, but I recall a segment where you needed to drill. The computer had to draw the drill circling down pixel by pixel and then it drilled and you received whatever and then the computer had to retract the drill laboriously again pixel by pixel. One drilling session could take 5-7 minutes. I still enjoyed playing the game however. So much so, that when I couldn’t figure out a way to get to the ending of the game via the game itself, I actually found a way to “List” (view) the game’s code (it was written in BASIC) and I skimmed the code until I found the ending (all on my own, at the age of 9-11 years old, maybe 12, but that’s pushing it, if I remember). That’s what I wanted to share with the class as it recalled an example in James Paul Gee’s book What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy of a kid who wanted to know more about World of Warcraft, so went to online forums, found a binary code reader, and began to read and manipulate WoW’s code. Gee was suitably impressed by the young man’s “metacognition” and learning strategies. My classmates, on the other hand, weren’t particularly interested in much that I had to say, so this why I’m sharing this experience here instead.
Screenshot: Car beside Detective Agency. Image Source: Myabandonware.com
ST was a mystery game and I daresay that I liked it as much, and perhaps a little more than ISotMAT. When done right, I actually like mysteries as a genre, but only in certain instances. I’ll try to remember to do a post on the rise and fall of my love of mysteries in another post, but ST allowed you to be a detective and it was something that my child self really gravitated to. It even allowed you to drive a car from house to house as you checked out clues and again, you had to take into account your speed and braking distance, or you could overshoot your target house. While the game was presented abstractly, the modeling of certain real-world concepts was something that helped child me learn and engage with the world through play in a meaningful way–which is what Gee’s book is all about.
I found two YouTube videos showing ISotMAT and ST. Now, they’re not the correct format (i.e., C64 version) that I played, but even on different systems they still give you an idea of what the games looked like if you’re interested:
In Search of the Most Amazing Thing
Well, that’s it for my trip down memory lane for today–thanks for listening/reading. I appreciate it.