Gaming Through Time
by The Rook
The day started just like any other day: I was lying in peaceful slumber, oblivious of the world around me. Slowly I drifted back to consciousness and became aware of… something. As my thoughts and senses started to coalesce, I realised what had roused me from my sleep: it was a sound, the sound of voices, the voices coming from the radio that had gone off due to the alarm. I opened my eyes to look at the alarm clock, the light replacing the darkness, the red numbers displaying the time. It did not matter what time it was, however, I already knew it was early, too early, but the alarm going off meant only one thing – it was a work day. Time to get up and get washed and dressed and prepare my lunch before making the journey to work; at least after this song on the radio has finished, it would be rude to get out of bed in the middle of a song, I would get up after that, or maybe after the host tells his next tale, or after the news headlines, yes definitely after that… definitely.
I ventured into the bathroom, set down my toothbrush, squeezed a bit of toothpaste onto the bristles and then turned on the tap. The water flowed out and then suddenly stopped; the water was still there, hanging from the tap, pooling in the sink before swirling down the plughole; it had just stopped flowing. The water was frozen in place; my first thought was the water was so cold that it had frozen into a small column of ice, yet when I cautiously touched the water it wasn’t cold. Well it was cold, it was the cold tap I had turned on after all, but the water wasn’t ice cold. I was bewildered by this and I didn’t have much time to contemplate the situation when a voice, a sudden yet familiar voice, came from behind me.
As I turned around there was no one there but I did catch myself in the mirror on the wall: it was me but not me, it looked like… an older me; then the me in the mirror spoke: “Hello Rook. I am you in in the future and I have frozen time for you in order to send you this message, all will return to normal shortly. I have been involved in a time travel project and although we cannot yet send people through time, we can send objects back for a short period; we’re still in an experimental stage and are limited to what we can send. The committee were looking for ideas about what to send and I mentioned how I – you – we – had always wanted to bring our current consoles back to when we first started playing games, to show our younger selves what gaming will become. Unfortunately, our current technology is too volatile to transport through time but your consoles would be sufficient. I will be in touch again soon to give you more details, but I wanted to give you time to think about what to send back and to what time in our past. And it goes without saying, but don‘t tell anyone about this. Although if it goes without saying, I probably shouldn’t have said that… forget I said that last part… but still don’t tell anyone.”
A shimmering effect moved across the mirror and I was back to looking at my normal self ; the sound of water running again could be heard and so my day would continue. Not telling anyone about it would be easy – who’d believe me even if I did and, more importantly, how long was I going to have to wait before I would be contacted again? If the future me could contact me in the past or present then it could happen at any time for me. I looked in the mirror again but there was only ‘present me’ there looking back. I decided to brush my teeth as normal but just as I lifted the toothbrush I quickly looked in the other mirror again: still nothing; this was going to take a bit longer.
I had already decided that the time I would send games back to was my teenage years, back to when I was playing on my Commodore 64. I spent a lot of time playing on that computer and the difference between games then and now would astound a younger me; I just had to think what games would I want a younger me to see? Thinking back to games I played back then, the first one came to mind quite easily. There was a game called Kikstart which was a 2D, left to right, side- scrolling motorbike game were you had to traverse obstacles and jumps to reach the end within the best time possible, without falling off the bike. Kikstart 2 developed it a little further with an on-screen speedometer, as certain obstacles couldn’t be crossed at higher speeds; the game also introduced a level creator.
The obvious game to show a younger me then would be Trials HD – a 3D, left to right, side-scrolling motorbike game where you have to traverse obstacles and jumps to reach the end within the best time possible, and it also comes with a lever creator. It is the same premise, but there is much more detail and physics in Trials HD and more depth to the game itself, with flips, moving set pieces and explosions. So much can be done with the level creator and a little imagination and, although it does take a while to create a level, it can be fun to experiment, and it’s so easy to test your track as you create it. If you haven’t tried Trials HD yourself, you should at least check out the trial version (try the trial Trials HD (?) ). You will have some fun and there’s just been a second DLC pack released called Big Thrills, which will add another 40 levels, 10 of which are user created content from a competition that the developers, RedLynx, ran.
In addition to Kikstart, there was a trilogy of games on the Commodore 64 that I played called The Last Ninja; why it was called the last ninja I never understood because there are other ninjas in the game too. I had played through the games a couple of times and enjoyed them greatly, so if I liked ninja games I was certainly going to show a younger me Ninja Gaiden. The Last Ninja played out through an isometric viewpoint and allowed you to use different weapons with a little bit of blood showing. Ninja Gaiden was a fully 3D world with much frantic fighting against multiple opponents and bosses using a number of different weapons, and blood… so much blood, as well as being hard as nails. I have still to go back and complete Ninja Gaiden and I’m playing it on normal and refuse to lower the difficulty.
I don’t recall playing a lot of racing games on the Commodore 64; there was Super Sprint: a top down race around a track with three other cars, picking up spanners for repairs and avoiding oil spills. There was also Test Drive, with an in-car view where you controlled a white dot on the steering wheel to control the car. Buggy Boy was more about driving around a course picking up flags and time extensions while avoiding obstacles, and then there was Out Run, which was a ‘beat the clock to the next stage’ driving game based on the arcade game. The driving game I have probably spent most time with on the Xbox 360 is Burnout Paradise: a self contained city with races, time challenges, stunt events, billboards and gates to smash and super jumps to find. Or I could bring Split Second: a TV show based racing game with plenty of short cuts and explosions. Either game would more than satisfy the driving genre for the ‘past me’.
Another game I played a lot of, although it was also based on the arcade game, was Commando: a soldier fighting his way through a war zone. Now, I could take any FPS shooter set in war times and there are plenty to choose from. A lot of the FPS games now are trying to get away from the WWII setting, as we have been saturated in games set in that period of history (now we have zombies in so many games). I think I would still bring a WWII game though, in order to show the soldier in war to a younger me, and would probably bring Call Of Duty 2 – the first in the COD series of games that I played.
There are so many games that I would love to send back to a younger me; seeing the games of today against the games I played on the Commodore 64 would blow my mind. I wonder what way I’ll be gaming in the future, perhaps using Star Trek’s Holodeck technology or Red Dwarf’s ‘Better Than Life’ virtual reality machine, complete with groinal attachment. I could think about this all day, but I really should be getting to work, although how I’ll be able to concentrate now is another thing. I wonder what games other people would bring back to their younger selves?
Last five articles by The Rook