Thursday, June 12, 2014

Games People Play

Everyone has their own acid test to identify ‘nice’ people. For a lot of folks of my generation, it was Calvin & Hobbes. Declaration of fandom, invariably earned you brownies and a surprise 10-year visa to the united states of friendship.

Back in the eighties, Pac-Man did the job of Calvin & Hobbes. A simple proclamation of interest in the computer game earned you instant respect from fellow slackers. A quick discussion on high scores and levels of proficiency would ensue, followed by a mating call for a face-off.

The concept of gobbling dots in a maze while outrunning silly ghosts may look juvenile by today’s standards but in the era of the 386 (Pentium’s grandpa), it was as addictive as weed for millions of bored gamers.

For all the hoo-ha, not many know that Pac-Man was Japanese in origin. Designed by Toru Iwatani in 1980, he labelled it ‘Pakkuman’ after the onomatopoeic ‘pakku-pakku’ chomping sound made by the lead character. He tried to anglicise it as ‘Puckman’ for the overseas markets, but the possible confusion with a much censored four-letter word, veered the gaming company towards ‘Pac-Man’.

Tetris was another fixation for those who wished to swap precious office time for private pleasure. Steven Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple, was rumoured to be a champ at it. Derived from Tetraminoes (the 4-square blocks) & Tennis (the founder Alexey Pajitnov’s favourite sport), the falling blocks puzzle is now the world’s most successful game having sold 150 million copies over 30 years!

Among the blood and gore games, Mortal Kombat was a universal favourite with those who got their kicks from violence. Originally planned as a gaming version of Jean Claude Van Damme movie ‘Blood Sport’, MK became a bigger brand within a few years of launch.

Single player shooter games Wolfenstein 3D (German for ‘Wolfstone’) and Doom (name borrowed from a Tom Cruise dialogue in ‘The Color of Money’) gave us wussies, the jollies of playing a rampaging hero in the virtual world.

The deprived goofballs who didn’t fit into any of the above slots usually sat in a lonesome corner plodding over ‘Solitaire’. But irrespective of whether one played ‘Prince of Persia’ or ‘PC Pool’, the fact remains that there’s nothing to beat the old charm of nostalgia!