This new month of September being a five-Friday month, I’ve decided to take this week as an opportunity to bank an article. That way, I’ll be able to travel back to the United States for the holidays later on this year without missing two weeks of content in a row across my two sites. In lieu of a proper article — which you’ll get next week, I promise — how about if we pause today to take a breath and survey the territory behind and ahead of us?
As the more studious readers among you may already have noticed, we finally moved out of the borderlands between 1996 and 1997 and into the new year proper with my last article. That means it’s ebook time. You can find the 1996 volume of the ever-growing Digital Antiquarian archive, in .epub or .mobi editions and with or without reader comments included, in the usual place. I learned how to make these myself this time, but the tools I used to do so are still those of Richard Lindner. Thanks, Richard! I shouldn’t have to bother you so much going forward…
And speaking of going forward: here’s a taster of what I have tentatively planned in terms of 1997 coverage. Looking at the year as a whole, I must admit that I don’t quite see one bursting with perfectly formed classics. But I do, on the other hand, see a year of important experiments that laid the groundwork for classics to come, as designers continued to wrestle the many new technological affordances they had been granted recently into natural-feeling, playable forms. The flood of undeniable classics would come in 1998, so stay tuned.
In the meantime, some quick notes on what’s in store for the immediate future. Needless to say, if you want to be completely surprised by what appears on this site every fortnight, now is the time to stop reading!
- I’m currently working on a two-parter about the Magic: The Gathering phenomenon, the first part being about the card game that upended the whole tabletop-gaming industry in the 1990s, the second about its digital adaptation, Sid Meier’s last game for MicroProse.
- The Last Express
- This topic is a little more unsettled than most of them, but I’d like to do something with sex. No, not in my personal life — I’m too old and too married for that — but in the context of the digital world of the 1990s. I have a minimalist and a maximalist version in mind. The former would look at games like Voyeur I and II, Psychic Detective, Phantasmagoria: A Puzzle of Flesh, Blue Heat, and Tender Loving Care, which attempted to carve out a market for “adult” computer entertainment within the interactive-movie space. The latter would survey these games as well, but expand the story to encompass the emergence of an online pornography industry, the first folks to make real money on the Web. I lean toward going for the Full Monty, so to speak, but I’d love to hear your secret thoughts and innermost desires. Or, um, come to think of it, just the surface ones would be fine.
- Japanese CRPGs, leading up to and then showcasing Final Fantasy VII. This is foreign territory for me in more ways than one, but the story of how this hugely popular strand of gaming emerged out of the Apple II Wizardry strikes me as under-told, while Final Fantasy VII itself is without a doubt one of the most beloved games of all time. It even fulfills the letter of my law of focusing on computer rather than console games here, since it did get a release on Windows…
- Ultima Online
- Age of Empires
- Broken Sword: The Smoking Mirror
- Developments in the realm of the first-person shooter, especially Unreal and Jedi Knight. (I’ve already had a lot of fun playing Jedi Knight start to finish, a first for me with the genre whilst writing these histories. Maybe I can stop worrying and learn to love to run and gun…)
- Blade Runner
- The Curse of Monkey Island
- Zork: Nemesis and Zork: Grand Inquisitor
Feel free to chime in in the comments with suggestions of what you’d like to see. While I can’t promise to deliver on every request — I do have to follow my own muse to some extent in order to give you good articles, and I do have to keep moving so that our progress through history doesn’t start to take even longer than living through the real events did — I do take them all seriously.
And if you’re a regular reader who hasn’t yet taken the Patreon plunge, please do give that some thought as well if your personal finances are up to it. Your pledges are the only reason I can do this.
Last but by no means least, there is one thing that I can’t say enough to those of you who already pitch in: Thank you for your support! That includes not only existing patrons but all of you who take the time to offer up typo reports, factual corrections, and alternative perspectives in the comments and in emails. I remain as honored today that you consider me worth the effort as I was when all of this began twelve years ago. You remain, as ever, the best readers in the world.
See you next week!