My Life in Games: 1983-89

I thought it might be fun to look back over my life so far and remember the games that particularly affected me as I was growing up.  We live in a gaming world these days, and games can be formative experiences for people like us just as films, books and TV shows were to previous generations.  There were a lot of little games that really spoke to me over the years, and I suppose I just don’t want them to be forgotten.  So this retrospective will be a tribute of sorts.  There are a lot to get through, so today will be Part One of I’m-not-sure-how-many…

  • 1983 – My earliest memories of gaming come from this year, when I was six years old.  We were living in the UK where my dad was parading with the British Army (the Royal Yeomanry), and he used to play Dungeons and Dragons with a couple of his English mates.  I can see the young men sitting around the tiny kitchen table, and I remember being fascinated by dad’s carefully painted miniatures: a cleric, a halfling, and some Greek hoplites.  Besides the halfling they were, I think, re-purposed toy soldiers.  I didn’t understand their game but I knew that I wanted to play it too.  One of the men showed me some Judge Dredd miniatures he had which I’m pretty certain looking back on it were early Games Workshop figures.
  • 1986 – Flash forward three years and I am nine, and have been given the Dungeons and Dragons Basic Set (the red box) for christmas.  I devoured the books and coerced four of my school friends to play.  I was still playing with two of them nine years later, though the games had changed.
  • 1987 – My friend had a Commodore 64 with an orange and black screen and we played Conan and Karateka for what seemed like hours on end.  I remember the end boss of Karateka had a helmet like the Shredder and an eagle that flew at your head.  Another friend had Budokan on his computer, and I spent hours on that game too.  I really liked the martial arts games, and I soon became interested in martial arts in real life.
  • 1988 – We moved to Brisbane for a year and I was unhappy.  My D&D group was shattered and I played board games with my little brother: a game called Dungeon: game of fantastic adventure, which was I suppose an ancestor of Super Dungeon Explore.  I also bought Steve Jackson’s Car Wars and Battletech, and made some of the neighbour kids and my long-suffering brother play with me.  I’m sure we didn’t understand the rules properly.  I liked Car Wars so much that I sought out other Steve Jackson products like Fighting Fantasy books and a board game called Wabbit’s Wevenge, which I made the whole family play.  My dad always won.
  • 1989 – We moved back to my home town and my D&D game started up again, only now we played AD&D First Edition with my friend’s older brother’s books.  On a trip to Sydney to visit my grandmother I bought a box of sixty models with my birthday money: ten elves; ten dark elves; ten dwarfs; ten orcs; ten goblins, and ten rat-men called “skaven”.  It was for a game called Warhammer, which I had never heard of, but I liked the look of the models.  My parents also bought an early Mac and there were many games I loved: Choplifter, Daleks, Brickles, and Ancient Art of War.

Next time I think we’ll be reaching the era where console games really took off and I started going to video game arcades…

I’d love to hear other people’s memories of this era, or their own early gaming,


5 thoughts on “My Life in Games: 1983-89

  1. Thuloid says:

    Ooh, good topic. Let’s see..

    1982ish–I was 4, and my older brother (he was 15 or so) introduced me to D&D. I was essentially an NPC–“Adam, would you like to hit the monster, or go sit in the corner?” He kept me around because I said funny things for my age, and his friends got a kick out of me.

    1985–We moved from Japan to Phoenix, AZ, Brother went off to college, and I inherited most of his AD&D books. Mostly I ran campaigns for me and my younger brother.

    1988–Started DMing for some neighborhood kids. Not very well, but that’s ok. Also got a Tandy 1000TL computer that year or the year before, and had a Nintendo. Played many games.

    1990–Moved to Minnesota. Nobody to DM for, gaming desert. But…around this time, HeroQuest. Eventually had every expansion. The original Final Fantasy on Nintendo was a favorite, as were all the Dragon Warriors.

    • beat ronin says:

      Hi Thuloid! Hope you are well.

      Man, I was just getting to HeroQuest. And Space Crusade, and Space Hulk, and all the rest. Next time I think.

      Interesting that we both started with D&D, though in my scenario I was the older brother who introduced my little brother to it!

  2. Thuloid says:

    I am well, thank you. Enjoying the new job, and a major hole in the community is being filled–next week a new game store opens just a few blocks from one of the churches I work at. Need to make some gamer friends here, but that’ll come.

    Yeah, I had all my brother’s 1st ed. stuff. I saw the whole Against the Giants through Queen of the Demonweb pits series with him as DM (G1-3, D1-3, Q1), as well as a bunch of other classic modules.

    Weirdly enough, I stepped into a store out in the country a ways just last week, which had on the shelves a bunch of early-mid 80s D&D stuff in pristine condition. Not reprints, originals, in some cases never opened. For reasonable prices. It was all I could do not to drive home with an armful.

  3. SinSynn says:

    Hey dude…just wanted to pop in and say hi.
    I’m sorry, but I’m not quite at the point of ‘normality’ that I can stare at a computer screen for too long, so I haven’t been keeping up with my normal blog surfing, and I’ve messed a ton of cool posts at my usual haunts, I’m sure.
    Like this one, fer instance…
    I’ll get there. SIgh. One dumbass day at a time.

    Just wanted to check in, say hi an’ wassup an’ alla dat.

    Be eezy, James.

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