Thursday, April 14, 2011

Old Gamers Never Die

I'm an old gamer. So old in fact, I was there at the very start of video and computer games. I played Pong and Space Wars in the pinball arcades. I owned an Apple IIe, an Atari 2600, and even a cherry red Famicom.

It's kind of sad that the history of video game development in Las Vegas has mostly been forgotten. Hardly anyone now-a-days realizes that at least two major video game genres originated in Las Vegas. The inklings of modern day FPS (First Person Shooters) and RTS (Real-Time Strategies) were developed in Las Vegas and I make the argument that flight simulators got their start here with an old PC game called DragonStrike.

Back in the early 80's there were three high schools in Las Vegas that had advanced computer programming and math labs: Bonanza, Clark and Western. It started around 1980 before there were any PC's in schools. I call it the "Univac Wars". Students from each high school spent hours trying to hack into the school district's Univac system and take down the other school's access. A few student were also creating ascii-text games on the system.

There was no real sense of security back then. You have to remember enthusiasm for computers in the 80's was about the same as it is now for say, ham radios. No one cared .. and unlike today, the math teachers who ran the labs had almost free rein to do whatever they wanted. It was beautiful.

Mr. V who ran Bonanza's computer lab and taught calculus was a disgruntled Vietnam vet. He basically let us do whatever we wanted, unless it was illegal with the computers. Mr. V even had his own school club. The club met once a year for the school picture and everyone was vice president unless they didn't want to be. It was called the Bonanza Sophistic and Rhetoric Society - The BSeRS. The BSeRS even had a Homecoming float. It was an green painted plank with brown balloons stacked in a pile with a student wearing bull horns sitting on top of the balloons.

If you're wondering where all the creativity and engineering talent has gone, then look no further than the security and procedural mandates of schools. When a kid can get expelled for installing a second OS - Linux or detention for downloading Firefox onto a school computer, you know the days of innovation are over.

In 1982, Bonanza got it's first Apple II and it had one program on it called Lemonade Stand. It wasn't long before all of the dudes had the latest in Apple games like: Wolfenstien, Apple Maniacs and Choplifter. There was also a huge desire to program your own game and out do each other in game play and sophistication.

These programmers and math geeks from these three high schools eventually combined together to form Westwood Associates.

More on Westwood in the next post.

Interesting look at the history of games
Play some of those classic games - The Vault

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please keep everything PG or under or else I'll sick Elvis on you.