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Computer Games

Computer Games
Australian Society of Anaesthetists Newsletter Volume 94, Issue 2, July 1994


30 years ago I saw my first computer in the Melbourne Museum of Engineering. It was an electro-mechanical monster that played noughts and crosses. Wherever there are computers there are computer games. Bored programmers in America whiled away their evening hours designing word games, puzzles and mazes on the first main-frame computers. These puzzles were stitched together into a network of underground caverns. To move from one room to the next you would type in directions such as “go west”. You could pick up, carry, or put down various objects that were needed to solve the problems. The first ‘Adventure’ game was born.

10 years later I sat with the other interns in the residents’ quarters of a regional hospital. The room was lit by an eerie green glow from the screen a state-of-the-art Tandy TRS 80 running with a staggering 32K of memory. From midnight to dawn we battled goblins and pirates, hunting for diamonds and gold. These were the Scott Adams adventures written for machines that would come to be known as ‘personal computers’. There were no graphics on these computers except for stick figure drawings in games like “Hangman”. No sounds apart from the angry beep that accompanied the singularly aggravating and uninformative statement ‘syntax error’.

A few years later I loaded the now fabled Trilogy of Zork onto my treasured Apple IIe. The first line of text scrolled across the screen.

“You are standing by a white house”

15 years further down the track I have accrued a mortgage, a family and an anaesthetic fellowship (in that order). I slid ‘Return to Zork’ into the compact disk player in the docking station of my latest lap top. The lights on the speaker system flashed briefly as the sound card initialised. My pulse quickened. Could I really return to Zork after so many years? Then those fateful words scrolled once more across the screen.

“You are standing by a white house”

Followed by a triumphant fanfare and the picture above. At last I could see the white house. Then the view point rose high into the air, up and over the house and once again I was enveloped in the fantasy world of Zork!

Interactive Movies

Game players have always been the gurus of grunt. Their machines were always the fastest. They were the first with graphics accelerator cards, sound cards and compact disk players. If you have “the right stuff” get hold of the first truly interactive movie “Quantum Gate”. This is a full length movie with real actors in real video sequences and complete digital sound track.

The other characters look you in the face and ask you questions. You are free to move around and explore. Your actions control the way the story unfolds. Through a series of flash backs you begin to discover the secrets buried within your own subconscious as you unravel the terrifying reason why “no one dreams” on this desolate outpost in space! I could not switch this one off. My other life simply stopped for two hours. I do not have the vocabulary to encompass this seriously awesome experience. Experience the first real glimpse of the cinema of tomorrow.

Flight simulators

I never really enjoyed flight simulators. Altogether too many controls to get the wretched thing off the ground. Now you can test fly anything from a Sopwith Camel to a Stealth Bomber. Grab a joystick and “Rebel Assault” for an unadulterated adrenaline rush as you blast through an asteroid belt to defend the Empire against the forces of the Dark Side. The graphics in this CD game are amongst the best I have seen. I wish my reflexes were 20 years younger.


I mention Doom only for completeness. It is rated as the best computer game EVER. I think it should be banned. An exceptional, virtual reality style, interface guides you through a maze of laboratories where you are fighting the forces of evil once again. This time you can use your fists, pistols, a shotgun and a chain saw. There are clear graphic images of decaying, impaled and crucified humans. Your hapless enemies are graphically dismembered as you punch, shoot and hack your way to victory. This game can be played on a network with others. Vicarious pack violence has proved so popular that the game has been banned on most corporate networks. Good thing too.

Get “The 7th Guest” instead. It combines interactive movies, adventure games and some terrible ham acting. (For a modest fee I can supply answers to all of the puzzles except the microbial version of the ‘game of life’.) This month’s article was meant to be on CD ROM drives but I was seduced by the games. A special ‘thank you’ to my director for turning a blind eye and deaf ear to my ‘research’. If I get through the last level of ‘Rebel Assault’ I should have some detail on CD ROM drives next month.

Dave Sainsbury

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EMAIL: david.sainsbury”AT”adelaide.edu.au  Last Update:02/05/2005


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