Plenty of the video games of my youth have lived on, with or without their brand franchise. Zelda and Metroid were the only two TV-based titles I enjoyed, and both have persisted and been well-copied. In high school we played a lot of Mac Risk, and that genre has certainly flourished.


Solar Realms Elite and Trade Wars, though, still exist but have faded into obscurity. It could be said that some MMORPGs (in particular EVE Online) have taken up that torch, but I’m not convinced. The evolution has been towards greater UI complexity, and the soul of these turn-based builders was in the simple, rhythmic nature of the maintenance loop. The zen of cow clicking with the brain crack of territory expansion. I’m sure this genre lives on somewhere, but I cannot find a well-designed iPhone derivative for spare time empire building.


Dan Gorlin’s Choplifter has been successfully revived, but Airheart is the one that blew me away in 1986. Not just because of it’s amazing pseudo-3D graphics (560x192 pixels! 16 colors!) and smooth gameplay with an analog joystick. It was one of those games that sucked you in and made you lean in your chair while you worried about completing your mission. Especially with the tunnels and islands Gorlin originally intended, this would be a great accelerometer-controlled game.


And I have to mention Bill Budge’s Pinball Construction Set. A fine example of simulation-building accessible enough to bring basic procedural literacy to many. It wasn’t my gateway to programming, but I knew others who picked up Applesoft BASIC to satisfy creative urges initated with PCS.

I posted this in March 2012 during week 1986.

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