These are some great stories guys, and I’ve enjoyed reading them. Now, I hope y’all don’t mind if I share some of mine. :)
It was 1986, I was 13, and we had just gotten my first DOS-based computer, a Tandy 1000 EX. This was my second computer – the first being a TRS 80 – and not my first gaming machine, as I owned an Atari 2600, a Vectrex and other machines as well. In the Radio Shack where we purchased the PC, they had a few games, one of which was called Starflight, and I snagged it because it had a neat looking cover. I was a major sci-fi fan and a HUGE Trekkie at the time, so this looked like it might scratch an itch.
I got the PC home and set it all up, inserted one of the low-density 5 1/4 inch floppies into the drive and found myself staring at a Starport with my space-suited avatar in the middle of it. This was intriguing, as I was able to walk around and enter doors and actually affect things like the crew of my ship and our equipment, which was eminently cool. Upon leaving Starport, I then opened the starmap in the game – I hadn’t touched the one in the box yet – and felt my jaw hit the floor. All those colored dots…those were systems…and many of those had planets! I had played games before, sure, but they were all little microcosms of worlds, little snippets of universes. THIS was an entire galaxy opened up in front of me.
I then went to another planet in another system – hyperspace, awesome – and then was able to not only LAND on that planet, but scoot around in a mini rover. I had my own away team! It was here, on a virtual world in a virtual universe with my own virtual crew, that gaming really took a hold of me and hasn’t let go since. It was also here that my love of and desire to play any game with a spaceship in it was born.
I kept exploring, and what felt like a moment had actually been several hours, as I somehow played the game all night without knowing it. I spent every evening and weekend playing the game for months until I finally destroyed that Ulhek brainworld…and then kept playing for weeks more.
A short while later I snagged a copy of Elite and a cheap joystick. The first time I left the space station and was actually able to FLY my spaceship around was…breathtaking. Even with polygonal graphics, my imagination did the rest as I imagined myself in the cockpit of a Cobra Mark III flying between stations, trading, fighting pirates and so much more.
I’ve played many, many games in my time since then, and very few, if any, have been able to recapture the feeling of awe, of freedom, of exploration and discovery that Starflight gave me all those years ago. Even when I load it up today – as I still do from time to time – I’m blown away by the amazingness of its universe. Ever since then I’ve strived to play every game with a spaceship in it, which has led to even more amazing gaming experiences…Wing Commander…X-Wing…Tie Fighter…Freespace 2…and so on. I actually plan to get a tattoo next year with symbols from both of my favorite games, Starflight and Freespace 2, because of the effect they’ve had on me.