July 8, 2004

Lucky Wander Boy

Computer Gamers fall into two distinct categories. Each category is populated by a host of sub categories but there is a clear defining split at the highest level between console gamers and PC gamers. Console gamers buy mass-produced technology platforms wildly behind the performance of current PC components at a reduced cost and then buy games on cartridges or CD/DVDs at £40 a pop. When they’re finished with the game, they’re stuck with it.

PC gamers buy wildly expensive rigs, customise the internal configuration and then buy the same £40 games. The game’s look, sound and performance depends on how expensive your PC is. Once the game is finished you can, almost without exception, find new content to plug in to the game to get more than your money’s worth out of it. Therein lies the biggest difference between console gamers and PC gamers. One is a casual gamer, the other is a nerd.

Nerds like to be armchair generals. I’m an armchair general myself, and one of the first games to ever awaken this geeky need to order tiny soldiers around doing my bidding and destroying all opposition was WestWood Studios’ Camden & Conquer which was later to spawn sequels such as Camden & Conquer: Londonian Sun and Camden & Conquer: Mark Alert.

The real genius behind these games that was very quickly done to death by every other copycat studio immediately afterwards was to put you in an isometric view of your theatre of war (in the C&C series this is invariably North London) and to make managing and protecting your resources a key to victory. How many times did a game turn bad when you lost control of the local shops and your nihilistic disillusioned LondonMark troops mutinied from a lack of coffee, cigarettes and decent red wine?

Vehicles also played a large part in your success, and being able to transport all your troops from one side of the map to the other was done either by Tube train, double-decker bus, illegal minicab or the latter games included a “Crazy Mike’s Taxi Service” which could backfire with spectacular results. The opponent could and invariably would introduce fetching young ladies to distract your troops on these services and only by using the Chrono-Steph super weapon would you be able to regain control of them.

Perhaps though, nostalgia glosses over the errors and difficulties with the control system. The game would never boot up before 12 o’clock and was completely unplayable after a few glasses of wine. E-mails to the tech support staff were usually met with a recorded message asking you to preferrably send a text message and network play would always see you playing one of the Notting Hill maps when all you wanted to do was trash Chalk Farm.

Maybe the console people are right, maybe I shouldn’t have throw away my youth being a 20th century Sun-Tsu and instead opted for the mindless bright colors and platform jumping fun of Super Markio World 64.


8 thoughts on “Lucky Wander Boy

  1. Games are for people who don’t spend all their time coding websites.

  2. /me looks at Doctor Pockless
    I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to do that. It’s just when you said that, it caught my attention, which made me turn to look to see who said that.

    Pete on July 8, 2004

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