The One Game That Changed My Life…


Growing up as a young boy on a farm we had plenty to do outdoors. This didn’t keep me away from our brand new Compaq Deskpro 386n (SX-16 with 3MB of memory) though.

My Dad brought this beauty home one day and my mind was blown from that day forward. Coming from a Commodore 64, this baby was a Cadillac. Turning it on for the first time, watching Windows 3.1 boot up and spending hours looking at all the programs; all the buttons; all the flying toasters, Tetris, Ski Free, Paint. I couldn’t get enough.

It’s not a Game Boy!” my dad would yell into the office, after my homework was taking just a little longer than it should have. He likely would have compared it to an NES, but we didn’t have one of those.

After about 6 months of learning more every day, getting on bulletin boards, Prodigy and the like, I had stumbled across a few random shareware games here and there but then our neighbors brought this blue box over one day and, after we went through the install and fired it up, my perspective completely changed again.

King’s Quest V, Absence Makes The Heart Go Yonder!

I’m not saying this is the best game ever, or even the best adventure game- but to me, only months after being stuck with Q-Bert using a controller that barely worked on an 8-bit palette, I couldn’t believe it. So much to explore, so many ways to die. What do I spend this coin on? How the heck am I supposed to find the golden needle? look at these graphics! I was immersed. I only wish my mom had been video taping me once I finally got that needle!

By far, one of my favorite parts of the game is the music. We didn’t start out with a sound card, but once we finally outfitted the 386 with a Sound Blaster 16 and a CD-ROM drive (an external, since the Deskpro 386n didn’t have a 5.25″ bay), it was time for a full replay with the CD version of the game and… well, my mind was blown all over again. Having a bit of musical inclination from a young age, it made the whole game new again for me and I continue to replay it at least yearly to this day.

According to some, King’s Quest V may have some pretty hit-or-miss puzzle design. At the same time though, it wasn’t predictable by any means. It urged me to have to think outside the box- something that’s stuck with me to this day in my every day life and even when playing other games. Something I likely wouldn’t have gained by just playing side scrollers, or Super Off Road all day long like my lucky friends who did have an NES did.

This way of thinking has gone into my projects that I work on. For example- when I walk into a hardware store and see a ‘bracket’, or any other item, some may say “this bracket was designed for one thing and one thing only”… no… It’s a piece of metal that can be used for whatever you need it for. I’m sure if King Graham had a bow and arrow for that yeti, it would have taken care of the problem, but he didn’t… he had a pie (that is, if he hadn’t eaten it already).

All that being said, adventure gaming for me as a generation x-er, when computer gaming was at its peak and helped children’s minds develop and grow, was invaluable, both then and now.

And it all started with 8 floppy disks and “Not a Game Boy!”


One of my favorite memories was playing King’s Quest V with my five-year-old daughter recently. We played it together as if I had never yet seen it or played it too and she was amazing at figuring out the puzzles and brainstorming together and trying different things (even though it inevitably ended up in Graham dying several times, as expected). It was the perfect opportunity to get her well-practiced on the golden rule of gaming- Save always! Save often!

 

So, thank you to Sierra Online; to Ken & Roberta Williams, to the music team who brought so much more life into an already great adventure, but mostly to my late father who, even though he would’ve never admitted it, liked the games just as much as I did. What, you think I bought that Q-Bert and cheap controller?

 

This one is worth checking out and segues perfectly into King’s Quest VI, Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow.

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