Becoming a Gamer – My Brief History #2

I believe the term “gamer” is relatively new and while playing computer games has been part of my life since the mid-eighties, I have never thought of myself as a “gamer”. First, I am sure the term has not been widely used until recently (checking Wikipedia, the term is known since 1422 so I may be wrong, but perhaps it is only with the recent mainstream focus on eSports (outside Korea) that usage has spread), second, I have suffered from a misconception that being a “gamer” is mostly a young man’s game, mainly for those a strongly focused enthusiasm…

Actually, one reason for starting this series of posts is that I finally realized (accepted) that the label applies to me as well, just as much as I am a gardener because I tend a garden and I am an aquarist because I keep an aquarium. I play, ergo gamer.

My brief history of gaming #2 – Next was Amiga

In 1990 I upgraded and replaced my Commodore 64 with an Amiga 500. The natural upgrade path at the time if you were on the Commodore track, at least if you hadn’t passed by the Commodore 128 along the way. I didn’t and I know very few who did and they all booted directly to C64 mode anyway.

So I got the Amiga and wasn’t really blown away. “of course”, you might say with the eyes of today – switching to a 3 year old model must be underwhelming, but coming from an 8 year old model, by today’s standard you would expect more? It would be like upgrading from an iPhone 5 to iPhone 8. Or, if you into Android, from a Galaxy S3 to S8 or A5 (2017). I never had an iPhone, but I tried both Galaxies, only recently having had to replace the absolutely adequate if unspectacular A5. “absolutely adequate if unspectacular” probably describes my A500 experience pretty well.

I had the A500 for 3 years and what I primarily remember or for is my first run at serious computing, doing both text processing for school (Kind Words” on a CRT screen) and my first database to keep track of Ultima V npc conversations. The Amiga was actually the place where I finished Ultima V (yes!) and a couple of SSI gold box games.

This may be unfair statement, but I don’t recall the Amiga as revolutionizing gaming (and my viewpoint is certainly based far from the main industry and press). Of course graphics improved, but I don’t think gameplay changed notably. To me the A500 is more memorable as a transitional platform at the time: if you needed powerful machine in 1990 and the budget was tight, then it was a viable solution. Also, who had foreseen Commodore crashing and the boring PC being Doom-ed suddenly to become much more soon after. I’ll get back to that in future posts.

Memorable games

My list of memorable Amiga games is surprisingly short. It is not that I kept playing on the C64 because I sold that one, instead it must be that I simply played less. My Amiga years cover my age between 15 and 19 years old and I am happy to have made that discovery! As a teenager I must, after all, have been into school and friends.

  • Ultima V: I finally completed this excellent game
  • SSI Gold Box Games: Curse of Azure Bonds and Champions of Krynn (maybe Deathknights too): Some fine Dungeons and Dragons Games
  • Sidewinder: My favorite Amiga shoot’m’up
  • Millennium 2.2 and Deuteros: Two resource management and exploration games, the later a sequel of the former. Actually, this type of game may have something new on the Amiga and they were great to play.
  • Logical: A fine puzzle game and something I hadn’t seen before either (there is a C64 vrsion, but I nver played it). Googling around I am happy to see several remakes/clones around for PC : )

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The sun setting over Riga Airport.

Related posts

Thoughts of Games – My Brief History #1

How to say Goodbye at Work

I am changing jobs this weekend and so it has been a week of goodbyes (with an exciting week of hellos coming, I’m sure).

Leaving a place you have worked for almost 10 years is pretty big, so saying a proper farewell to the colleagues with who I have worked closely for so long is important to me, and therefore I also spent some time thinking about the best exit speech to use in various situations. And since this job change has been coming for some time, I have also had time to think about the best possible lines to say/write.

First of all there has times when I just wanted to slam the door or call in sick a few days before my final workday and let that be it, but while that may be satisfying in the very moment you do it, that would be such a waste of opportunity and I am sure I would spend years afterwards wishing I had said something clever instead. For example, when a colleague of mine picked a shorter straw in a rightsizing exercise, he demonstrated some greatness of mind by stating “this was not the promotion I had hoped for” – not bad in such a moment, and much better to be remembered for, instead of just being the angry guy (even when it is justified, and I have been there too) or the guy who didn’t care about the friends form work. I don’t think there is  a “do nothing option”, even if you don’t feel like saying anything. People do notice and whatever you may think, there is almost always someone that care.

Starting from nothing there is a wide spectrum of things to do instead. My job is pretty straightforward with limited drama and absolutely no public interest, so there will never be epic poems, roman à clef‘s or Netflix series written about it (and we already have Dilbert and ‘The Office‘ in two incarnations to cover most of the general absurdity of office and IT work), so a few, well selected lines is what it should be, and it is tempting to look for a good quote to either use straight out of the box, quote to paraphrase for extra impact with the initiated and sometime just to be heavily inspired by.

Quotes, however, come with issues. I.e., quotes have context. So even if the words are cool, then the entire thing will fall flat if the recipients don’t know where it is taken from and what it originally meant, unless is is great enough to stand without its source.

Consider “hasta la vista, baby!” which quotes Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Terminator 2 – Judgement Day”. The movie is from 1991 and you can no longer count on people around you having seen it, so the line may make little sense. However, to those who know the source, the undertone of impending violence make this line problematic as well. Saying something like that to people, will make them wonder what do you actually mean?? The same goes for “I’ll be back“. Very Terminator, not a nice promise to make to those who gets the line and pointless to everyone else.

Or the conversation that includes the excellent line: “This conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye.” It doesn’t end well for the entity who said it in 2001 A Space Odyssey.

so long and thanks for all the fish” – if you are familiar with the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy you will recognize this as the last goodbye from the Dolphins just before Earths destruction to make way for a bypass. To everyone else it must be gibberish and just seem arrogant. To the few initiated, it will it is nicely nerdy, but most likely arrogant as well (noting that the book makes a point out of Dolphins being more clever than humans). I actually used that greeting once myself, happily intending to be slightly nerdy and slightly arrogant; probably the greeting just landed me in a “meh” bucket and I was forgotten so much faster. I didn’t appreciated that at the time, but thinking back, I would have said something else.

“this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship” – is also a great line, the very last from Casablanca – a movie with an absolutely marvelous script and it is hard to resist borrowing good lines if they fit. But then again – the context of exiles and expatriates in Morocco during World War 2’s Vichy regime should be used with care.

For a while I was inspired by Rutger Hauer’s final words in Blade Runner, though I might have changed the original “time to die” into “time to leave”. I even tested it out at a small reception held in my honor, with fair results (speaking face to face with a small group allows you to make adjustment to the presentation) and I considered this:

We have seen things that others would not believe
Great things, small things, things best forgotten. Even C-beams glittering in the dark.
Because we remember now, none of this will be lost in time (like tears in the rain).
Time to leave.

Interesting salute if you know the background, but once more the context problematic (no spoilers though : ). Also, a reference to ships on fire would actually be bad taste in my particular case.

So while to the initiated, a quote immediately call on imagery from great movies, with great characters saying great things, but even then the context of the movie won’t fit well with the present situation and leaving with a quote is only good if the quote can stand for itself, since you can’t rely on people knowing the source of the quote (or even that it is a quote).

This is what I wrote in the end:

Dear Colleagues (current and former)

Today was my last day working for the company after almost 10 years.

Thanks you all for the time we have shared together and great stuff we achieved.

I wish you all the best going forward.

Best regards,
Allan

Not the most brilliant or most exciting perhaps, but no one will even suspect hidden meanings or symbolism, and I am pretty sure that I or anyone I know will never be embarrassed by it.

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Very apropos the topic of the post, the featured image is a sunset, the photo taken this summer in Thy, Northern Jutland. Such beautiful light up there.

Thoughts of Games – My Brief History #1

I just made my first game Steam purchase purchase in 2019. For mid-August that is quite unusual, because ever since joining Steam in 2012 (Skyrim was first), I have accumulated games at a steady pace, in particular during the various sales events up to a point close to the GAMBLE state (i.e., Games AMassed Beyond Life Expectancy). Now it seems that I have stopped buying. Partly, I am sure, because I realized that spending money on games I will never play is sort of silly, and whatever game I am interested in, it will always come on sale again, and buying one game that I play at full price is a better deal than buying 4 games at 50% of that I won’t play. However, to fair to myself, I have been aware of this fact for a while, but maybe I just couldn’t stop just kept collecting stuff, like all the Beamdog remakes of Infinity engine games (which I probably won’t play anyway, but I already own them on CD/DVD and played through them and AD&D 2nd Edition hasn’t aged that well, but I still bought them once more). But partly also – I believe – because now I am actually playing something specific, instead of thinking about all the games that I might play if only I had/took the time to do it. And that is great!

And there is always another Steam/GOG/Epic/Ubi/Origin/Humble Store sale coming…

And whatever I do, there will never be a complete collection of remastered infinity engine games, because the Icewind Dale II source code seems to be lost forever

Now, speaking of games, why not share my story of gaming?

My brief history of gaming #1 – It began with the C64

Well, it actually began with the few arcade machines that stood around the town where I grew up. One in the hallway of the sports center had games like Scramble, Bomb Jack and Buzzard; from the grillbar I remember Ladybug, Xevious, Xain’d Sleena, Silk Worm and Flying Shark. All very exiting and very expensive for a pre-teen (sadly, I never excelled in any of those games). After seeing a friend’s Commodore 64 I quickly calculated what an excellent return I would have on that investment and started saving up (Sunday newspapers..). In March 1986 I got the machine and Press[ed] Play on Tape for the first time. I had the C64 until 1990.

I learned BASIC (yes : ) programming on the C64 and briefly saw the desktop future in GEOS, but it was mostly playing games and sharing that excitement with friends that I did. It was a great time and it is fun to think back on the friends and the games we used to play and which, it turns out, formed me as a gamer.

The RPGs

  • Wasteland, many times over and over until I found Base Corchise and could finish what I started.
  • Ultima V, though a broken floppy disk stopped my progress. I handed the game back to the store and got the Gold Box Champions of Krynn instead. I eventually finished Ultima V on Amiga.
  • Bards Tale 3 (maps, maps and maps on checkered paper) and Dragon Wars (built-in discovable maps, pretty cool

The Shoot’m’ups

These games that originally drew me to home computers. Many enhanced the shooting gameplay with excellent music. Xevious was underwhelming, but several games I rememeber fondly:

Other games

Stuff I missed

I never played an Infocom text adventure game; I briefly tried one of the Magnetic Scrolls adventures (probably The Guild of Thieves), but I don’t think I had the necessary language skills or patience at the time to dive in.

Apart from listing games I didn’t play I might also do a section of computers I didn’t own or even try. Being older and wiser now, I would love having had both a ZX81 and a ZX Spectrum (whether I would have loved having them at the time is another matter). I am not so sure about the Amstrad CPC (which I thought would be my first computer for a while, before ending with the C64), whereas the Apple II would have been a natural first step, had I been older. And then there were all the other home computers of the day, many of which that are mostly forgotten now, like Microsoft’s MSX, the Enterprise etc… I’d love to see those in action or at least in a museum.

Afterthoughts

Those were great years of games and computer fun, and I often miss that old machine. Of course, the odds that it would still work after 30+ years are slim, with its datassette and 5¼ floppy drive. And judging how long time I linger whenever I load up a C64 emulator (not long), it is probably fine like that,

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Dark clouds and a newly harvested field close to home; picture taken on a recent afternoon walk.

New Look on the Blog

Here I go again. 

This blog has been a small but persistent frustration for a while, with me not getting as much written as I believe I should to keep the site fresh and alive.

Given that I have some use for a vCard site and none in particular for a blog, one of the points on my 19-for-2019 list (inspired by Gretchen Rubin’s 18-for-2018) was to close down this blog. It took all the time till now to get started on this point, while I tried out a TV series already and got my new jacket in time for the spring (etc).

So, the site has been given a new look, a new home directory (since there is little point in calling it “blog” when it isn’t”and it now opens with a simple “Hi, I am Allan” page. I almost killed the blog as planned, but then I thought it over once more. There are a few posts in here that I refer to myself and a few might be of interest to others as well. It doesn’t cost my anything to have it and I do like the idea of owning my own content – at least the substantial pieces. 

So here I go again. The blog almost abandoned, then given a new lease on life. Until next time and the cycle shall repeat itself.

Featured image

A view of Copenhagen seen from the entrance of the National Gallery of Denmark (=Statens Museum for Kunst – SMK). One of these late summer afternoons where the sky is beautiful and exciting to look at, as long as you are not directly underneath the darkest clouds.

 

Chains (, Block-) and Bands

In December 2017 the value of the blockchain-based bitcoin cryptocurrency peaked, and for a short while everyone seemed to want to do something-something blockchain. It all reminded me of the business plan presented by the South Park gnomes:

  1. Steal underpants
  2. ??
  3. Profit

with Cartman’s underpants replaced by the addition of blockchain to whatever the company’s  product was. For example HTC’s ‘Exodus’ blockchain phone.

Since then the blockchain technology seems to have passed the Peak of Inflated Expectations and are now sliding down in the Through of Disillusionment, the value of bitcoin sliding with it, now at 1/3 of the peak value. This is not to say that all business plans involving blockchain are bad, I am just suggesting that not all of them may survive the trip up to the Plateau of Productivity.

I have become an insider also, working myself on a blockchain related project, where the blockchain itself is just a small part of the solution (but of curse a selling point), but the internal logistics of the solution what makes it interesting.  Time will tell whether blockchain will eventually be the silver bullet that proponents claim, or if it is really just a solution in search of a problem.

MI Band Update

Since January I have been in an on/off relationship with my MI (2) fitness band. Getting a good understanding of my daily moves has been interesting and it has been a good way to remind myself to have a healthy day. However, the MI Band just isn’t that charming an accessory and it doesn’t work as a wrist watch either -in particular not on a sunlit day. An analog watch-face is hard to beat.

Having realized that, I briefly tried a combination of devices, using Google Fit as the consolidator: Wear the MI bank at home/off work in situations where I would neither wear my wristwatch or my phone, then use my phone(s) as step counter when moving around especially at work. That  setup didn’t even last for a day – after walking 10,000+ steps during the day, I came home, connected the MI Band and whOOP! The step count was back at 500-some. Not good and since then the band has been off. I can live without each and every step I take being registered.

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A witch-hazel in fall colors.