The 80s marked one of the first generations of kids to be raised with easy access to pop culture. The movie industry was in a heyday with blockbuster after blockbuster, cable and satellite TV was infiltrating the masses and video games were beginning their invasion into living rooms.
Almost everyone who started playing video games in those days remembers THEIR first game. Not the second hand Atari or the old Commodore 64 and Space Invaders, but the first game that they picked out to play. For most kids in 1990 that game was Super Mario or Zelda. For me, it was the Secret of Monkey Island.
I wasn’t lucky enough to get a Nintendo when the boom first hit, but my parents had just purchased a “state of the art” computer (at that time an IBM 286). I can’t quite remember where I’d read about the adventures of pirate wannabe Guybrush Threepwood, but it sounded like fun and I convinced my dad to order it for me. It took a few weeks to get the game, and every time the UPS truck drove by I’d rush to see if the game had arrived. Finally we got the delivery and I tore into the game-only to find they had sent the wrong format of discs. Another painful wait ensued, but it would end up well worth it
When I finally got the game and dug in, I was in love from the opening credit scene. The narrator (in my head of course) opened with “Deep in the Caribbean, the Island of Melee” as the calypso drums kicked in, signaling the beginning of the long journey to become a pirate. Settling into the shoes of Guybrush on his quest to defy logic and become a pirate I knew, even as a kid, that I was experiencing something great. I didn’t know I was missing a few of the jokes or what a couple of things meant, but I had a blast playing.
My experience with Monkey Island lead me on to play almost all the other adventure games LucasArts offered. I journeyed through two quests with Indiana Jones, one ripped from the silver screen, one an original story that outdid Crystal Skull by a mile. I traveled into space and to distant galaxies with The Dig, a game that only came about because Spielberg couldn’t afford to turn it into a movie. I took the role of an outlaw biker and exposed a conspiracy in Full Throttle. And I almost helped Manny escape the Land of the Dead in Grim Fandango (damn computer crashes). And of course I accompanied Guybrush on all of his other adventures, some epic, some far from.
What I didn’t know at the time was that I was developing a very high standard for games. Yeah, my LucasArts games didn’t always have state of the art graphics or mind blowing sound, but the experience they crafted was hard to match. They asked less of one’s reflexes, and more of the ability to reason, even if that reason was tinged with a bit of lunacy.
I eventually got a Nintendo, and have continued on down the console line. But looking back it’s hard to remember a Nintendo game that grabbed me like those LucasArts adventures did. I’m glad to see a few developers have picked picked up the torch of a thinking man’s game, but it’s hard to match a Guybrush Threepwood.