by Jason Wilson
By 1987, I was a dedicated gamer. Several consoles littered the Wilson home, along with some old computers (a Tandy, an Apple II, and some nameless IBM compatible).
I gamed on all of these machines, and while I have fond memories of all of them, the Apple IIGS was special. At the time, the Apple IIGSwas the hottest system out there. It could display more colours than any other machine, making it a wonderful computer for games. It had a graphical user interface, one I felt was superior than the black-and-white U.I. of the first Macintosh. It was one of the first 16-bit systems. And it had a synthesizer chip that KO’d the sound quality of any other PC or gaming system.
And it was mine. Well, OK–technically, it was my mother’s. But the man my father purchased it from was also a gamer, and it came with some of the best IIGS games, including three that remain among my all-time favourites: Pirates! (yes, Sid Meier has been making games forever), The Bard’s Tale, and Dungeon Master. In addition to these games, we could play all of our old Apple II games, like the King’s Quest series.
I spent hours playing games on that Apple IIGS. I beat The Bard’s Tale countless times with all sorts of party builds. The Bard’s Tale was on other systems, but it was at its best on the IIGS. Not only did it have the best visuals of any of its brethren, it had the best music–the IIGS’s sound tech made it sound like actual instruments were playing the bard’s music, especially the song played on the drum. When you encountered monsters, they had real animations; you could see distinct scales on the dragons, puss dropping from zombies and other undead monstrosities. How I miss plotting out its maps on graph paper.
I nearly went crazy trying to solve Dungeon Master, a groundbreaking RPG that ditched text commands and turn-based battles for real-time combat and mouse control over your characters and items in the dungeon. I once made my younger brother cry with a hard-as-balls scenario I made in the Adventure Construction Set, a game that not only let me torture my brother but also helped foster my love of writing. And the IIGS was my first encounter with a then-young gamemaker named Sid Meier, whose Pirates! is one of the greatest games from the ‘80s (and, again, looked, sounded, and played better on a IIGS). This was my brother’s Bard’s Tale, the game that hooked him on computer gaming. Thanks to these games, the IIGS is the machine, more than any other at the time that fostered my love of role-playing games.
We had the machine set up in the family room, right below a window that looked out on the street. The best (and considerably cute) friend, Jenny, of one of the neighbour kids would walk by frequently, and at school, she would mention seeing me in the window, engrossed in something on the computer (and how cute I looked while totally engrossed). It turned out to be a great icebreaker that helped foster a friendship. That was when I discovered that technology could bring people together, not isolate them as feared (and as we know, Jobs’ later achievements at Apple involved technology that has brought the world together).
And even if gaming didn’t flourish on the Macintosh the way it had on the Apple II series, Jobs and his creations have left an indelible mark on gaming, first establishing computer gaming in the home and later establishing gaming on our phones and tablets. But when I think back on Jobs and his legacy on the evening of his death, I don’t think first of the iPhone, the iPad, or even the Macintosh. I think about the Apple IIGS, of Mangar’s Tower in The Bard’s Tale, of the nasty rock creatures in Dungeon Master, of my brother’s tears, and the cute smile of a young woman, and how all of this made it my favourite gaming machine of all time.
Thank you, Steve.
Jason Wilson is a writer for GamePro (online)