Early 80s games, and their huge influence on my (non-IT) career
I was never in the “gaming scene” or “gaming culture” as such. I was never a member of a software-swapping “club” nor did I spend many night and weekends gaming with my peers.
Unlike many retro-gaming enthusiasts, who remember the games of their school and teenage years, by the time I got my first computer (the Dick Smith System 80) I was already 23, married and hard at work. Not only was it a great hobby machine, but also useful for work in terms of word processing and stats analysis in my job as a agricultural researcher. Word processing was unheard of and at that time all stats were done on the mainframe at my company, and the university I was soon to work at. People were amazed!
However, I did play games. I enjoyed the clunky arcade games on the System 80 as a way to de-stress. The games I enjoyed the most were the Scott Adams adventure games and games like ZORK. In fact I was able to involve my whole extended family (mother, father, sisters, brothers) in solving these puzzles even though they lived in different parts of the country! Some we did as a team, even calling long distance to share a clue or possible way forward (e.g. “Have you tried feeding the beef jerky to the starving rats?”) Once I had a week’s leave and spent the whole week trying (with 97% success) to get through ZORK; that’s how much it grabbed me.
Games on micros spilt over to my work, where I designed and wrote several teaching games I used in my undergraduate classes. My specialty is plant protection, and most of the games involved some modelling and decision making. The experiences with Adventure games also had a big influence, and I designed and build an “adventure type game” to give students practice in diagnosing plant diseases. It was essentially a shell, so I could put lots of crop conditions in there. I sold some of these games internationally.
Anyway, to cut a very long story short, this lead to a ten year period of my academic career focusing on “scenario-based’ learning (using the “adventure game’ approach), software collaboration and academic development in fields much wider than just plant protection. It lead to some large grants, publications and several years as a teaching consultant assisting in other areas of the university.
In the past year I’ve returned to my roots of plant protection, and I’m less active in supporting other faculty. However I still have lessons and assignments that use “active learning” and an adventure game approach. Those old early 80’s adventure games lead to career adventures of my own!