Thursday, February 9, 2012

My greatest influence

I've been asked "What game made you want to start making your own games?" before. And it's a very good question. After much introspection, I've traced back my love of gaming to a single game that first made me think "I want to make these". That game is Pitfall II: Lost Caverns.

Pitfall II Atari 2600 cartridge

Let me begin by saying that I started playing games in the early 80's. The first games I played were games like Defender, Asteroids, Missile Command and Pac-Man. Even as a young boy, I loved these games but realized that they were all just endless exercises in reflexes that continued until you ran out of lives and your reward was a score. You played and played to achieve higher and higher scores. That was fun, but I felt like I needed something "more".

I remembered when I first played Pitfall! on the Atari 2600... Released a few years before Super Mario Bros., it's the game that introduced me to the side-scrolling platformer (my favorite genre of game). Featuring great gameplay moments like swinging on vines, and jumping on crocodile heads to cross ponds, it was a lot of fun. The only problem with the game, was that, although it wasn't a sci-fi shooter (like many of the other games of the time) it was still just an infinitely long game that continued forever until you ran out of lives. Your goal was still ultimately to just get the highest score possible.

Then one day, I found Pitfall II. Which, incidentally, was the first game sequel I had ever encountered. I noticed that the game played similarly to Pitfall!, but it seemed to feature a larger, more coherent world, not just a single horizontal path. You could descend into caverns and swim in subterranean lakes. But, what I soon discovered, and the thing that changed me forever... the game had an ending.

That "guy" is actually Pitfall Harry's pet mountain lion, Quickclaw

While simple by today's standards, Pitfall II had a narrative (presented entirely in the instruction manual) and a goal: you have to save Rhonda (Pitfall Harry's niece), save Quickclaw (Pitfall Harry's pet mountain lion) and find a priceless Diamond Ring. When you achieve those three objectives, the game ends and you win. The concept of "completing" a game blew my childhood mind!

Suddenly, I realized that videogames weren't just a "toy" or a simple diversion, they were a way of presenting a story. Just like a movie, you could create characters and worlds, only you could let the player experience a story, on their own. I had instantly discovered my greatest passion in life.

That was the exact moment that I knew I wanted to make games.

To any fellow developers out there, what are your biggest influences? Or anyone who just loves games, what game turned you into a lover of games? Let me know in the comments.

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