A blast from the past
December 29, 2006 12:35 PM   Subscribe

The Usborne Guide to Computer Games 1982 is full of fun ways to make traditional video games more exciting and contains some very accurate predictions.
posted by Bravocharlie (13 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
1. Centipede
2. Wizard of Wor
4. Donkey Kong
6. Pac-Man
8. Pac-Man
9. Space invaders
11. Yar's Revenge?
12. Tempest?
13. ??? Atlantis?
15. ??? Defender?
16. Wizard of Wor
17. Battlezone
posted by Null Pointer and the Exceptions at 12:55 PM on December 29, 2006

For someone writing in 1982, those were amazingly good predictions. They grabbed for the ultimate pie-in-the-sky scenarios, and all of them came true. They got the HOW wrong in one case, long distance gaming, but they were very close on time. They said 'by 2000', and multiplayer gaming was fairly easy and free by 1998 or so. You could do multiplayer long before that, but it was generally either primitive or very expensive, as the commercial games usually required an hourly fee to play.

They had easy, turn-based multiplayer by the late 80s with bulletin board 'door' games, but it's not the same as a live link to someone.

These days, single player games are getting a mite scarce. Quite a shift.

They were particularly good in their 'Battle of Waterloo' prediction. Medieval: Total War let you do almost exactly what they're describing, plus tons more besides. And the 'hand-held gaming' took awhile longer to come true, but the PSP is quite capable of TV-quality display. PSP games, sadly, aren't that good, but the slightly less-advanced Nintendo DS is nearly TV-level and has tons of great games.

You can really hear the age of the article in the 'ultimate gaming' prediction. Quadraphonic sound and laser lighting? Well, okay, we have surround sound for games, but laser lighting? Huh?

(lasers were teh kewl back then :) )

If you youngsters are interested in very recent history, think link is a good illustration of just how primitive computers were and how very recent all this computing richness really is. In 1982, a home computer couldn't play Nethack, much less Spore. :)
posted by Malor at 1:04 PM on December 29, 2006

I love the hand-drawn pictures of pixellated video game screens. That poor illustrator.
posted by phooky at 1:04 PM on December 29, 2006

s/think link/this link/
posted by Malor at 1:05 PM on December 29, 2006

Man I'm such a nerd. At various points in my life I have owned almost all of the games on the cover of that book.
posted by loquacious at 1:08 PM on December 29, 2006

Malor: (lasers were teh kewl back then :) )

Lasers are still cool today. We've added mirrors now. =)
posted by porpoise at 1:51 PM on December 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

Actually, it's funny that the ultimate game is more of a combination of those predictions than anything like what they said it would be. The immersive environment once seemed to be the holy grail of gaming, but it's much more a matter of multiplayer distance gaming with detailed locally stored imagery and the ability to individually control NPCs while the computer "referees". World of Warcraft may not be everyone's cup of tea but in many ways it's the apotheosis of these predictions.
posted by dhartung at 2:21 PM on December 29, 2006

While growing up I loved this series of Usborne books. Their Introduction to Computer Programming book literally introduced me to computer programming and got me to ask my parents for a computer at home. After that, my life was never the same, for the better, I suppose. Thanks, Usborne.
posted by zsazsa at 3:31 PM on December 29, 2006

It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that this book is responsible for a fairly hefty chunk of how my life turned out. Weird.

Even weirder seeing as how when some people say that sort of thing they're talking about the bible.
posted by Luddite at 4:34 PM on December 29, 2006

One of my first favorite books is The Usborne Book of the Future. It's SF, but it's extremely hard SF, and it's written at a very kid-readable level. It was my first introduction to the Daedalus probe, among other things. Excellent stuff. Thanks to the magic of eBay, I have a copy again.
posted by jiawen at 7:47 PM on December 29, 2006

Those Usborne books were fantastic, I had a few growing up - a book of simple BASIC games, one that taught you how to write a text adventure, and another that explained Z80 assembler to 8 year olds (with pictures of robots putting things in filing cabinets to show how memory access worked!)
It's a shame that there doesn't seem to be anything like them around for kids today.
posted by AndrewStephens at 10:46 PM on December 29, 2006

Null Pointer - links no worky.
Wizard of Wor was my first video game

thanks for the link Bravocharlie.
posted by vronsky at 2:16 PM on December 30, 2006

I had that book, and I've often looked back in wonder at how accurate those predictions were (a heckuva lot more accurate than those in other Usborne guides). In particular, the football game scene could be lifted directly out of FIFA 2006, or something in the style...
posted by Skeptic at 5:01 PM on January 2, 2007

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