I have fond memories of playing computer games on the Amiga 500. Trying to learn programming all by myself. Nowadays, programming is something I do daily, but it does not have the same appeal. Gaming I don't do as often however. I do not know why. Lack of time, and also a lack of good stories I think. It was always the stories for me. That is why I learned how to program. To tell stories. More than the graphics.
Last week I did however play a game. I played it from start to finish in two evenings. Captivated. Not that it is that long, but it is very entertaining.
It is called Digital: a love story , and is available for free under a CC license for Linux, Windows and Mac OS. It is "set 5 minutes into the future of 1988" and it does in some magical way capture just the feeling computer had for me back then. All of it is set on the Amie Workbench, intentionally very similar to Amiga Workbench 1.3. I saw the mouse pointer and a big wave of nostalgia swept over me. Then came the chip tune music.
Still the best thing is the simple but sweet story. It is an adventure game where you start your new Amie computer for the first time and find out that you can log into BBSes (Buletin Board Systems; Wikipedia link if you weren't around back then). So you phone up a system (in game), and you can read messages from other users on the BBS.
I spent a few minutes in that sea of nostalgia reading the few messages I saw on the first BBS, recognizing the language and the style, wishing the world could be like that again. Replying (this is easy, just click reply. The game mechanics acts as if you wrote something fitting into the story) and poking around. Then I got some replies to my replies, and a very nice little story was unfolding.
Christine Love, who wrote Digital, has gotten the language of the posts very time-typical of computer systems of the late 80ies and early 90ies, and it does convey a feeling that I have not had in years. A memory of when computers were somehow still mysterious and exciting. When there were still things to know and figure out. Not only the text is well researched and have the right tone. Also the game itself, and how it plays fits well into the time. There are some repetitive tasks, such as typing in the phone numbers of the BBSes and logging in that logically did not have to be there, but that remind me so very much about how games and systems were back then. They must have been planned!
Well, I know I am on a nostalgia trip. But seriously, what I like the most about Digital: a love story is that even though the game is simple the story itself is captivating and shows that you do not need a lot of fancy graphics and a huge team of developers to construct possibly one of the best games of the year.