Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Ten Video Games that I grew up with

There have been lots of posts going around in Facebook recently claiming that we, those of us who are in our twenties at this point of time, are the luckiest generation ever. the posts reason that we have had the best of most things, and we have seen a lot in our short lifetime already. I had mentioned in a previous post that every generation probably thinks it is the best to ever have set foot on this planet. But, the circulating status messages may have an iota of truth to them, considering that we have seen the advent and demise of many things in our short lifetime. I remember a time when the house at my native place Trichy was the only one I knew with a landline connection, and I still remember the phone number. We have come a long way since then, especially in electronics.
When I see the variety and detail in video games today, I never cease to be amazed. Though not an ardent gamer, I do try my hand at a few of them at times. Whenever I do, I get a feeling that even though the games I grew up playing had much poorer graphics, they were better in many ways. Gamers of today might disagree with me, but for someone who often gets satisfied by the simpler things in life, the games of the yore were more charming and addictive. I have listed 10 games that I found most addictive as I grew up, and I still find them so. Most of these games had a very simple concept, but still managed to engage us for hours.

1) Brick Video Game - Cars
I apologise for the not-so-catchy-sounding title, but if you stretch your memory a litttle, you will remember that hand-held games we grew up with did not have names. They had numbers, and in my own device, the car games were numbered B1 to B4. The concept was simple. You are riding a car in what can be imagined as a two lane highway. The only aim of the game is that you should not crash with the cars coming in the oppsite direction. Yet, this game was completely engrossing. I remember starting with level 1, where the car would move slowly, and the speed would get increased as we gather more speed. In case I stirred your nostalgia a little, have a look at this video

2) Super Mario
I am sure this is up high on everyone's list. I won't waste time by trying to describe with my limited vocabulary the beauty of this most famous game ever. I was introduced to this game by a next door neighbor when I was a kid, and I remember her laughing at my ability to understand the complex maneuver of jumping over a pit. A few years later, a boy at my apartments taught me a few shortcuts involving pipes and creepers to reach level 8.1 quickly. He was struggling to finish this level within the stipulated time limit. It took a long time before we discovered by chance that Mario could not only walk, but he could also run. Our joy knew no bounds when we were finally able to conquer level 8.4 and save the Princess. I am not sure if anyone can make a game to equal this one.

3) Kung Fu
This was one of my favorites, simply because I was good at it. With simply 5 villains, each with unique style, this game guarantees fun. I remember a partnership ship I had with my flatmates, where we would play alternate chances each. Playing the last chance, I kept on defeating Wang, Tao, Chen, Lang, and Mu for a long time, until I was finally beaten by Lang, the toughest opponent of the lot. Never let Wang get close enough to you, and never let Chen move far enough. Jump on the walls, and kick Tao on the rebound, ahh, as I am writing this, my hands are itching to play this game again.

4) Commondos - Behind the enemy line
I saw this game for the first time when a school mate took me to a browsing centre, and explained its virtues. It was a game perfectly suited for me. A very slow, stealthy game, it requires laying down elaborate strategies to complete the 20 levels. I have been able to reach only upto level 16 of this game, and one of these days, I will try completing the remaining 4. There is also a newer version of Commondos (Commondos 3) that has great graphics, but still retains the essence of the older version.  In an unforgettable stage in the original version, you have only Green Berret and Spy to try and destroy an air-plane at the other end of a mountain. You need to navigate your way through numerous minefields, and packs of Germans before you can complete the objective. Commondos is probably my most favorite PC game.

5) Age of Empires
I discovered this game along with a couple of my cousins, and we were awed by the concept. We first played a demo version which was extremely difficult. The campaign we played was called Battle of Kadesh and our empire was simply given three villagers, and minimal resources. Even before we could start developing the empire, red coloured militias will storm into our empire and slay unsuspecting villagers. My cousins and I sat together, and framed an elaborate strategy to ward of the attackers, slowly build a great defense, and then start a cautious attack. We were so engrossed by the game that while returning from my cousins house, we would point at things around us at the railway station, and pass silly remarks such as "mine here for gold". The next version of the game, The Age of Conquerors was great too, but the subsequent versions lost the charm of the older versions. Personally, my favorite characters were the Teutonic Knights, Monks, and Elephants.

6) EA Cricket
I have always had a fascination for cricket games, and EA Cricket is here purely because it is one of the very few cricket games in market. The very idea of creating my teams, setting fields, captaining a side excited the cricket fanatic in me, and I have spent a numerous hours playing this game. Despite the fact that it is a very monotonous game, I play it occasionally even today, and I have issued a stern warning to my brother against uninstalling it.

7) Snake xenzia
This was a game that originated from a less interesting version in Brick video game. Snake is believed by many to be the best cell-phone game before the advent of touch phones. I preferred snake xenzia because it was a little faster, and the snake looks more, err, snake-like. During my first year in college, I had competitions with my cousin who visited Trichy frequently, and we would break each other's high score record. We even discussed strategies to master this game.

8) Stick Cricket
The best cricket game ever, its only drawback being that the game is very fast paced. We discovered the game in the first year of our undergraduate. The game had just been released, and was too young to be blocked by the proxy servers in our college. The game demands outrageous required rates, and makes us keep pace witch such run rates. My current week has been occupied by attempting to chase 450 odd runs in 20 overs against a Pakistan bowling attack filled with variety. I am also trying to master the android version of the game. Stick Cricket is so close to my heart that I had half-written a silly post about it during the third year of my college. It still lays unpublished in my drafts.

9) Table Tennis
I discovered this game when I got a laptop during the beginning of the second year at my college. A simple flash game played only using mouse, I have always had the feeling that this game is a very useful stress buster. Whenever I felt down, I would have a go at this game. Numerous hours, which I labelled as breaks,  before my exams were spent playing this game.

10) Johny Crash does Texas
I came across this game in a friend's Sony Ericson mobile in my third year. The game simply involves flying and crashing at random objects, and meeting a specific target. It seems simple, but mastering the game requires quite a lot of practice, skill and luck. A game that can be played using a single button, it is another instance of a very simple idea turning out into an addictive game.

I have tried arranging the 10 games in the order I started playing them. I might have missed quite a few games, but these were the first 10 that occurred to my mind, and hence these must be my most favorite. Just to list a few more interesting games - Tank (Brick video game),Pacman (PC,a delightful game), Duck Hunt (TV Video game),  Galaxian (TV), Loderunner(TV), Bomber Man(TV), Road Rash(PC), Bonkheads(PC), L A Noire (x-box), Red Dead Redemption (x-box). Do let me know if I have missed a few more. Right now, I will be off to try and score three consecutive sixers of an off-spinner in stick cricket.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Impatient Indian

The greatest thing about reading books is that they transport you to a place far far away. One such book, that had a great impact on me as I read it was The Sicilian.  Written by Mario Puzo, the author more famously known for his Godfather series, The Sicilian is a side story to The Godfather. It describes the events in Sicily, when Michael Corleone is spending a four year exile. The protagonist of The Sicilian is not Michael Corleone himself, but Salvatore "Turi" Guiliano.

Turi is an intriguing character. For the first 20 years of his life,  he lives the life of a normal, sweet, and loved-by-all kid, who is over-shadowed by his more dominant friend Pisciotta. But when confronted with a challenge to his principles, he stands up for what he believes in, and ends up murdering a caribinieri. This incident leaves a mark on his life, and his hidden characterestics of dominance, fearlessness, and decision-making surface, soon converting him into a dreaded bandit. A good writer etches the characters of the novel so well that each reader will relate with the characters of the novel. Reading The Sicilian, I likened myself to Turi, and imagined myself as some one who is usually calm, but will stand up when a principle I believe in is threatened. I was of course cushioned by the fact that living in a democratic country like India, I may never face such a situation. I was sub-consciously convinced that revolutions occur only in fiction, or in History text books.

But then, looking at the events of the past two years, my assumption that I will not have to put my secret fantasy to test was proved wrong time and again. There have been so many people who have stood for what they believe in the past two years that TIME's person of the year for 2011 was 'The Protestor'. These protests were not restricted to far-off places that hold no importance to us, a few of them were at our own home. There are indications that people around us have much more to protest, varying from occupy movements for internet freedom to price rise and anti-corruption protests. There are many things to wonder about internet freedom, censorship,price hike and other issues, but I am more concerned about the anti-corruption protests here. Granted, I am about 10 months late in writing this, and there is almost no point in bringing it up now, but I just had to get this out of my mind.

A little more than a year before, the country was hit by continuous reports of  corruption in the Central government, as well as various state governments. From literally nowhere, activist Anna Hazare sprang to the national scene by declaring a hunger strike in protest against corruption. Suddenly, the whole country found a vent for their hidden tendency of activism. People all over the country found a way by which they believed they could really contribute to the society. The protest was so widespread that skeptics were labelled as anti-national. Here was probably the closest opportunity I could probably get to stand up for the country's good. Here was the chance to bring out the "Turi"-like determinism in me. Yet, I chose to sit back, and just watch how it turns out to be, instead of walking to the beach with an "I-love-Anna" cap. My reasoning was very simple, and probably wrong. I will not join the anti-corruption movement until I can follow the traffic signal.

Driving a lot around the city in the past two years, I have realized that the operational traffic rules in the city, and probably the whole country is very simple - never stop when the lights are green. When a signal is red, you can choose what to do. When it is orange, you can choose what to do, albeit you need to do it carefully. The instance a signal is green, you need to to race away, or be subjected to severe abuse from the people behind you. Like this wonderful advertisement says, "we are always in a hurry"

Looking at the alarming number of people who do not care to stop when a signal is red, I took a simple personal oath, that I will never jump a signal. Believe me, this seemingly simple act is extremely difficult. For someone riding a vehicle in the city, the temptation to jump a signal is always there, and I have often succumbed to it. There have been numerous times that I have been abused for stopping when a signal is Red. Just a week back, an aged two-wheeler rider watched me stop at a signal which was red for a long time. He came to me, and whispered "poidunga sir, adhu work aagathu" (Move on sir, the signal doesn't work). Just as he finished saying this, the signal turned green. It is often that we feel we are more mature than a stupid signal post, and are capable of making our own decisions. It is not unreasonable for us to get the impression that all rules in this country are  ill-thought out, made by people with less wisdom than us, and hence cumbersome. In our impatience, we feel it is only right to bend them for our own convenience.

I firmly believe that it is this impatience that leads us to corruption. The desire to get things done fast is manifested into corruption, and from what I have seen, almost all of us have this desire. Corruption is in our genes, and it cannot be eradicated by passing a law against only a certain strata of the society. The irony of the whole Anna Hazare campaign is that Team-Anna, and its supporters have shown this quality of impatience in abundance. They have even went to the extent of trying to blackmail the Government to follow their whims. They need to understand that our country will be free from corruption only if we all are ready for it. They also need to understand that corruption is not the only hindrance to the betterment of our country. There are far more important issues to be concerned about.

So in case you are joining Anna Hazare's fast today I wish you luck. I will not join you, at least not until I can confidently say that I don't jump signals.

Do let me know what you think..