Brant Guillory, 10 August 2023
Wargames were perhaps over-represented as percentage of early home computer games relative to the overall gaming market. One reason was that most arcade game adaptations were found on consoles like the Atari 2600. Another was probably that there was an abundance of wargamers among the early computer nerd crowd, looking to extend their hobby onto the latest digital toys on their desks at home.
So in the early days of external 5-1/4″ floppy disks1 you would order your games from a magazine ad or company catalog and then wait for the games to show up in the mail. Not only that, but those early digital wargamers all pre-dated the current Mac/Windows duopoly (never mind the Linux interlopers!).
Most games could be had for the early Apple II series (IIc/IIe, and later II-GS), or the Atari computer series (400 / 800 / 1200, but not the 2600 console), or the older Commodore series (mostly the C64, but some games could run on the PET or VIC-20, and later the C-128). The 8-bit multi-color graphics were clearly limited, but the very idea of even playing a wargame on a computer enabled the audience to overlook the many, many limitations of the form.
Also, not that while there are plenty of wargames in the ad above, there are other non-wargame strategy games as well. Computer Baseball, and Tournament Golf, and Jupiter Mission 1999, and Standing Stones were sold to the same audiences as Reforger 88, and Dreadnoughts.
So how many of these pre-GUI / pre-Mac / pre-Windows games did you ever play? What was the earliest computer game you played? What was the earliest computer game you purchased, and for what platform?
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In the gaming world of ’80s delight,
Computer wargames took flight,
With pixels and beeps,
Armies clashed in heaps,
Strategies in the pixelated fight.
Low-res graphics and bleeps filled the air,
As generals planned with great care,
From floppy disks they’d run,
Battles ‘neath the digital sun,
Those early wargames had flair.