Ben Szymanski

Software Engineer • πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ & 🐊

The nationwide lockdown has resulted in some of my friends wanting to play online video games with me. I'm not much of a gamer. I never really liked console systems, with one exception that the Super Monkey Ball games on GameCube were good. From what I saw, the Kingdom Hearts series on PS2 was also good for its time, however I didn't play any of those.

I think the thing with console systems are the controllers. I hate all of them. Using a game console controller feels as miserable as it is for me to pick up a guitar when I have been trained on piano on and off again since I was in 2nd grade. Keyboards and mice have always felt very natural to my hands.

The other part is that my parents didn't allow game consoles in the house, and if I went to a friends house who had them, I was always incredibly behind the curve to such a point that playing was not fun. I usually wanted to go on a bike ride through the golf course at the far end of the neighborhood (shhhhh!) instead of dealing with that.

When I was younger, I did play PC games though. We were allowed to do that a few hours during the week and on the weekend. Though most people who know me today see me as a try-hard, I used to play games and be a gamer.

A discussion about this came up today and I started to recall what I used to play. I still have the discs for most of these and could run them on retro hardware.

Titanic: Adventure Out of Time

Titantic: Adventure out of time

This game was a real challenge for a pre-teen/barely teenager. It's a point-and-click adventure game that takes you through a virtual reconstruction of the Titanic. In the game you are a British agent who is exploring the ship and solving various tasks for your handler and other high-society randos around the ship. There are several intriguing plot lines that you can optionally take part in, all of which determine your fate 30 years later, during the height of WWII. Winning isn't so clearly defined in this game, it's more of a challenge to see how many of the plot lines you can complete.



This game is almost an entirely complete follow up to The Lost World (Jurassic Park) movie.

You start as a lady who has survived a plane crash in the tropics and are stranded on the island John Hammond set up as Site B. You get to explore an apocalyptic Site B that was abandoned after InGen filed Chapter 11. Of course there are insane dinosaurs running around, and you'll have to protect yourself with whatever guns are leftover from the forced evacuation of the island.

The story line is great. It's way better than The Lost World was as a movie. Getting to explore Site B, the town through the research center, the rich tropical forests is a ton of fun. You also get to boot up a Cray XMP super computer.

A retrospective of what happened at Site B and what went wrong is provided to you in voice-overs as you pass key points and interact with the physical environment, by John Hammond (who is played by Richard Attenborough). It's pretty dramatic and a great story overall.

Goosebumps: Escape from Horrorland

Goosebumps: Escape from Horrorland

Remember Goosebumps? The popular Escape from Horrorland book series that I believe were also made into episodes of the TV series also got an accompanying game.

You, along with Lizzy, get sucked into the mystical themepark world of Horrorland. You follow Lizzy through the park to rescue your friends and family from the park's torturous overlord. There's plenty of exploring to do - a spooky run-down colonial town, adventures through the woods, a mummy tomb. There's tons of puzzles to solve too, like turning off the natural gas theatrics that make the town look like it's on fire and the pumpkins (hint: "the scarecrow walks at midnight").

I love the mystical-haunted world. It's very imaginative and almost seems endless.

RollerCoaster Tycoon

RollerCoaster Tycoon

Did you know this game was written entirely in assembly language? Did you know that Microsoft patches modern builds of Windows to be able to still run this beloved game? I haven't tried to run it lately, though I may this weekend.

I did quite well at this game, although I never got beyond the original parks / into the expansion pack parks.

Someone somehow ported this game to iOS, which I bought of course. It's great on airplanes.

Number Munchers

Number Munchers

This is more of an edutainment game. You're provided a rule (Prime Numbers...) and a grid of numbers. Your character traverses the grid and tries to munch the numbers without getting munched by other creatures. I have to say that this game was actually really helpful in helping me learn math rules (prime numbers) and get much faster at recognizing multiples, factorials and exponential numbers. I think about recreating it because IMO it should exist for another generation of students. It was great.

One thing that strikes me as odd is that we had all of these wonderful games and digital learning materials and tools back when a desktop computer cost baseline $2k+ and were extremely limited in deployment. Here today, 1:1 programs have made technology ever more accessible to the entire student population, yet none of this stuff exists for these students. As far as I can tell, iPads and Chromebooks are being used to access Blackboard and Google Docs. Pretty lame.

I may eventually give into the peer pressure and play these shooter and racing games that my friends want me to play, even if just in a few short bursts. But I really wish there were more games like the above that I could play today. Especially games like Titanic, which I think are more well-suited for adults than children and teens.

Proudly powered by Pelican, which takes great advantage of Python.