Tron: Legacy has got me thinking about the original Tron, which in turn has me thinking about the Tron video games. These were, without a doubt, the cutting edge arcade games of my early teendom (early 1980's, God help me). Riding the light cycles in the first version, dueling with the discs in the stand-up, surround sound, booth environment of the second version (Discs of Tron); there was just nothing else like it out there.
So there I am, thinking about video games and it leads me, naturally enough, to ask myself, what was the best video game of my video game-playing lifetime? Granting that I only dabble now and am not up on the firsthand experience of playing most of the contemporary stuff, I will say without any hesitation whatsoever that the best video game of my lifetime was Wasteland. This was a role-playing game set in a post-apocalyptic future in which you play four Desert Rangers in the area in and around a devastated Las Vegas. In 1988, when it first appeared, there were things in it I had never seen before, both content-wise (I believe it was the first game where you could ever engage a prostitute) and concept-wise (for my money, the segment where one of your characters has to enter the cybernetic brain of an enemy and combat him from within using logic and reasoning has yet to be beaten for pure suspense in a video game). Particularly with the massive boom of sword-and-sorcery role-playing games at the time, just the idea of wielding machine guns and energy weapons to take on radiation-mutated rats instead of magic swords to take on goblins was revelatory enough. The level of strategy was something new, as well. One part required you to rescue a kidnapped politician and I eventually found success by posting a sniper at a skylight with one man covering him and having the rest of my party sneak in the back door.
Most of all what I remember was the feeling of isolation, the feeling that I was on my own out there and the missions I took were on behalf of such desperate people that when I would manage to only half-succeed (fairly common in the rather gloomy world of Wasteland), I was utterly devastated. I'm not a particular fan of post-apocalyptic doom, but the closest I've ever come to recapturing that playing experience was in the Fallout series. In any case, as obsolete as it might seem by today's standards, Wasteland left me with a sense of characters that fight on in the face of towering hopelessness that will stick with me forever.
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