Computer games in school
So, the last post was about the sweetest treats I used to enjoy whilst at school but was there anything else as enjoyable? When my friends and I started at Parmiter’s we were introduced to the schools network of RM Nimbus PC-386 and PC-486 computers.
For those of you who don’t know RM, it stood for Research Machines and was a brand predominantly for UK education centres and was typically over priced for what it was. They ran MS-DOS originally but by the time we got to the school the models we started on were Windows 3.1 running the RM Network manager. There was a small amount of software available on each machine with Microsoft Office being the most commonly used. There were some weird and wonderful applications on there including an application designed to tell you what job you should consider in the future; this software told almost everyone they should be a golf green keeper or funeral director, go figure. Games were far and few between, typically limited to whatever offering the RM Maths package had. A fun fact about RM Maths games was that they were written in RM’s own proprietary version of BASIC (RM Basic, original huh). Another little known fact is that when using RM Basic you had full access to the RM Maths games code, this led to many hysterical outbursts when people realised your version of Darts was telling you to ‘fuck off’ and so on.. If you looked hard enough you could also find QBASIC installed with the original examples included, if you have never played Gorillas it’s well worth a quick play for the retro-goodness it provides..
For the uninitiated, Gorillas saw you control one of two Gorillas whilst your friend played the second and the sole aim was to blow each other using Bananas. You’d be surprised at how addictive the game was seeing your position was always random making the force and angle used different every time. What made the game harder was the inability to move your Gorilla.
Of course these games didn’t sustain our need for entertainment long so other games needed to be found. For those of you only au fait in gaming from the recent decade then you’ll not know the struggle it was to play games easily without needing to either a) install something or b) have internet access. In our early years at secondary school the internet wasn’t readily available, in fact it wasn’t until early 1996 that the computers got updated to Windows 95 with the internet following shortly after. Not having administration rights also limited us so installations were out of the question, all we had was executables that could be run directly off the floppy disc and this is where this post truly begins..
Tank Wars has been around for years albeit under various names such as Scorched Earth and the premise is simple, kill the opposition before they kill you. Gorilla’s was very similar in game play to this but Tank Wars looked better. You could have loads of people playing per single game (10 if I remember rightly) but more importantly, you were rewarded for killing the opposition. Where Gorillas saw you get a point, Tank Wars gave you money to spend on various different weapons such as cluster bombs and the ever favourite Megabomb.
Now, a quick word about the Megabomb; should you ever play Tank Wars and your opponent a) has a Megabomb and b) can land a bomb within 2 inches on screen of your location then give up. The Megabomb was in effect a nuclear weapon and would decimate a good third of the screen killing everything it touched. Over powered yes but it didn’t stop us playing, especially as it easily fit on a floppy disk and could be played without having to use any installer.
Now it is worth remembering that Schools should probably tell students off for bringing games in and playing them. Somehow, and please don’t ask me how, our year group managed to persuade the ICT staff that this was a mathematic learning game so for a fair while no one batted an eyelid to this being played.
Doom is the exception that proves the rule when it came to not being able to install games. When the new suite was set up with the shiny new RM Nimbus PC-586 models running Windows 95, they still had the option to Shutdown to MS-DOS. With this and the lack of security features held by DOS, the shareware disk of DOOM was very easy to install which rocketed myself and Richard to fame for a few days among the sixth formers at the time.
The Shareware disks came from the St Albans Town Hall when it used to host a Computer Fair once a month. You could go in to the main building and there would be table up on table covered in floppy disks held together with elastic bands. Most of them would be shareware games and cost a couple of pounds whilst the full game could cost anything between £10 and £20.
Hang on, Excel 97 isn’t a game so why is it on the list? Excel 97 was one of few Microsoft products that had a Easter egg hidden for you to find and should you know the right shortcuts and things to type, it would provide you with at least 5 minutes entertainment. The Easter egg relied on you doing a set number of tasks within Excel in the right order, should you be successful then you were given access to the built in Flight Simulator. It was shit. No, honestly, you couldn’t control it easily and all you could find was a scrolling list of developers. Still, well worth 5 to 10 minutes of your time to get it working followed by 5 minutes of making the most of it as you’d wasted your lunch.
World Class Leader Board Golf
I’m pretty sure this is the game that we had on disk at the time, but there are so many golf games from the early 90’s that look similar I couldn’t 100% tell you. Dan Hamilton found a copy of this game at home and seeing that it was a single floppy disk that could be executed straight off the A drive we played it. I might not be the most sporty of people but there is something about a good Golf game that can keep me playing for hours.
I’m pretty certain that in this game the player was identified by the trousers they were wearing. Not many people were a fan of wearing the shit brown (I assume Corduroy) trousers.