Sunday, June 25, 2006

My history with electronic games, part 3: 1990s

Part 1 is here, part 2 is here, and part 4 is here.

I moved to Israel in 1991, already a regular participant in online mailing lists and Usenet, which became Dejanews, which became Google Groups.

My first job in Israel was terminably boring. Luckily for me I discovered OKBridge at that time (1992), and began playing with my brothers. A few years later and I discovered discussion about Magic somehow, somewhere. I bought a few packs and introduced my brothers and friends.

We would play Magic over the computer or telephone when we couldn't play in person, using our physical cards and writing down what the other person had played. I also followed online deck-building and strategy discussions. So the computer was already coming into play, as a method of allowing long distance play, and as a tool for discovering strategy used by other players in close to real-time. The tournament scene gave me good information on how to build decks, but never enticed me to start collecting cards. Tournaments were a half a world away, as were cards to buy, as was money with which to buy them.

I also played two games of online Diplomacy via email, both of which ended early and both of which I was leading. It never inspired me to take up the game in person, however.

Interest in online Magic discussions led me to renewed interest in 3e D&D, which started our regular gaming (we were also playing monthly Cosmic games). That led to Settlers and the rest of the board game world.

I was already writing online session reports about our D&D games in the late 90s, although I seem to have misplaced all of them. The Internet was serving as both a way to coordinate people to find time to game, as well as hold a record of that gaming.

After OKBridge went commercial, we moved over to other free sites.

Images below are mostly from Wikipedia. Links are back to the original sources, or to online information about the entry.

Cellphone games

Like digital watches, cellphones introduced bad gaming that survived (and survives) due to its mobility and novelty. It basically sucks, however. Endless variations on silly number games, whack-a-mole, and Snake. I don't play these much.


This is an Arkanoid clone, one of the better free games available to download for early Windows versions. The free version of DX-Ball 2 is limited in levels.

Gnu Chess

I worked mostly on Unix until 2003, and this was one of the few games available that held any interest, not only as a game, but also academic interest regarding its split between server and client, and its open source. The game was far better than I was.


Any Windows user has pretty much played this one. I use the right mouse-button heavily.


Along with OKbridge, this was my major gaming experience from the early 90s until I got Magic in 1995. These were the first MMO gaming environments, and they were neat. Remember that I despised graphics and mice, and I still used the Lynx browser until the 2000s.

You chose a character and started with some equipment. Then you played a game like CCA, except that the internal clock of the game was real time, so things would suddenly show up in your space or leave. And if you entered a space with a hostile monster, the computer would take over and you would start bashing each other without much dignity until one of you was dead.

You learned where the monsters appropriate for each of your levels of experience resided: the zombies in the graveyard, the orc village, and so on. Then you endlessly went there, killed some, went back to town, bought new gear, and did it again, going further each time.

There wasn't much strategy, tactics, or story involved.


The pinnacle of character based adventure gaming, this game is still one of my first choices if I want to play something on a computer. The dungeon is many levels of randomly generated rooms, and items, characters and monsters are each represented by a single ASCII character.

When I play games with better graphics, I get distracted by the graphics. I used to say that about graphical browsers as well, however, so maybe someday I'll move up to this decade (probably next decade).


As I noted above, a great multiplayer environment for people to play games around the world. Probably one of the first MMO gaming environments. The level of the players was quite high, actually. You sometimes got world class opponents. I left them after they began charging a fee.

Online game sites: Yahoo, Zone,

And went to these place to play instead. Yahoo bridge opponents were not quality, but I could play under Unix. Zone opponents were better, but required Windows to play. had a great Boggle implementation. I was quite good at it until I began to lose horribly all of a sudden. That happened coincidently around the time that a number of online Boggle solution applets came into existence. I gave up playing.

They also had a Battlezone implementation, but it was too tough.


I don't know where I got a downloadable copy of this. It was diverting for a few dozen plays. When you attacked you could watch your 66 armies lose to 12 one step at a time or automatically.


The other standard time waster that comes with Windows. I always play Vegas style scoring (-$52 to start, +$5 for each card that goes up), untimed, 3 cards flip.


You have to rotate blocks as they drop in order to fit them neatly into rows which then disappear. If you mess up, the jumble pile grows higher and higher until it reaches the top and you lose.

Many version of this game were available in any number of locations. It was all the rage for a while. I'm fairly good at it, but nothing special.


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