The first game I ever played

Filed under Game trail;

While VisiCalc and AppleWorks may’ve been system-sellers that established the Apple II in the business marketplace, they’re not the programs we have fondest memories of. What really got us hooked on these machines and which built communities, demo parties, and more, were the games.

Tapping that trove of memories, the staff of PC Gamer recently asked each other: "What was the first PC game you played?" The answers are fun and diverse: Full Throttle, Rogue, Lemmings, X-Wings, and more, on such systems as the Atari ST, Magnavox Odyssey II, and Windows 95. Only one Apple II game made the list, that being Choplifter.

I don’t remember the first Apple II game I ever played. There were so many in that era: not only Choplifter, but also Conan, Castle Wolfenstein, Microzine, Spy’s Demise, and many others.

But the game I wrote about in a similar fashion to PC Gamer was Lode Runner. In 2008, when I was still on staff at Computerworld magazine, my fellow editors and I were asked the question: "What was the first personal computer you ever owned?" I answered:

1983: Growing up Apple

I don’t remember ever not having the Apple IIe that I grew up with; it must’ve been delivered about the same time I was.

My family upgraded to an Apple IIgs in 1988. We still have that machine, as well as another IIgs that ran a dial-up BBS for four years.

Over the years, we tricked it out with the usual upgrades: SCSI card, sound card, handheld scanner, modem, joystick, 4MB of RAM. An accelerator boosted the CPU to 10 MHz, which may not sound like much, but it was quadruple the stock speed — making Lode Runner quite a challenge to play. (The enemies moved four times faster; my brain and reactions didn’t.)

The original IIgs machine is still at my father’s house, where he occasionally depends on it for the family business accounting. Though my current computer is a MacBook Pro, it has all the Apple II programs and files I accumulated over the years. I access them with the Sweet16 emulator, which turns my Macintosh into an Apple II laptop.

Emulating has allowed me to have used the same word-processing software, AppleWorks Classic, for the past 20 years, for everything from a 4th grade science paper on the whooping crane to my 100-page college thesis to all my Computerworld articles. All this history fills up only 3MB of my hard drive. Most recently, I created a quick-and-dirty Apple II program to convert 700 blog posts for importing into WordPress — a huge timesaver over doing it manually.

I just wrote a story about Dan Budiac, a guy who paid $2,600 on eBay to get back an old Apple IIc. Why not do what I did and just never stop using it in the first place?

These are just a few of my memories of the Apple II. What about you — what was your first game? Do you even remember?

  1. Jonathan Badger says:

    For me it was Swashbuckler (1982) — a fencing game by Paul Stephenson that isn’t as well known as the followup game Aztec (also 1982).

  2. Each Apple II game was definitely loaded from cassette tape — and they didn’t always load the first time. IIRC, they were text games on the Apple II, and maybe Break Out (Little Brick Out.) Maze games, hunt the wumpus (although I think I might have played wumpus on a Commodore Pet loaded from cassette.) IIRC, very fuzzy recollection, I was 11 or 12 years old.

    The first few Apple II 13-sector disk based games I played were probably Bill Budge’s Space Album, and Raster Blaster. Years later, I bought an Apple II+ when I was 17 in 1982.

    I can’t remember if I played games on the Apple II or Commodore PET first. There were some very early TV games like Pong that I played. And, of course arcade games: Funland at Yonge and Dundas had Spacewar.

    When I was about 8 or 9, I played games on what was probably a PDP with all of the game output on a printout. We used up a lot of paper, and played games like Hamurabi which I didn’t understand how to play at the time.


  3. There were “games” on the included floppy disks that came with our //c (would have been titled something like “Introducing the Apple //”. I remember navigating a rabbit though a maze and sorting open and closed apples into buckets as “games” on that disk. I think “Lemonade Stand” was an included game as well. Otherwise the first Apple // game I remember was an edutainment title, “Raft-Away River”. After that, probably “Hunt the Wumpus”, “Seafox” and “Wavy Navy”.

  4. I think that rabbit game was part of the Apple Presents Apple introductory disk that came with the machine — I remember it well!

  5. Besides Little Brick Out, there was a AppleSoft BASIC High Res game with Two Castles that shot Artillery Shells are each other…

    At the beginning of each Turn, the Ground was redrawn, so sometimes your Castle was on Top of a Hill, sometimes at the bottom of a valley, sometimes the ground was just Flat…

    Two Player Game, of course..


  6. Scott Tirrell says:

    I honestly don’t remember – I didn’t have an Apple II at home but did use them at school, mostly for programming. I would imagine that it was probably an educational title like Oregon Trail. I had a friend with an Apple IIc and most closely associate Apple II gaming with Lode Runner, Prince of Persia and Choplifter.

  7. I’m pretty sure the first Apple II game I actually played was the Integer version of Breakout, before it got renamed to Little Brick Out. It came with the computer on tape.

  8. I spent many hours playing Sneakers when I should have been studying and doing homework. Another interesting early game was Howitzer, where you guessed at the power and angle needed to hit a tank on the other side of a hill, factoring in wind speed. But that was eclipsed when I got Lode Runner and figured out how to play any level. As my tastes matured I spent a lot of time entering music with various programs, but the best was Bank St. Music Writer, which made the Mockingboard sing and allowed me to hear compositions that I could not play. It was the Apple that sparked my interest in classical music and MIDI. I hope future generations can experience the same personal discovery and self-directed learning processes that were fueled by our desire to build our dreams within the constraints of the available equipment.