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November 13, 2011 / jwaxo

Quake (Tool Use)

Adult Embarrassment #3,945: Games that looked this bad scared the heck out of me.

There weren’t many games that we played that we weren’t allowed to let our parents know we had. A couple emulators, maybe something my brother copied onto a floppy and installed onto our computer, something like that. The main one that I can think of is Quake. It wasn’t even that our parents weren’t allowed to know we had it; they probably knew. After all, like so many other games and demos that we had, Quake came to us on a Softdisc Monthly diskette (and I’ve linked that so often that you can darn well search for it yourself–that’s what the search box over there on the right is for), so our parents must have seen the name and just blown it off. But that game was frightening, and bloody, and pretty violent. I may be remembering incorrectly, but you could find people chained to walls, and some walls were either covered in rust or dried blood, and the screams of the enemies…

Basically, when my brother showed me the game he had discovered on the disc and then soberly informed me that our parents were not to see us playing it, I took him seriously. Besides, I could only play it for maybe a half-hour or less before being overcome by the heebie-jeebies and walking away.

Being scared of the game wasn’t the most important part of this lesson, nor was keeping the game a secret. No, the most important lesson was how the game used a piece of hardware that I had never even considered before: the mouse.

What power! What beauty!

So, to backtrack: Quake was an FPS, meaning a first-person-shooter: you looked down the barrel of a gun and shot things with it, collecting ammo, advancing through levels via exploration, etc. Prior to receiving Quake, we had played the heck out of three FPS games: Wolfenstein 3D, which we had the demo of you might recall, Chex Quest, and this game that I absolutely have to do a post on some time in the future  where you fought zombies in a high school by burping Mr Pibb at them. As the later two of those were pretty much product-placement schemes, they hardly even count.

And then comes along Quake. We booted it up, clicked through the intro, fiddled with the options (which at that point in our lives was mostly just “put a check in every box and click go”) and found that movement wasn’t quite what we were used to.

“Try the numpad.”

“No, that just moves around.”

“Maybe some letters on the keyboard?”

One of us must have finally bumped the mouse, and it dawned on us just how out-of-this-world this game was: you looked with the mouse.

Before long we were old hands at using the mouse to look around, to the point that using joysticks, while doable, is considered imprecise, and using buttons on your keyboard just plain weird. But at the time, it blew our minds. And this was just for using the mouse to look left and right; don’t get me started on when we discovered the Y-axis.

The main point of this all isn’t really to show you how crazy using a mouse was–that’s just the start of it. What it really taught us was that tools that we use every day, tools that we were using to launch the freaking games, might one day be utilized in completely new, intuitive ways, and we just need someone to point it out to us.

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