Twenty years of playing games on home computers have left me with some indelible memories. Games provide not just fun and entertainment, but some great memories of tense battles, glorious victories, ignoble defeats, and more stupid deaths than I care to remember. I’m going to devote this column to sharing with you some of my most memorable gaming experiences.
So there I am, the Russian soldier fighting against a ruthless invader. We’re on the back foot, with the Germans occupying the majority of the area. As the sniper, I’m slightly ahead of everyone else, in position close to a bridge. Taking this bridge is vital to our advance. The Germans are coming on foot, and I take out their first and second soldiers as they run across. Then three more appear. Time to abandon the sniper rifle for something better- the hand machine gun set up nearby! With brutal efficiency I gun down the next three. By now the other Russians have caught up and are moving forwards. I spot a German skulking on the other side of the bridge. Back to the sniper rifle, one shot takes out the little skulker. With the Germans temporarily disorganised, we are able to push forward and capture the all important central high point, from where we dominate the rest of the battle.
Debriefing, My Ass!
“Report topside for debriefing,” says the message as I try to get out of the Black Mesa Research Facility. I’m a bit dubious, but still eager to leave. Not as eager as the scientist running towards that marine ecstatic at finally being safe. Poor bastard. I watched the marine emotionlessly gun the man down with a growing feeling of rage and horror. There was to be no safe haven, unless I made one. I pumped more shells into that marine than were strictly necessary, and from then on I made a point of saving as many hapless scientists as I could.
The other staff weren’t all useless. One point saw me using myself as bait for waiting aliens. When they stepped forward to give me a lethal dose of lightning, my security guard buddy let loose with his pistol. Sometime I helped, but mostly I just played bait. We made a good team, but I had to leave him in order to push on.
Surveying the Field
I get the same feeling almost every time I see the enemy lines through the mist. How can we win against that? I have to look up and down the lines to reassure myself that my army has the numbers and the skill to win. Whenever I see another general look along his lines at the start of battle, I know exactly how he feels. You need to have that reassurance of seeing men ready to do battle on your behalf. Then you can get on with the business of directing the battle.
In the driving rain some seven hundred of my men would face over 2000 Spanish in successive waves. The field offered few defensive positions, but a small hill near a village would have to suffice. The infantry would hold this hill, with cavalry held back in reserve, and missile troops supporting where needed. Watching the enemy slowly advance was tense. They came closer, missile fire was exchanged, and they approached closer still. Discipline held, and no one abandoned their position in a rash charge. Then it all happened at once, the Spanish heavy cavalry charging into the lines, just as their catapults began to rain stone upon the field. While both sides fell to this fire, I could least afford the casualties. I sent the light cavalry rushing down one flank, from where they launched an attack on each of the catapults in turn, killing or routing the crew. In the centre, I was forced to use my reserves straight away, hitting the Spanish in the flank as they fought and eventually routing them. Though the enemy was broken, the situation was not good. One wave down, three to go, and my reserves already committed. Tidying up the lines, we awaited the second wave. It was a long time coming, being made up entirely of infantry. My archers and arbalesters put themselves to good use, but their supply of bolts and arrows was not infinite. Once they were bereft of weapons, I sent them from the field.
The Spanish infantry was routed in a series of short, brutal skirmishes. As they fled, many were ridden down by my tired and depleted cavalry. The rain clouds came in heavy, obscuring the advancing lines of the third wave as my tired cavalry returned to the hill.
As the clouds cleared, I could not believe what I was seeing- a wave made up entirely of archers and arbalesters! With my own missile troops having quite the field I was left with one, reckless option. The remains of my cavalry surged forward, urging their tired mounts forward once more. The missile troops never stood a chance as my troops cut down unit after unit, the few survivors fled. The last wave of Spanish never appeared, they had quit the field, and victory was mine! Of my brave seven hundred, just over 400 remained. An epic day!
A Thousand More Where Those Came From
Those are just three of the many stories I have. They all come from fairly recent games, Battlefield 1942, Half-Life, and Medieval: Total War, respectively. No matter if you have been playing computer games for twenty years or two months, I’m sure you have your own epic tales to tell. Feel free to share them with me at the feedback address, if there’s one thing I enjoy, it’s feedback where people give me their own game playing stories. While I can fill endless columns with ways of improving genre x or y, there is one thing that brings us all here, something we can all agree on. Games are fun!