Nazis, demons, and autodidactism

I was about to commence this with the term “PC Gaming Master Race”, but that may be a poor choice of words considering this post starts with Wolfenstein 3D, a game about Nazis.

Wolfenstein 3D was the game that moved me in the direction of PC gaming. It was a world far removed from the ease of console gaming. It was a world in which you had to check your IRQs and DMAs and make you sure you had enough expanded memory allocated, and when you made it all work through some arcane magicks it was a thing of joy that you could actually play your game. Plug ‘n’ Play? What was that? Console exclusive gamers didn’t know how easy they had it.

It was Wolfenstein 3D that ushered in this new glorious PC gaming era for me.

Sure it wasn’t the original First Person Shooter game (that milestone perhaps belongs to Maze War or Spasim that were developed in the 70s), nor the first FPS game that had free movement for the player within a 3D space. It was however, the FPS game that defined the genre in the public consciousness and showed that fast arcade game experiences could work on the PC.

When I was a child, we would visit the Easter Show each year at which I would purchase showbags. About the time I was 11 or 12, there was a PC Gaming showbag on sale that came with some shareware games. I didn’t have a PC of my own yet but my father the teacher had just happened to bring one home from his school that he had borrowed for the holidays. Inside this showbag was a shareware software magazine with the new Wolfenstein 3D game on the cover:

The Ultimate Arcade Game Collection November 92 Volume 1 Number 2 - Wolfenstein 3D on the cover

Glorious VGA graphics!

It was Wolfenstein 3D that also introduced me to the notion of modding PC videogames. After finishing the game multiple times and killing Mecha Adolf Hitler, I acquired a level editor and sprite editor for the game from a high school friend. He obtained it from a BBS in those dark days before the modern internet.

Map of level 1-1 from Wolfenstein 3D level editor

Perhaps my present day objectives to make games stem from this moment when I realized that I didn’t have to be just a passive user of videogames but could also be an active creator who could shape them to how I saw fit. I would play my self-made levels repeatedly to gauge what worked and what didn’t.

My next flash of game development autodidactism came from Wolfenstein 3D‘s successor Doom. I’ll continue this in the next post and describe how it was that in playing around with a level editor for Doom 2, it dawned on me that I had the ability to teach myself what I wanted to know to make what I wanted to make.

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