Friday, March 30, 2012

1977: Dreams of the

Books containing movie screenplays, and, more importantly, story board artwork, were starting to hit the book stores back in 1977. This inspired me to fill up a few 60 page spiral notebooks with "first person views" of the first three levels to my mega-dungeon, The Tower of Terror.

This illustration device was put to good use on some of the more famous modules (I'm looking at you 'Tomb of Horrors' and 'Expedition to the Barrier Peaks') which included a separate book of images that showed the players what was inside of the hallways and chambers. But I rendered everything. You'd flip through the book, and it's be a 30 foot long hallway for a few pages, but then, you'd turn the page, and it'd be a monster, (or a pit trap, or a set of doors at the end of the hall, or whatever). You'd roll some dice, fight the monster, avoid the trap, decide which door to take etc. It was "Pick a Path" meets "Doom" the video game. It was an upgrade from the paper/pencil tank wars we used to play before class.*

I was swayed by my pals to take it into middle school. It was a minor hit with the gang, until it was confiscated by the teacher and never seen again.

The teacher probably thought she was doing my parents a favor. I suspect the dead skeletons on the floor, and the attacking monsters (zombie owl bears, werewolves, green slime covered doorways and more) didn't help my case. In my defense, there were jewels, books and magic swords in there. So, it wasn't all torture chambers and locked prisons ... Wait a minute ...Okay, there was a torture chamber, and a set of prisons. What did they expect? I just read The Man In the Iron Mask for my 3rd period English class (an assigned book report). At least I absorbed the material (and it spurred me on into a huge Alexander Dumas kick: Count of Monte Cristo, Three Musketeers, and his plays). 

We tried building a working R2-D2 droid, and instead learned how to splice radio wires for a low tech version of 'surround sound'. The Odyssey, the first home video game console/computer, came out back in 1972. We didn’t have that, but my next door neighbors had the Pong/Breakout video game console in 1976-77. There were portable synthesizers, and smaller guitar amplifiers, large radios known as “boom boxes”, and the LATEST HITS mixed-tapes and albums, with sound effects, and cheap VCR film cassettes were released to a new form of shopping center, called “The Mall”.  

It was the dawn of the home video entertainment systems. Pong consoles, Atari, (and later, VCR) machines were around, and they gave you new ways to spend hours in front of the television. We'd record their sound effects off the TV and 'warp' them with a boom box we'd hook up to the stereo. We made action flick trailers, music videos and experimental art films. We built elaborate movie sets in our basements, attics, garages, and backyards. The 'art of noisemaking' and ‘housetrashing’ my dad would say. If you didn't want to watch that re-run of 'The Incredible Hulk' or 'Hogan's Heroes', you could just turn it channel 3 and watch the movie scenes we just shot. It was all "hands on experience".

What did we do before we had the computers of today? We were dreaming up ways to build computers.

 *(If you are unfamiliar with this game, it went like this: You'd get a piece of notebook paper, lay it down on a table, and you and your buddy would draw 10 to 20 tanks on opposite ends of the page. Then you'd take turns drawing 10 dashes towards the other player, simulating tank movements. Then you'd hold the pencil by the eraser and attempt to hit your opponent's tanks, with one stroke. Easier said than done. The first to destroy all of his opponent's tanks was the winner. Eventually, the tank vs. tank mechanics evolved into plane vs. plane, then UFO vs. UFO (and later, vampire vs. mummy, soldiers vs. aliens etc). When the arcades started opening up around town, with games like "Space Invaders", “Defender”, "Missile Command", "Asteroids", and of course, "Pac-Man", we never looked back).



No comments:

Post a Comment