In the PC Gamer Q&A, our writers share their thoughts on one subject then encourage you to add your own suggestions in the comments. This week: which demo did you play to death?
Samuel Roberts: Age of Empires
The PC Gamer cover discs were a blessing for my younger self, back when games came in boxes and weren't on-sale on Steam for like £3 six months after release. The better the demo, the more I would play that demo—Jedi Knight, Warzone 2100 and Rollcage all had cracking demos. I played those a bunch of times each. But the best of all was Age of Empires, which had a whole slew of missions. You could string those missions out as long as you liked, depending on how comprehensive you wanted your victory to be. I built many, many boats that were entirely unnecessary to rout the enemy.
I must've played that entire demo at least eight times. This was one of my first RTS games, straight after Command & Conquer, and I was absorbed. Sadly, my parents didn't earn a lot at the time, so I never got around to owning Age of Empires. I did own Age of Kings, though, which was a comprehensively better game, and even now I dip into the HD edition of the second game just to have a go at a campaign mission or two.
Evan Lahti: Starsiege: Tribes
When I bought Tribes in 1998, I didn't know I'd be putting one the most important FPSes ever into my CD-ROM tray. Tribes pretty much introduced bases, high-skill movement, and class-based multiplayer as we know and experience it today in games like Overwatch. Unfortunately for 13-year-old me, I didn't get to experience any of this until 1999: the year my family got internet.
For a full year, I subsisted on Tribes' tutorials, instruction manual, and a few in-engine demos of the developers playing matches. It didn't have bots. Sometimes I'd just listen to the soundtrack, which you could access independently through programs like Winamp. Still, my imagination ran wild with it: I obsessed over the ideological differences between the Diamond Sword and Blood Eagle factions, if my school notebooks are any indication, and Tribes is the only game I'll admit to writing fan fiction about. When I finally got dial-up in '99, it felt like graduating from an extended bootcamp: I knew a lot, but wasn't fully prepared for the reality of skiing, clans, mods, and jetpack combat.
Chris Livingston: Grand Theft Auto
The original Grand Theft Auto (ye olde top-down version) had a demo that let you play the first five (or was it ten?) minutes before you'd have to start over. And I just played it over and over again. Sometimes it was like speed-running or a minigame: how many people can I splatter with my car? How many missions can I complete? How far can I get through the city before time runs out? I played it again and again, day after day, those first few minutes. One day I got home from work to find my wife had bought me the full game. "Well, I'm pretty sure you like it," she said. I did!
Andy Kelly: Carmageddon
In the late '90s I could only afford a game a month, if I was lucky. So the cover-mounted demo disc was a godsend. And there was no demo I played more than Carmageddon, the preposterous, tabloid-bothering racing game in which pixelated pedestrians can be gruesomely run over. It's incredible that people found this nonsense offensive, but as a teenager I thought it was edgy as hell. The demo had a ten minute timer, but I played it hundreds of times until I memorised every corner of that foggy, low-res city level.