Find all previous editions of the PCG Q&A here. Some highlights:
- Have you tried to make your own game or mod? (opens in new tab)
- What game would you like to see tackle a different genre? (opens in new tab)
- What's your favorite podcast game? (opens in new tab)
Sorry for asking you to remember the distant past once again for a weekend question, but the future is terrifying so let's all retreat to Lemmings or Zoombinis or Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego or Oregon Trail or whatever the one good game on your school computers was. And if you had a Halo or Doom or something to play in class, feel free to stunt on the rest of us who had to play typing games.
What was the best game on your school computers? Here are our answers, plus some from our forum (opens in new tab).
Robin Valentine: Liero. At my school there was a sort of arms race between the IT staff and the students, as we'd illicitly install this MS-DOS classic on the PCs and get as much fun out of it as we could before it was inevitably discovered and uninstalled, lost to us until the next time we could sneak it back on. For those who lived less blessed childhoods, Liero is sort of real-time Worms—you play a little character in a fully destructible environment, swinging around with a grappling hook and launching explosives at your mates. We thought it was a work of absolute genius. You know what? It probably holds up.
Andy Kelly: Our computers didn't have any games on them, but we did have access to the internet. So whenever I had a study period in the library (read: slacking off period), Newgrounds was a lifeline. The trick was getting there early and securing the PC in the corner that was A) positioned so the librarian couldn't see the screen and B) far enough away from the entrance, so that if the headmaster came in (he liked springing random visits on us), I had time to close the browser and load up something related to what I was supposed to be studying. Newgrounds was, and still is, a treasure trove of wild, creative Flash games, and it was somehow never added to the library's substantial list of blocked websites.
Rachel Watts: The Impossible Quiz. The computers at my school didn't have any games but we played a lot of browser games and The Impossible Quiz was king. I remember an IT lesson when the teacher was absent and everyone got into a frenzy trying to work out who could get the furthest and telling each other the answers. It was two kids per computer so there was a lot of team camaraderie. Newgrounds was also a hot spot before my school blocked it.
Dave James: Maths in Motion. Yes, it was educational, and yes, for some reason there was also a 5.25-inch floppy of Dr.J vs Larry Bird floating around the place too, but the BBC Micro machine in our primary school taught me a lot about vectors, Formula 1 racing, and, in the immortal words of Peter Bellotte, pushing it to the limit.
Maths in Motion at the time (it's still going now) allowed you to set your vehicle up for qualifying and then for racing, using vectors to get around the track. We managed to tune our engine to the point that it would explode just over the finishing line in both qualifying and in the race. The team always won, the drivers... not so much. But hey, that setup would at least make F1 and NASCAR interesting IRL.
Alan Dexter: Computers? Schools? I don't think you realise how ancient I am. The first computer I was allowed near in an educational establishment was at University, where there were rooms of glorious PCs (that were slowly replacing dumb terminals). My game of choice was a small time-sapping thing called Civilization that came out in my second year (first year's had little chance of actually gaining access to the computing holy sanctum). Computer time was strictly monitored, so I had to sign an A4 sheet to say I was working on an essay, project or some other such nonsense, and then pull an all-nighter trying to wipe out Ghandi et al. Still can't play a full game without keeping an eye on the door in case I have to alt-tab out if a lecturer should wonder in.
Stevie Ward: I was a lonely, creative and whimsical child who watched LA Story and believed in magic. I opened a Word document and there he was.
'Clippy', a magical paper clip who wanted to help me with what I was doing. I would spend ages typing things to Clippy and watching his cute animations in the hope that one day his response would not be canned and that we would become friends.
What started as a game, became an obsession and many a homework session was lost to trying to get Clippy to break his reserve, say something funny or just 'sing do-wa-diddy' with me. To this day, when I open Word, I hope Clippy comes back. If he does... I hope he remembers me....
Jacob Ridley: A haunted house point and click from my local library.
There was only a single computer per classroom in my primary school, and so it was impossible to play any games on them without my teachers noticing. My school did once attempt to order enough laptops for a whole class to use at one time, but they were immediately stolen. Seriously they turned up one day and the next we came in to a brick-shaped hole in a door and they were all gone. Anyways... I used to go instead to my local library and play this point and click haunted house adventure game. I'm pretty sure it was educational, but I loved it nonetheless as a wee child. I can still recall the smell of that library to this day, which triggers all my memories of this mystery game—or at least I think they're memories. I couldn't tell you its name or describe much of what went on. I believe it came in one of those colossal off-white CD boxes that only existed in school? It's a blur, but I distinctly recall the excitement of heading to the library knowing I would get to play it again.
Phil Savage: Suburban Fox.
My primary school's BBC Micro had this brutally difficult survival game about being a fox. You explored a series of grid maps, hunting for food and trying to track down a mate. Mostly, though, you died. The fox would be run over. The fox would be poisoned. The fox would fall to exhaustion after failing to catch its prey. The fox would get stuck in quicksand, which, based on its prevalence throughout pop culture, a kid of the late-'80s/early-'90s would be forgiven for assuming was a real and constant danger. It was so notoriously difficult when me and my friend completed it one lunchtime—actually finding the vixen after what must be years of failed attempts from everyone in the school—nobody believed us. It was an important lesson that victory is fleeting and bittersweet, and that earned success isn't necessarily rewarded. Which is why, today, I have no qualms about save scumming through an XCOM 2 campaign.
Harry Shepherd: Some kind of WW2 shooter. (Maybe Medal of Honor?)
In my first of years of secondary school in England (I was about about 12), invariably my lunchtimes were spent inside my school's IT room playing some kind of World War 2 shooter on a LAN server. I'm not sure we were actually allowed to do it, but someone braver and more technically-minded than myself organised it. We played rain or shine, and it was absolutely time well wasted. My memories of those days are pretty hazy, but I'm somewhat sure it was a Medal of Honor multiplayer mode. Looking back at some gameplay on YouTube it could've been Allied Assault—the Stalingrad map seems to ring a bell.
Either way it was arguably a more sociable precursor to many nights spent with friends on Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Sociable in the sense that we were all playing in the same physical space then, rather than yelling through headsets in our bedrooms in future years. Or yelling through headsets in my living room/home office, as I do today.
James Davenport: Max Payne. Back in high school, I was an aide for my RB football coach slash history teacher during some freshman class he taught. He never had anything for me to do and generally didn't care how I spent my time during that block as long as I was hanging out. A few days in he showed me all the games installed on the computer in the back of the room where I sat, the crown jewel: Max Payne.It didn't make sense. All this dude read was Grisham. Anyway, that's where I discovered one of my favorite games of all time, Max leaping into a room head first, a shower of bullets passing by him as if through water, grim monologues about suffering and purpose in my foreground. Endless powerpoints about whitewashed American history in the background. Max would find something poetic about it, I'm sure.
Wes Fenlon: A year or two before I took drafting and 3D modeling, some beautiful soul installed the Halo demo on all the PCs in the classroom. They were all networked together, and our teacher was pretty easygoing, which meant for the last 5-10 minutes of class most days we'd all get to hop into Blood Gulch and go wild. It was only one map, but that was all we needed. Those tiny bursts of multiplayer are still some of my fondest Halo memories. It sure beat the hell out of Cro-Mag Rally (opens in new tab) on the plasticy Apple laptops they'd sometimes wheel into our classrooms.
Zloth: Hack, predecessor to NetHack. Or maybe it had already turned into NetHack? Whatever the case, it was great stuff for a PDP-10! (Yeah, we were into "cloud gaming" in the 80's.)
OsaX Nymloth: Personally: Quake ]|[ Arena, that I managed to install on some of them and play with others—high school.
But throughout middle and high school the undisputed king of "games" in IT classrooms was one: Deluxe Ski Jump. It was everywhere and everybody was playing it, all the time. There was no escape, everybody wanted to setup a new record and fly far far away. Poor teachers had trouble making some of the kids do anything else but playing it.
Johnway: In our infant school with our BBC micro we had a few games that we played (they were on the pc by default to facilitate "learning"). The first one was Podd. You typed in an action the tomato thing will try and perform it. Of course being young we couldn't come up with much and just typed in the commands that was on the laminated sheet. (un)fortunately, someone wrote down the explosion command and being children we kept typing it in and doing it too often annoyed the teacher as it was very loud.
Later on in junior school we had lemmings. Unfortunately, i never got a chance to play it because i had it on my Amiga at home and when several of us told the teacher we had the game at home, she took it as a sign that we would prefer to do school work instead of taking our turn to play lemmings...
In Secondary school, play time was over. No more fun and the pc's at the time were crap (to open lotus approach we had to open multiple programs and close them to build enough mem to get it working or something). But we did have Encarta and if you used Encarta, you know that there was Mindmaze. But that didn't keep me entertained for long. So i spent my lunch break doing my homework when possible so i could spend more time at home playing proper games. later on we brought 1.44 Disk floppies and played Genesis/emulator games.
nakedian: This will date me but just about the ONLY game on our schools mainframe in Berkeley was Star Trek 1971. This was a text based Star Trek game and we actually played on printers. I cringe at the amount of paper we burned through. There was also a text based Blackjack that was meh.
drunkpunk: In 3rd grade, i remember we had some apple computers with a few games. Oregon Trail was of course one of them. Where in The World is Carmen Sandiego was another one I really loved. Number Muncher was another one that played all the time, despite hating math and being pretty terrible at it. There were a couple of others but those were the big three that we always chose to play.
Volley: SkiFree. Part of the Best of Windows Entertainment package from Microsoft.
There was a time when everyone was playing it after getting assignments done, some 25 computers lol. After a while we got Wolfenstein 3D, Spear of Destiny, and DooM on there, was surprised the school let us play it.