1985 was a whole different world.
AIDS hadn't hit yet; the Sexual Revolution was still going strong. President Reagan's wife Nancy told us all to "Just Say No," but most of us weren't. A lot of us hadn't figured out that the seventies were over. If you want pop culture details, I recommend "1985" by Bowling for Soup.*
But this blog is about gaming, and to some extent, computers. We had both in 1985, but they were pretty different from what we know now.
There were games, sure. Dungeons and Dragons was eleven years old by then, and the first edition of Advanced D&D was still going strong. Magic: The Gathering and the Vampire games were still to come by years.
There were computer games. Sort of. Most of the best games you'd see were in the arcades at that time, but for the few who had personal computers back then, you could find a few items.
I'd cut my teeth on ADVENTURE, for the Atari 2600, the old cartridge-based console that pretty much created home console gaming as we know it today. No hard drive, no internet connection, and all of 16 kilobytes of memory. That's KILOBYTES, son, not megabytes, not gigabytes. But what did we know? We thought it was awesome, because it was the cutting edge of technology at the time.
The box is on the right. The actual gameplay screen is on the left. YOU, the player, are represented by the little green square at upper right; the arrow thing you are holding is your magical sword. The yellow thing at lower left is the Grail, the object of your quest; get it back to your Golden Castle, and you win the game! Unfortunately, you have a red duck -- er, DRAGON, to contend with. In this screen, he is very likely charging at YOU, the player; however, since the chunky-pixeled icons could only be rendered ONE WAY, you're holding your sword backwards, and the duck-dragon is charging at you butt first.
Did I mention you can only hold one item at a time? If you charge down and butt the grail with your square little body, you will automatically drop the sword. Luckily, the dragons in this game are so dumb, he'll likely charge into it and kill himself. If he doesn't, though, he'll bump into you, ROAR loudly, and then eat you; your square yellow selfness will be visible in the little hole in his belly. And then you can hit RESET because you've just lost the game.
That was the state of the art in 1980. It had improved a tad by 1985... but not a hell of a lot. ZORK was still the big dog as far as computer fantasy gaming went. It was quite good. It was also completely text based... NO graphics whatsoever.
It was considered hot stuff because it could parse text; you could literally type in English what you wanted to do, and the game would figure it out and let you do it.
It's also worth noting that ZORK and its sequels were still in print for YEARS after the first one came out in 1980. We were still pretty far back along the tech curve; processing power was doubling every few years, sure, but this was not a rapid process when you were starting out with mere kilobytes of memory. Hell, the first computer I ever owned that had an actual hard drive wasn't until 1999.
I do remember the first home computer game I ever played that had actual graphics. It was 1985, the computer was the Tandy ColorComputer (and it should tell you something that Radio Shack was still a player in the computer manufacturing and sales biz at the time), and the game was Dungeons of Daggorath.
I don't think today's youth can imagine how incredibly unlikely all this sounded back in 1985.
You want to know what the world of online gaming looked like from the far distant world of 1985? The author of Catacomb, one Henry Melton, was kind enough to post the entire text of the story on his web site. Here's the link: http://www.henrymelton.com/0/h10.html