From A to Zork


I grew up in the eighties. Hyper-colour t-shirt, high top sneakers and hair brushed to the side of my head in pony tail.    

Every day after school, my brother and I would race home to play video games on our Atari 2600. We’d sit so close to the telly that our noses would almost be touching it, taking it in turns to play Asteroids and the Empire Strikes Back.

In Primary School, we’d visit the Computer Room once a week to play games like Carmen Sandiego on boxy Apple Macintosh computers. We also played Zork, a game with no pictures, only text, which meant that you really need to use your imagination to picture the world that was being described.

One year, our teacher held a competition to create the best map of the world of Zork. My map grew so big that I had to keep adding new pages to it with sticky tape. I won the prize, taking home a school computer for the Summer holidays – a better prize than any certificate or book voucher would have been.

Games taught me about the world. History from Civilization, geography from Carmen Sandiego and even how to create an entire city in Sim City.

One game might have even prepared me a little for motherhood, not that I knew it at the time. This game was the Sims, where you play a human (a Sim) and help them to furnish and make their home comfortable, make friends, get a job and even just make sure they are getting enough food and sleep.

In many ways, the Sims was strangely true to life – even to the point where you might wonder why you are playing this game and not actually living your own life.

In the first version of the Sims, a little time spent getting cosy with another Sim and not long after, a box would pop up on the screen with text asking you if you want a baby. Yes or No. Type yes, and a fully-formed baby would arrive in a crib and suddenly your life would be turned upside down.

In reality, we have more time to prepare, but just the same life after a baby feels just as topsy-turvy. And in our digital world, many new parents are turning to technology for support, advice, to create and help nurture the little lives we’re suddenly responsible for.

As for me and computer games, I haven’t played a game since the day he was born! Something to do with bringing up a busy toddler, juggling work and home I suspect.  But who knows, maybe in a few years time, we’ll be playing computer games together. Maybe I’ll even introduce him to a game called Zork.