Underrated Retro Video Game Love

Like many children of the 80’s, my first exposure to video games was the ingenious 2-in-1 cartridge of Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt on the NES. However, we didn’t own our own console (we played at our cousins’ house), so most of my early video game play was on the PC. While I enjoyed classics like The Oregon Trail and SimCity, there are several DOS-based games that I absolutely loved which I consider quite unknown or underrated.

Digger (1983)

With similar gameplay to Dig Dug, the player controls a little digging car and dig tunnels to collect jewels and gold to score points. My favorite thing about this game was always the music. For main gameplay, the background theme is a version of “Popcorn” (1969) by Gershon Kingsley (which I didn’t know was a real song until I was well into my 20s. It completely blew my mind when I heard it in another context!) If you are lucky enough to make it to a bonus mode, Rossini’s William Tell Overture plays, but if you lose the game, you are serenaded by Chopin’s B-flat minor Piano Sonata aka “The Funeral March.”

Sopwith (1984)

I think this was the first game that we got for our old IBM PC. It is a side scrolling flying game in which the player controls a WWI-era Sopwith biplane. The goal is to fly from your base and destroy all enemy buildings and aircraft. This game was particularly challenging because it required the skill to balance appropriate speed and lift to get the plane airborne and anticipate missile drops—failure to do so resulted in crashing. Despite its difficulty, the few rare instances of victory were extremely satisfying as the plane would fly off into the sunset.

Skunny Kart (1993)

This game followed the footsteps of the father of go-kart games, Super Mario Kart. However, this game was born out of a controversy. The demo was rejected when first pitched to the software company, Copysoft, and then rights went to Apogee Software, who went on to create the game Wacky Wheels. However, Copysoft (who still had a copy of the game source code) went forward and released the nearly-identical Skunny Kart just prior to Apogee’s release. This is another game that is extremely nostalgic for me because of the music. Something about that particular rhythm just made racing feel so epic. We even made up “lyrics” to the rhythm of the melody: “Get out of my face, get out of my face, get out of my face, I’m awesome!” And thus began my history of trash talking while gaming. How could I NOT trash talk while playing my favorite character, a crocodile named Handbag?!

Commander Keen (1990-1991)

This game is not really underrated nor unknown, but I had to include it because of the nostalgia associated with it. I think Commander Keen in Goodbye Galaxy! was the first video game that I actually completed in it’s entirety. How could I not love this game series, as Billy the boy genius transforms into Commander Keen by equipping a Green Bay Packers helmet?  And of course the Dopefish, who became a video game in-joke/meme, is one of my favorite video game enemies.


Featured image via Flickr user Mike Kniec

The International Geek Girl Pen Pals Club

Last year, I was introduced to the International Geek Girl Pen Pals Club (or IGGPPC) through several bloggers/Twitter friends, and I was quite intrigued. Wanting to get back into the lost art of written communication (something I am still working on!!), I signed up and started on an amazing journey of friendships with a group of awesomely geeky women (most of whom I have never not yet met in real life).

What started out as a simple idea born out of the brilliant minds of Leslie (aka Stewie) and Emily (aka Farquharson or Frogmella) quickly became an internet phenomenon. The goal of the club is to pair up like-minded individuals based off of their “Top 5 Geek Loves” and encourage friendship building through sending letters, postcards, and care packages – often to the other end of the globe! My first pen pal I was paired with is an amazing artist from the Netherlands and my second pen pal now runs a blog with me.

In addition to the pair-ups, the online community is very strong. A few days ago, the IGGPPC launched a brand new website with interactive forums, a leaderboard for achievements to unlock around the site, and of course, registration to be paired up with a pen pal who shares your geeky interests. The are currently in their 10th round of pair-ups, and according to their official press release, nearly 10,000 people have been hand matched through nearly 50,000 geek loves!

The IGGPPC is on a mission to maintain the lost art of letter writing in the technological age, inspire new friendships, and spread geeky awesomeness around the globe. You can sign up NOW for Round 10 of pair-ups, and within a month, you’ll be sending and receiving goodies from the long lost friend you never knew you had. What are you waiting for?!