Friday, September 9, 2011

Videogames Electronic Games Thought (And Hoped) We'd Never See

Originally published from 1981 to 1985 (and resurrected later), Electronic Games was one of the first periodicals devoted entirely to videogames (as they wrote it as one single word). In their March 1982 issue (#3) they had "A Humorous Look at Some Unlikely Future Videogames." I'm sure what they came up with was terribly funny in 1982. Some of it still is. But you know what'd be even more fun? Digging their "ridiculous" ideas up now and see how many of them have since been made into actual video games!

Now their descriptions are sometimes awfully detailed and represent to a degree the technological status of 1982, as well as the general state of the industry, so we'll be counting games that follow the same general concept, or even just include the proposed main elements (after all, games have grown more complex in general, and many of the ideas on their own would nowadays be dismissed as overly simple). Do comment, of course, if you know any more fine examples.

Freeway Menace

While not following the "exact" same story premise and they don't (predominantly) take place on the freeway, the Crazy Taxi games would be an almost perfect fulfillment of the basic idea for the gameplay.

The screenshot that I think was supposed to go with it (although it gives the game a different title) on the other hand looks much closer to Carmageddon, while it also resembles the top-down view GTA games in their habit to distribute points for killing pedestrians.

Alien Invaders

Holy crap, that's a risque concept! I still don't think we'll ever see that one in a commercial game, unless you count X-Com.

Nuclear Wargames

I vaguely remember nuclear weapon technology being somewhat of a big deal in Civilization as an optional research, then later the nuclear strike in Command & Conquer as a straight wargame? Nowadays nuclear war in video games sounds almost trivial, doesn't it?

Prom Night Massacre

This is kinda a cool concept, like a slasher movie with one player being the mysterious killer and the other one of the potential victims. Could somehow work as an online game where the two (or more) players genuinely have know means of knowing who's the killer, and that card is dished out randomly at the beginning of each round. I'm sure there must be something like that at least as an optional mode in any game, even if lacking the prom night scenario?

Gang Wars

They really could have foreseen this, couldn't they? Double Dragon, River City Ransom, GTA, Mafia, The Warriors, whatever. Next!

Medflies / Deluxe Medflies

Maybe for Harvest Moon 25: Industrial Edition?

Roman Circus

Gladiator games are legion, too. This started very early on with games like the 1986 arcade 1-on-1 fighter Gladiator, more recently we'd gotten Gladiator: Sword of Vengeance and Colosseum: Road to Freedom, some of the Asterix games, too. Shadow of Rome even tied the fights into a huge epic narrative, sporting the complete package of wild animal fights, gladiator rumbles and chariot races. The latter have been explored quite frequently as well (Computer Circus Maximus, Coliseum, Ben Hur 2000, Circus Maximus: Chariot Wars).

I think putting players in control of the wild animals would be new, though (or maybe there's an unlockable in one of the aforementioned games that I don't know about). The whole Christian convert angle promises hilarity, too.

PADI Scuba Scare

Why hasn't this concept been exploited more often, actually? There are a couple of diving-themed games for 8-bit systems, but most are rather simple shmups. The only true simulation is Sea Rogue, released in 1992, where the actual diving is just one part of the whole expedition you have to plan from the ground-up, including hiring divers, scientists and engineers. The rival here is always CPU-controlled, though.

Afterwards many games have dabbled with stages where you're diving for treasure, from Super Mario 64 to Ninja Gaiden (Xbox), but a modern, competetive diving action/simulation? Hell, yeah!

Teacher Terror

This has been done so many times in homebrew games, only from the opposite angle. The commercial consequence would be Bully / Canis Canem Edit. The teacher perspective, however, would be... quite boring, I think. (Though I'm sure there are enough Japanese teacher-student porn games to make up for it.)

Lynch Mob

This is also kinda contained in GTA (although you're hunted by the feds there, they're just as bloodthirsty as soon as you hit a 2-star wanted level).

Brain Transplant

Done in Life and Death (the sequel carries the even more fitting subtitle The Brain), in an even more macabre manner than it is described here. Take Trauma Center for the less tongue-in-cheek approach.


Political simulations with a focus on corrupt activities are typically set not as close to home, favourably in fictional third-world or communist countries (Tropico series), or in historical settings (Merchant Prince).

The article also has a list of "coming-soons":
Video Horseshoes (almost certainly done as a mini-game somewhere)
JAA Championship Jacks (ehrm... no.)
Potato Yields in Brecklovik, Russia (most definitely not)
Video Coin Toss (mini game in many Soccer simulations. And in Shenmue II, but there you always lose)
Natural Disasters (Disaster Report says hello)
Video Iconoclasm (WTF? There's an indie metroidvania whith the title Iconoclasts!)

Actual game screenshots borrowed from Abandonia (Life & Death 2), Strategy Informer (Shadow of Rome, The Warriors), Mobygames (Sea Rogue) and Game Breakers (Carmageddon).


  1. DEFCON has your Thermonuclear War needs all sewn up btw.

  2. Defcon is almost identical to their idea of a nuclear wargame. And I'd say that Lynch Mob is pretty close to what happens in Red Dead Redemption when you cap a whole bunch of guys accidentally when trying to get the "shoot the hats off of dudes" achievement.

  3. Hey, there was a Jacks game for Windows a long time ago.

    Also, DEFCON anyone?

  4. I enjoyed the fact that they thought games would still be heavily pixelated despite having otherwise detailed graphics.

  5. The Ship might suit the Prom night massacre scenario. It's a multiplayer game where everyone is a hitman but nobody knows who their killer is. I haven't played it but it looks kinda fun.

  6. "his is kinda a cool concept, like a slasher movie with one player being the mysterious killer and the other one of the potential victims. Could somehow work as an online game where the two (or more) players genuinely have know means of knowing who's the killer, and that card is dished out randomly at the beginning of each round. I'm sure there must be something like that at least as an optional mode in any game, even if lacking the prom night scenario?"

    Actually, there is a mod for the Doom 2 Skulltag engine called WhoDunIt that is pretty much exactly this! It's very fun and can be found here:

  7. Video Horseshoes = Shuuz by Atari in 1990. Yes, you heard me, Atari made a dedicated horseshoe tossing arcade game. Trackball fun indeed :S

  8. There is a game in development called SpyParty - you have to find and snipe a spy in a room full of people..

  9. There's also American Horseshoes by Taito. 1990 was a big year for horseshoe games.

  10. "Nuclear Wargames" is 100% what "M.A.D" on real live was. Too bad that service didn't make it very long - i believe the game was eventually re-released on cd with gamespy support, but dont quote me on it.

  11. Medflies sounds a bit like Plants VS Zombies. It has the same basic elements (encroaching opponents, something you must defend and using different strategies against different types of enemies). Of course, not the first of its type - but one I recall instantly.

  12. PADI Scuba Scare could compare to Endless Ocean

  13. Sadly enough the protect the border portion of Alien Invasion has actually been done as a PC game -

  14. That deals with smuggling and trafficking, though, not illegal immigrants?

  15. There are a lot of scuba diving games, actually. Two Endless Ocean games, two Everblue games, Aquanaut's Holiday on PSX, and I think a few others I can't recall offhand. I don't think any of them simulate things like the bends, though.

  16. @derboo - it does include a bullet on the games description about apprehending violators of your nation's immigration laws.

  17. Cool, that just about only leaves Potato Yields in Brecklovik, Russia then. But that title alone is so specific, we'd really need a russian Harvest Moon or Sim Farm clone to fill that.

  18. It's funny how many of the ideas were considered ridiculous in 1982. I'm guessing that if such a list were made about now, the ideas would be far more outlandish, yet in 30 years, most of them would've been done. Because of the internet, some of them would probably be done on bets and out of sheer amusement. But who knows?

  19. What astonishes me is how many of these ideas appear in games from 1983, almost as if game designers didn't realize the article was supposed to be a joke. Offhand, I can think of:

    Nuclear Wargames: WarGames/Global Thermonuclear War (I don't know whether this was based on a real game, though. And if it was, the original probably is older than 1982/3.)

    Prom Night Massacre: Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween, by the same company; TCM has you playing the slasher, and Halloween has you playing the Final Girl. (Maybe they didn't have enough memory on a 2600 cart to support both gameplay modes at once?)

    Medflies: Donkey Kong 3.

    PADI Scuba Scare: Cutthroats, although that's from 1984.