My dad’s an electronic engineer whose work involves a lot of signal processing, so we had a computer in the house from when I was quite young. Naturally, the kids played games on it. Me more than the others. When I was about 10 we got Prince of Persia. It was the most involving game I’d yet seen: the characters had convincing, fluid, lifelike animations, it was all set in this atmospheric dungeon and there were swordfights and pits with spikes in them and crazy clanging jaws of death that you had to leap through or they’d chop you in half (literally! It was a shocking sight to my young eyes, the prince in two halves, with the jaws still snapping up and down, smeared in his blood).
Friends would come round and play it after school and we’d spend ages trying to work out how to get past different bits. It was super hard because the prince could die and go back to the beginning of the level any number of times, but the countdown timer never stopped and when an hour was up, the game was over. So you had to not only do everything just right, but do it quickly if you wanted to get deep into the game. After many months of effort I finally managed to complete the game, but I couldn’t let it go. I had to do it again and again so I had all the routes memorized and could do it as quick as possible. And then, I decided I loved it so much that I had to make a map of it.
This was when my sisters began seriously mocking me, but I didn’t care because the map was awesome. There were 12 levels to the game, with the early ones consisting of maybe ten screens’ worth of puzzles and the later ones much larger and more complicated. I drew all the screens out as a grid and filled in all the walkways and traps, and finally got a red felt tip and drew in the route you had to follow to complete it as a dotted line. Somewhere at my Mum and Dad’s house that map still resides – I fitted the whole game on to a maybe A1 or A2 sheet of card.
The reason I bring this up now is because I just discovered (via waxy again) Mapstalgia. It’s a collection of hand-drawn maps of video game levels, all created from memory. Such a pure distillation of geeky sentiment is a rare thing. Perhaps the most extraordinary entry so far is this huge and detailed map of the original Half Life. It even includes all the enemy placements and a little commentary on them (e.g. “Big stompy thing” and “Berks who shoot at you while the lift ascends”). Check it out, if you’re of that persuasion. Or if you’re not!
I’m gonna be back in the UK in July. Maybe I’ll track down that old Prince of Persia map and post a picture of it.