O is for Old Computer Games, Arthurian and Others

Drawing by AllThingsConsidered

Hi, my name is Niki and apparently I used to be a gamer. (“Hi, Niki”)

I didn’t come to this realization until I watched all five hours (yes, five) of the “Top 100 Computer Games of All Time” on G4. (Don’t judge, you’ve done stuff like that, too.) While none of my favorite PC games made the list (several console games did), it made me realize just how much of an effect some of my favorite games had on me. Being a highly visual person, I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that scenes from these games continue to shape my Arthurian world as I write. Without further preamble, here are a few old computer games whose influence is still clear in my writing:

Arthur: The Quest for Excalibur
This primarily text-based game was released for PCs in 1989. It was my second computer game ever. (We’ll get to the first later.) The basic premise is that you’re a young, untested Arthur who has to get the sword that was in the stone back from King Lot, who stole it. It looks cheesy now, but the fact that it had graphics at all was a big deal at the time.

Remember me saying I was fascinated by the peat fire when I went to Ireland? Well, this screenshot (above) is why. You go to a peasant’s house and find out he is sick and dying of cold. So you go outside and dig a brick of peat to put on his fire to warm him. It was the first time I’d heard of anything other than a wood fire, and I’ve been fascinated with peat ever since!

Later, you meet the village idiot. (No, I’m not kidding. That’s really what he was called.) He has one of the funniest lines I’ve ever encountered in a game, “I’m schizophrenic and so am I.” (Sorry if that offends anyone – this is the Internet, I’m sure someone will get upset – but I have always found it funny, especially seeing as I’m a writer whose characters talk to her.)

Playing this game, I learned that the holy thorn on Glastonbury supposedly planted by Joseph of Arimathea only blooms on Christmas Day. I can’t find a screenshot of it, but the image of when you are walking through the bog to get to the holy thorn was a major influence on how I imagine the mists that surround the isle of Avalon. The game also came with a short version of the Book of Hours, which was used in play, and I’ve been fascinated with the real Book of Hours ever since.

If you’re interested, you can play or download the game here. (I can’t vouch for the safety of this site, so download at your own risk.)

Quest for Glory: So You Want to Be a Hero
Released in 1992, this is still one of my all-time favorite games. It has nothing to do with Arthurian legend, but it’s a high fantasy game, so it still fits. In it, you pick whether you want to be a warrior, mage or thief (I could only beat the game if I was the thief. Plus, it was fun to sneak into people’s houses and steal things.) in order to complete your quest (which involves lots of wandering around, fighting strange creatures and finding treasure).  I probably logged more hours on this game than any other.

The orchard ended up playing into how I imagine parts of Avalon.

Erana’s Peace, as this meadow is called, also influenced Avalon, particularly the Beltane bower (you’ll understand when you read the book)

King’s Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella
This was my very first computer game, and while it didn’t influence my Guinevere books directly, it certainly opened my mind to fantasy. The graphics from the original are so sad by today’s standards, but the wonderful folks over at Unicorn Tales are remaking it. Here’s an old and new shot to show you the difference:

This is the original screen of the pool where Rosella encounters Cupid.

And this is the updated version. So much more like how it is in my brain. Can’t wait for them to finish this!

I also briefly owned Stronghold: Legends, which features an Arthurian gameplay option, but I couldn’t get the hang of the controls and the camera, so after only completing one campaign, I gave up. I did, however, get to hear Bedivere’s name pronounced, and found out I’ve been saying incorrectly all this time (which is the case with many other Arthurian character names which I’ve never heard spoken, only read.)

In case anyone was wondering, my top two favorite PC games of all time are Realms of the Haunting (THE. BEST. ENDING. EVER. I have plans for a related book someday.) and Lords of the Realm 2, which to this day influences every battle scene I write. Thank goodness I don’t have any games anymore…or I’d never get my novels written!

Have you played any of these games? Do you know of any other Arthurian-related games? Are you a gamer? Which games are your favorites? What influences your creativity?

2 thoughts on “O is for Old Computer Games, Arthurian and Others

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