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Have You Played... Wolfenstein 3D?

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Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

I’ve been trying to remember whether I had some sense when I first played Wolfenstein 3D that I really, truly was playing the future of videogames. It did seem landmark, but back then, age 12 or 13, every new game seemed landmark to me – each was a brand new experience, both because I was so young and because so were videogames.

There was something about Wolfenstein, though. I remember not quite believing what I was seeing, moving back and forth around one of the first corners because it seemed so physical, so immense and real compared to the flat shapes I’d hitherto seen on my Gateway Super VGA monitor.

I felt, bless my little grey cotton schoolboy socks, that I was in a real place. This was probably the first time a videogame made me feel that way.

What I didn’t feel was that I was doing something subsersive. For good or ill, I was already well-versed enough in Star Wars and cowboy movies and side-scrolling action games that the language of pretend guns was not new to me, so I felt neither over-excited or scandalised to be shooting Nazis. It was already natural. But it was immediately appealing, more so than the Civilizations and Sim Cities also sat upon my hard drive. That, I regret, because it took me some years before I fully returned to such things.

What we talked about in school, after playing Wolfenstein 3D, was not that it was amazing to shoot people, but ‘have you seen.’ Have you seen the big blue guys with the miniguns? Have you seen robo-Hitler? Have you seen that secret room?

We did that for every game, though. Wolfenstein 3D was just the one we talked about that week. No, I did not realise that I was playing the future of videogames. But I was.

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Alec Meer

Senior Editor

Co-founder of RPS. Dungeon Keeper & X-COM 4 Life.

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