Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.
In this digital age, there are probably hundreds of people who’ve never experienced the joy of sitting on public transport with a boxed game in their lap. I lament for those people and strongly advise them to recreate the experience of reading a manual on the way home from the shops, hype and anticipation building during the short trip in a way that a six month multi-million dollar marketing campaign could never replicate. Maybe print off pages and pages of patch notes for your favourite game, and read them on the train or the bus, only applying the update once you’re home and hyped.
For me, the king of this particular genre – the Reading A Manual On The Way Home From The Shop genre – will always be Master of Magic. I’d been visiting my dad in hospital (cancer) and my mum clearly thought a fantasy strategy game would be the perfect thing to divert and occupy my mind.
It worked, which meant that the trip home involved picking at the plastic wrapping around the cardboard box, still in a carrier bag, hoping to slip the manual out quietly. I always got in trouble for reading manuals on the bus; not because there was anything wrong with the reading, but because I’d once lost a disc from a brand new game when I’d accidentally dropped it on the way home while digging through the box. I can’t remember which game that was, possibly because it was lost to me forever.
I did manage to get into the Master of Magic box though, somewhere near Manchester city centre and still a good half hour from home. The manual was enormous and it promised worlds of magic. Loads of pages at the back were devoted to tables showing the stats of every creature in the game, and there were so many creatures.
On that bus journey I probably read more about Master of Magic than I’ve ever read since. The entire game was in those pages and I already knew that I loved it.