The Holy Grail

My first (and only?) completed game

Photo © 2011 Stan Syckes

Holy living fuck – I found it!

Hold up, let’s first get some back story in here. While attending middle school in Texas, Steve and I discovered the wonderful world of ZZT – a computer program that allowed users to create their own, ASCII-graphic video games. Being huge gamers and creative people in general, we fell in love with the DOS-based program and had amassed close to 100 games between us just six years later.

However, mastering the programming language came with a huge learning curve and it took us many, many tries to finally get a handle on the code. I remember that my very first try at a game was about Spider-Man 2009 – a comic I was subscribing to at the time – but I didn’t get very far as I really didn’t know what I was doing at all. Then I went over to my friend, Jordan’s house for a birthday party and he showed us how he had cracked the ZZT code! It was a religious moment – I suddenly could do whatever I wanted in ZZT.

The next two games I made were quite possibly the only ones I ever completed from start to finish. One was called Jordan’s Quest (in honor of the man who taught me how ZZT worked) and the other was Batmonkey (some crappy Batman spoof that didn’t make any sense). Both were utterly forgettable games but since they were finished, I uploaded them to the ZZT community on AOL (yep, that’s how old this story is).

Anyway, skip to my junior year of high school. Steve, my dad and I were all sharing the same computer and space was a premium. At some point many of my old ZZT games were obliterated – lost to the ages of time – including both of these two, only-complete early ones. I was devastated but tried my hardest to find them – but all un-delete programs failed and then a decade-and-a-half long search went unfruitful. I had pretty much accepted that I was never going to ever play these games again.

… Until last week that is! For some reason, I decided to search for “batmonkey” again and actually found an old site from 1994 where someone had a ZIP file containing Jordan’s Quest, Batmonkey, and even an old game of Steve’s. And included was a BatmonkeyFAQ text document written by a 12-year old me that included my home address in Texas (thank god there weren’t many internet predators back then … geez)! I quickly downloaded the treasure along with a copy of ZZT and relived the summer of 1993!

Ugh, what a mess – they were godawful. In fact, there was even a game-ending bug in Batmonkey. But I was ecstatic for finally discovering them and getting another chance to play my childhood. Thank you internet for never deleting data!

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Comments:
  • Tuesday, April 26th, 2011 at 15:54 | #1

    YOU subscribed to Spider-Man 2099? I know I had a subscription at one time – are you sure you’re not remembering wrong and just read mine?

  • Tuesday, April 26th, 2011 at 16:05 | #2

    Shit … I think you’re right. I had X-Men 2099 which was worse! Though my first game was about Spider-Man 2099 and I remember one screen was where you were supposed to answer the phone but I didn’t know how to get it to work so the smiley-face character just traveled down a drawn arm and touched the phone.

  • Shelby
    Sunday, May 1st, 2011 at 11:32 | #3

    Sorry for the late comment but WOW – what a great find. Back when we were living in Texas I was looking for ways to get you two involved in computer programming and all I could think of was Visual-Basic. It was pretty new (it came out in 1991)but expensive – yes you had to “buy” software back then – and I also had to find away to teach it to you and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to. Anyway, my plans went nowhere with the exception of sending you to “Computer Camp” in the summer of 1994 which I don’t think was much of a success either. But it didn’t matter because you guys found ZZT on AOL, learned it yourself, and the rest is history.

    Now – I want to see an online video of some smokin’ Bat Monkey action. Congratulations.

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