The Shareware Age
Posted at 09:10 on 24th May 2009 - permalink

Ten years since I started regularly writing words on the internet it has occurred to me that there might be people willing to offer me money to do this. The first fruits of this experiment can now be viewed on Eurogamer, where I’ve contributed a piece to their regular Sunday morning retro strand about the PC shareware scene of the 1980s and 1990s.

“How could the complacent PC games industry be shaken out of its torpor? Such a task called for nothing less than a revolutionary movement – an underground development scene, answerable to no marketing departments and dismissive of hidebound conventions about what PC users would consider ‘worthy’ uses of their sacred beige monoliths. Their success would hinge on the creation of fast, fluid, immersive games that would thrust the PC into the limelight and make Amiga owners involuntarily hiss with envy. Games, in a nutshell, like Doom.

“That movement was known as Shareware.”

(Read the full article on Eurogamer.)

Due to a chance sequence of events I first started playing games on the PC in 1987, so grew up more immersed in that scene than most UK and European games folk, who mostly went straight from the ZX Spectrum, BBC Micro and C64 to the Amiga and ST, and only turned to the PC when it became obvious that the Amiga was over the hill.

Writing this piece allowed me (through the wonders of DOSBox) to rediscover a lot of games that I’d completely forgotten about. It also confirmed my suspicions that the amount of information online about PC games of this period is alarmingly thin on the ground. If I’d wanted to write about the NES or the golden age arcade games I’d have had lots of sources to draw from, but in this case I had to rely on Apogee’s own retrospectives and the wild and woolly to supplement my own hazy memories.

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