Nostalgia: Late 90s

I recently rediscovered George Buckenham’s amazing Games We Have Known and Loved, where he collects concise recordings of people talking about their favorite moments in games. It’s remarkable how so many different people can experience the same game in such different ways.

Listening to some of the accounts reminded me of a game that I really enjoyed, Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II. I was in high school, and it must have been either 1999 or 2000. A friend from my class lent me a precious CD, holding a number of games that were … less than legitimate. This was before broadband internet was widespread, meaning the original game, which spanned (I believe) two whole CDs, had been stripped of its full-motion video cut-scenes and CD-quality music and compressed into a single .ZIP file.

Around that time, my parents had taken me to a Pat Metheny concert, when his trio visited Israel on tour. On the way out of the auditorium, we bought his album, Trio 99->00, which I still love today. This CD was in my computer’s optical drive a lot during this period, so while playing Jedi Knight, the familiar orchestral Star Wars background music was replaced with a modern American jazz trio. As I would explore the industrial factories and extra-terrestrial valleys, I might be accompanied by A Lot of Livin’ To Do or Capricorn.

There was a lot of mystery in the game, because I didn’t have those full-motion video cut-scenes to help tell me what was going on or what my objective was. I also used cheat codes because I was a huge sissy. Despite Jedi Knight being a first-person shooter, there was a third-person mode for when the light saber was used, in order to aid combat. I would use third-person as much as possible, because it was fun to control this character jumping around, waving a light saber. This resulted in me wandering around an empty level, looking for something to trigger the next level, listening to cool jazz and brandishing a light saber.

It’s hard to explain how calm and peaceful it was. To be sure, I was trying to get out of the level and move on to the next one. But the exploration had a special feel to it. Maybe some of this magic is rediscovered today in games like Proteus. And I think the Megastructure and its endless chambers may bring back other aspects.

EDIT: A video to help relive the experience!