I have such fond memories for back when I was deeply invested in real-time strategy (RTS) games. There were so many great ones, including Warcraft and Kohan and Majesty, but I think that the first RTS to really take our college by storm was Command & Conquer.
Unlike the scifi slant of Dune 2 or the fantasy angle of Warcraft, Command & Conquer went with a slightly futuristic contemporary military look. For kids like me who grew up playing with those huge bags of plastic army soldiers, being able to command whole armies of tanks and troops was a dream come true.
I think that by the time C&C came out, my already aging laptop couldn’t handle it, so I only got to play it on friends’ more powerful desktop PCs. But play it we did, because the gameplay loop of harvesting, building, assembling, and destroying was addicting. Getting into those massive battles late in a match were thrilling, win or lose,
But as much as we all liked C&C, it was the next version of the game — Red Alert — that really became a phenomenon. This bizarre alternate universe take on the cold war was starkly beautiful, with cherry-red Commie tanks highlighted against a snowfield, and the units and buildings were far more memorable. And that theme song!
Red Alert got so popular that we actually had to set up a schedule to share the one computer in our dorm suite that could run it. It was pretty common to see someone up at three a.m. playing it while others were sleeping in the same room, just to clock in some time. We’d also endlessly quote the game to each other in passing, especially the iconic “Orbital strike incoming!”
Unfortunately, I never felt that the C&C series was able to top Red Alert. Command & Conquer 3 was… fine… but I lost interest in it soon after. I haven’t paid much attention to the franchise past this, but I do enjoy a warm memory of those late Red Alert nights.