In 1991, our high school moved from the old building to a brand-new, state-of-the-art facility. I still have very fond memories of the “new carpet smell” of my sophomore year, as well as the marker boards, the huge science lab, and the sprawling computer lab.
I took programming for a couple of years to build off of what I had self-taught with BASIC, but in all honesty, we only did coursework about half the time. The other half was spent playing smuggled games — the most popular being Scorched Earth.
I had no idea that Scorched Earth was a huge hit globally. All I knew is that my classmates and I were obsessed with this multiplayer artillery game.
Scorched Earth didn’t look immediately impressive, but that was deceptive. You would set up matches with a whole lot of options, and then every player would take turns lining up shots and trying to wipe each other out to be the last tank standing.
What made Scorched Earth so dang fun was that it was brimming with crazy options and weapons. You weren’t just shooting little artillery shells; you were lobbing nukes, MIRVs, napalm, bouncing bombs, and so on. Tanks could move and use various gadgets like shields and parachutes to try to extend their lifespan. And the battlefield could get really nuts with dirt geysering everywhere, wind blowing shots to and fro, and even gravity being switched off.
If you didn’t have friends to play against, the computer was always willing to take on the role of opponent. I liked how the different CPU tanks would have their own personalities and skill levels, sometimes even smack talking you while they tried to murder your face.
Scorched Earth put gameplay first over presentation, becoming a shareware classic for the ages. And, bonus, it got me through some really boring weeks of high school, so there’s that.