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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

Player of Games, #63: Second Conflict

The 1990s were a great time. Sure, everyone probably feels that way about their teens and early twenties, when so many things seem new and exciting. But back in my teens and early twenties, so many things actually were new and exciting. The Soviet Union collapsed, the economy was humming along, and the explosion of computer technology brought new wonders every day. Of course, it turned out that Russia remained a global villain and the dot-com boom was a house of cards, but we didn't know that at the time. (We also didn't know that the technological advances would give us Twitter. Sigh.)

In that time of rapid infotech growth, computer games had a bit of a split personality. There were increasingly complex and sophisticated games, with intensive graphics and long-form narratives. And then, there were stripped-down DOS vehicles that didn't ask for weeks of your life or deep emotional commitment. I liked these, the ones you could play in an hour or two to avoid math homework or laundry. One of my favorites, that I played endlessly in the mid-90s, was Second Conflict. This thing was a holdover from the 1980s, and it had virtually no graphics at all. A star map, some placeholder ship images, and then a cool solar-system view. That was about it. This game required imagination as you launched your missiles to soften up the defenses of rival interstellar empires before sending in your warships and your fleets of colonists. It was simple, and fun. You know, a game? I was introduced to this by my first wife while we were in Texas. She'd go to her grad school classes and I'd conquer the universe. It was a great arrangement.

One of the best parts about Second Conflict was that you could name your computer opponents and customize their personalities, making them timid or aggressive or lazy. I can remember naming rivals after NFL quarterbacks, historic leaders, or the Muppets. There's nothing quite like sending your armada to crush a frightened, cowering Fozzie Bear.

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