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My first console was one of these things that you just hooked up to your TV. I can't remember what it was, as I was
only five at the time. There was Pong on it that I remember. Probably it was
Atari 2600 was my first game console. At least I think it was.
My friend had Videopac that had games
with stunning graphics - I mean colors and objects made out of more than 3 pixels. Air-Sea War: Battle was maybe
After that, it was the usual story: C-64, Amiga 500 and eventually my first PC. I never went back to consoles after my first one, until Playstation 2. I did have loads of Nintendo Game&Watch electronic games.
My first brush with game design was the Star Wars RPG my best friend and I "designed" when we were about ten years old or so. At the time, we didn't know that what we had created was a roleplaying game because in the 1980's there wasn't any real knowledge of RPG's in Finland. My friend's friend had been in the US and told us there were these strange games that had no board or cards, but you could be Luke Skywalker or Han Solo or anyone.
Soon after I read William Sleator's great science fiction novel Interstellar Pig. In the book there was a board game with aliens and stuff. I just had to design it for real and make my friends play it. I think they weren't as enthusiastic about it as I was.
Roleplaying boomed in Finland in the 1990's and I dived right in. The first RPG I bought was MERP. I was in 7th grade and my English skills were quite insufficient to read the rules. Luckily some classmates had learned how to play it to some extent and we just sort of made up the bits we didn't understand.
D&D was the first RPG translated into Finnish but I waited for the Finnish version of Runequest. From there, our group of friends tried out any system that seemed interesting: Warhammer FRP, Cyberpunk, Cthulhu, Rolemaster, Harnmaster, 2300 AD, AD&D... Board games like Talisman, Heroquest and Space Hulk also saw a lot of action. And the original Magic the Gathering, naturally.
The good thing about pen-and-paper RPG's and board games is that all the game rules and mechanics are exposed. In my
opinion, you can learn a lot about how games work by playing these kinds of games. After all, games are just a bunch
of arbitrary rules. What I find intriguing is how combining different rules and options together, you can create
something that people find enjoyable, entertaining and fun.
During the era of C-64 and Amiga, I think piracy was much more commonplace than today. Not that we kids ever regarded copying games as illegal. It was just something that everybody did and non-existent copy protection made it all too easy.
Maybe it was partly because copied games that had no manuals, but trying to figure out the game mechanics was (to me) as entertaining as playing the game itself. I especially remember Captain Blood. That was a complex game to begin with.
I spent thousands of hours on games like Fairy Tale, Elite, Civilization, Panzer General, Warhead, Fallout, Steel Panthers, Ultima III, Wings, Doom, Laser Squad, Nethack, Master of Magic, Warlords and War in Middle-Earth just to name the ones that instantly come to mind.
As a game designer, I find vast experience with different kinds of games an invaluable asset. Anyone that is interested in game development as a future profession should play, play and play!