Going back and playing Midwinter, I realized that it's tough, if not impossible, to take these significant games out of time. This is especially true of my second game. In the annals of gaming history Hired Guns is little more than a footnote, but to me it represents the moment in which the future of multiplayer gaming became a cooperative, shared experience, rather than a head-on competitive exercise. It was the game that taught me that playing with somebody didn't mean having to batter them into unconsciousness on the speedball court, but could instead mean working with them to complete a grand quest and explore an intricate challenge. Hired Guns was a lost game that no one (other than my best friend circa 1993) seems to have played. It was a four-players-on-one-screen Dungeon Master clone with pseudo-3D single-frame-per-click movement. That alone marks it out as a developmental oddity that now seems impossibly crude, and it has little or no importance in any grand history of gaming that might one day be written.

Yet few games approach its level of achievement. Hired Guns created a unique world that never felt the need to explain itself and kicked genre conventions in the face with a throbbing robo-boot. It had teeth-jarring machine gun blasts, magic killer monks, serpents, sharks, deployable automated sentry cannons, personal teleports, ED-209 clones and apropos of nothing, thirty-foot bone monsters. All this weird was wrapped up in a gloom-clad future world that was both spooky and intriguing. It embraced peculiarity in a way that games fear to do today. But its greatest achievement was to place me and my best friend together in a game world. We played our way across the epic map over the course of three weeks. We overcame puzzles through joint thinking, and fought pitched battles together.

How many first-person perspective games now combine RPG elements, while dodging genre clich

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