30/03/2018: And now...The Secret History of Mac Gaming

I backed a Kickstarter project last year – a book entitled 'The Secret History of Mac Gaming'. I received the book about a month ago and completed reading it in the last week. It's a truly great book.

The Secret History of Mac Gaming

Although I grew up with an Apple IIGS, moving with the times, our family got a PowerMac 7100/AV in January 1995 and I've got to be honest and say I enjoyed gaming all over again on a fruity coloured logo stamped machine. It was a good time for Mac gaming – Lucas Arts were in full swing for their enhanced Mac game conversions (which featured better graphics than the MS-DOS originals) Mac shareware giants Ambrosia's catalogue was only widening, and Marathon 1 and 2 from Bungie software were simply a delight to play, taking advantage of the Mac in the first-person shooter realm.

The good times didn't last however, as Apple found itself in some financial turmoil in 1996. All too soon it felt like I had to become a user and evangelist just as I had with the IIGS, but it's a period of my ongoing formative years with computers and The Secret History of Mac Gaming certainly evoked a lot of good memories of those days. Possibly the darkest looking days for Apple were the most fun in hindsight, as we rallied behind the cause of computing...differently.

The book itself is almost entirely text based, which surprised me given the visual history approach I've always planned for the IIGS coffee table book (yes, I still hope to complete it, although my current thinking is it will be broken up into separate volumes now, as there's just too much content to include in a single tome). But author Richard Moss's interviews and concise prose deliver such a wonderful human side to every tale told on developing games on the Mac – stories quite like what we know on the Apple II and IIGS as well. The youthful energy, hopes and dreams of the early adopters of the Mac is palpable and I really felt great for their successes and sorrow for what would be almost inevitable failures as the Mac's fortunes as a gaming platform twisted and turned like a roller coaster.

Relevant to the Apple II and IIGS, there are interviews with very notable people who developed for both platforms. Brian Greenstone, founder of Pangea Software is given a whole chapter and his past as a games developer on the IIGS is duely acknowledged. If you ever wondered what happened to him, his tale of struggling Mac game developer paid off when his Nanosaur game became bundled with the then new iMac in 1998 and then stratospherically rose again to undreamt of heights as a sole developer when Pangea's games were amongst the initial offerings on the App Store when it first launched in 2008 with the introduction of the iPhone 3G.

The story of Crystal Quest, the first colour Mac game is fully traced, as are the origins of Shufflepuck Cafe. Rebecca Heineman's porting work on a slew of Mac games conversions is well covered (including games Wolfenstein 3D and Out of This World, which helped in getting IIGS versions made) and the stories of how the ICOM series of point and click adventure games (Deja Vu I and II, UninvitedShadowgate) and seminal Mac favourite Dark Castle were made, all games that got IIGS colour conversions, are great reads as well. Even Glenda Adams, who was the champion of Mac gamers everywhere for her ports of blockbluster PC games, is worth mentioning because it was only recently discovered that she was an Apple II geek as well, although in her earlier high school days, cracking games rather than writing them. And I was delighted to find out that Jason Jones, still the creative director at Bungie after Marathon, Myth, Halo and Destiny series, initially started his first game, Minotaur, on the Apple II (although it was completed on the Mac).

I tip my hat to fellow Melbournite Richard Moss for delivering a wonderful historical account using almost only the readable word to convey so much. The design is minimal and doesn't take away from the engrossing text. Details of where to buy the book online and everything else can be found here. Also, be sure to give his podcasts Ludophilia and The Life and Times of Video Games a listen.