I’ve been using that phrase (How goes the war against the humans?) since I first played Wing Commander II sometime in the very early 90’s. I had an Intel 386DX with 1MB of memory, and a Soundblaster compatible sound card (couldn’t afford a real soundblaster). That computer kept me going from the end of the first year at University (when I replaced my Amstrad 1512 with it) to the end of University and beyond. It got slowly upgraded to the point of uselessness and finally replaced. I blogged a while back about the moment I got rid of the last bits (keyboard mainly).
Anyway, Wing Commander II was just amazing. There is a moment during the introduction when a conductor taps his music stand, and then an orchestra plays the intro while scrolling into view over the horizon (you can check out all the music here). I was amazed. Shortly after that is a cut scene, and amazingly, some folk have converted all the in-game speech and have it on the web, here’s a link to the file with the quote in question.
The thing that got me started looking for that, is that I’m still quoting games, movies and music from more than 15 years ago. In fact, the whole conversation with a friend started when I tried to work out what I did on Sundays before the internet. One of those things was play computer games, Wing Commander II being one of them. Games and movies from my early 20’s have had such a lasting effect on my speech and memories. I’m the kind of annoying nerdy geek who quotes this kind of stuff at random during conversation, even when I know no one around me will have a clue what I’m on about.
I’ve been asking people I’ve not seen for a long time “how goes the war against the humans?” when we see each other, since 1991, and most of them still have no clue what the hell I’m on about. It’s amazing to me the impact that art (essentially) can have on memory. I have lasting and vivid memories of Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, F19 Stealth Bomber, and a bunch of other very early games in the early 90’s. But equally, I have memories and still use quotes from movies around that time and even earlier. When someone asks if I’d like to play a game, I still respond with (mashed up) quotes from WarGames (how about a nice game of tic-tac-toe or, yes, how about a game of thermonuclear global war?).
Maybe I’m easily impressionable? I find myself saying ‘hmm, upgrades?’ and ‘guns, lots of guns’, and ‘i know kung-fu’ quite a bit as well (from the various Matrix movies).
Anyway, after finding the web site linked above, and listening to that intro another thing became clear. Not only do I have vivid memories of playing a lot of Wing Commander II, but hearing that speech opened up a bunch of additional memories that I don’t think about as much. I was reading The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant around the same time, I was living in a flat in Sheffield, I used to watch Northern Exposure, I used to eat a lot of tuna and salad cream on toast. I used the launderette just up a hill not far from the flat (which is something I had totally forgotten until just now), and I hated it. I used to get up at 5am to catch three buses to get to work (until I met some other guys at the same place and starting getting a lift in, Jack Dainty, Chris Philips, they were good times). I remember Charles Dobson coming to visit and we bought a crate of beer from a local off licence, and we either dropped it and/or some of the cans exploded in the shop. So many good memories.
So it’s amazing to me how the sound from a computer game can open up memories of the same time that I’ve not thought about for such a long time. I’m the same with smells and music, sometimes a smell or a song will bang open a massive collection of memories I’d totally neglected to refresh over the years.
Like the Graceland album, which evokes a vivid memory of walking to Jack Dainty’s house in the early morning, through a couple of parks in Sheffield. Playing on my fake-walkman casette player would be that album (I had very little music on tape), and I’d play it full blast and watch the sun come up over the trees to burn off the morning mist while I walked. And then we’d listen to Chris’ Michelle Shocked album in the car on the way to the labs.
So yeh, if you ever meet me, and I ask you how goes the war against the humans, just lie and tell me it’s going fine and that the Kilrathi shall once again be the supreme beings in the universe, and all will be well.
And I’ll just nod. Pleased with our mighty power.