Playful Pasts allows gamers, historians, and an interested public a glimpse into early PC gaming.

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In Playful Pasts, you can subscribe to, browse, and immerse yourself in an early 1980s publication that addresses new games. You also have the opportunity to play many of those games on an Apple II emulator.

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The computer as a consumer item, as well as the hardware, software, games, and language surrounding it began to take shape in the late 1970s and early 1980s. For much of the public, knowledge of the burgeoning PC and game console market in this period is limited to only the big corporations and games that lasted. Many games and companies at the time are not known today. Some of the companies failed during the software Shakeout in the mid-1980s, and not simply for reasons of game quality.

In Playful Pasts, you'll receive an email every two weeks directing you to an issue of Softline magazine – a game publication in print from 1981-1984 - where you can pick one game mentioned in some capacity from that issue. You'll be able to read about and play that game in an Apple II emulator in your browser. These games, whether good or bad, can help to understand design directions, style, popular games to clone, and a little of what was on the minds of the game makers and the players for whom they were developing.

Softline magazine mostly focused on Apple II games, but reviewed and advertised for other consoles, such as Atari and Commodore 64. Softline contains a myriad of game reviews and featured many letters to the editor regarding games and other magazine stories.

While reading the issue, you will be directed to various portions of the magazine that mention or are about the games we have made available. Only one game can be chosen in order to simulate a situation similar to that in the past where game picks were most-likely limited based on space, time, and money. Some people did not have easy access to a physical computer store that may have sold games. Mail-ordering of games was popular and therefore, it would take time to receive a game, and at prices of around $30 each (that’s about $75 today), it may not have been feasible to purchase multiple games at a time.

Created by Hayden Duke Russell, Kera Allen and Pierce McBride at Georgia Institute of Technology.
Made with Materialize, Apple 2 Emulator and the Internet Archive