Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Game Box Trinkets

In the golden years of gaming, sometimes cracking the box open was as rewarding (or more rewarding) than playing the game itself. Game publishers in the eighties strived to start the game experience before the first disk went in by bundling their games with trinkets, trading cards, and silly gadgets that were tangentially related to the plot. Often this was purely self-serving, since the game company could insert special codes into the trinkets as a form of early copy protection (meaning that pirates who copied the disks but didn't have the knick knacks couldn't load the game), but sometimes the extra materials just served to enhance the fun factor and immersion of the game.

The two star companies in this regard were Infocom and Origin. Infocom apparently felt that their packaging needed a high wow factor (since all they made were pure text games) and often included hundred page encyclopedias, diaries of characters in the games, or imitation magnetic pass cards (though Floyd the Robot never made an appearance as a box trinket). Five years later, Origin picked up the torch, led by the crazy (or brilliant or both) Richard Garriott. Each game released in Origin's major franchise came with a woven cloth map, artfully etched spell books and bestiaries, pouches of runes, magic coins, and a pewter Egyptian ankh which I used to wear on a string in elementary school until it broke during a particularly hectic championship game of hopskotch. The extravagance of the goodies probably helped lead to Origin's demise as a company, but it sure helped their games become more engrossing.

How much of an 80s computer geek were you? How many of these trinkets can you match with the game they came from? I doubt anyone can guess more than two without the aid of Google, but a special prize awaits anyone who does.


1) Photo of Buddy Burbank and a palm tree swizzle stick

2) Cloth map of the continent

3) Letter from Jean Lafond and a fifty guinea note in an elegant velvet reticule

4) Crime scene photo and plastic bag of suspicious drugs

5) Blueprints of Rockville Estates with a sticky note

6) Encyclopedia entry on the Christmas Tree monster
Elderly woman tells of kind hijacking
Unschoolers break the mold
He said some residents have also believed it was a symbol of Satan.

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