The ISA-Bus

One blog to bind them all.

Acid, smileys, ecstasy: Raver culture in games

In the late 80s there was something—a movement, a fad, a subculture, or whatever—that was known in the UK as the Second Summer of Love. Its music was acid house, or sometimes acid techno (acid in this case referring to anything created with the Roland TB-303). Its drug was ecstasy. Its parties were called raves. Its symbol was the smiley, usually against a black background, sometimes with a bloody streak, possibly as a result of the media hysteria that surrounded it. Okay, so this is probably an over-simplification. But I’ve never been part of it in any way, I’m just interested in its influence on computer gaming.

The game that inspired me to this post is Ecstasy. It is an implementation of Lights Out, but completely to a raver theme. The cursor turns into an ecstasy pill, give it to the sad blue faces and they turn into bright yellow smileys. The game menu is called Raving, new game is Start raving, end game is The rave is over. This version is from 1996, but it’s 1.95, I have no idea how far the game goes back.

ACiD Tetris was written in 1997 by Dungeon Dwellers Design, as a sort of break while they were working on their first commercial game, the Asteroids-style shooter AXIA. The background music is acid house, and there is a smiley that comments on your gameplay. I’ve captured some of its expressions on screenshots. Raver references or not, ACiD Tetris is an excellent game!

But the ultimate raver game was the Toi Acid Game. It was released in 1989 by Iber, as far as I know only in Spain, for ZX, CPC, MSX and (as I only now learned) Atari ST. It is rather complex as far as popular culture is concerned, since it combines two fads, acid and the Toi. The Toi is the mascot of a Spanish food company, Bollycao, and in the Spain of the time it was like Garfield and Love is… cartoons in other places of the world: It was everywhere. The Toi was usually not the hero of cartoons or comics, it was just printed on stickers in various moods and situations:

Here in this game however Toi is the hero and has to make his way through four levels to rescue his girl friend from the clutches of the evil Dr. Acid: disco, beach, pirate ship, and finally Dr. Acid’s spooky castle. Smileys appear as enemies to be shot, the game at least pretends to be opposed to raver culture, though I guess it was quite popular with ravers. Otherwise, it is generally not considered a very good game.

If you want to try it yourself: Level codes are 517, 124, and 500.

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