Garry Kitchen’s Game Maker

The Game: You decide what the game’s going to be. From creating your own characters, animating them, building their world (and the physical rules that govern it) and setting up the conflicts and limits, you have a powerful game-making tool at your disposal. Use it wisely, make something fun, and learn a little bit about how video games are conceived and programmed. (Activision, 1985)

Memories: Almost a transcendental work of genius, Game Maker is one of those programs that, if you were around (and of a certain age) when it was released, you remember it vividly. This is one of those things that probably changed a few lives.

As someone who had tried to create a few games himself, I was well acquainted with the perils and pitfalls – keeping track of variables, trying to do graphics and sound, and all the while keeping an eye on the bottom line: in this case, the limits of the machine’s program memory. Trying to accomplish that sort of thing in BASIC was daunting, and machine language was beyond me at anything more than a very rudimentary level. Game Maker was a godsend: no more syntax errors. It handled animation cycling for you. Game Maker was practically its own mini-language with routines specifically designed for things like collision detection (an all-important fundamental of any action game). Even if you were like me and were terrible at real assembly language programming, Game Maker put the creation of a real arcade-style game within your reach.

This isn’t to say that it was perfect or without limitations. Whether on the Commodore 64 or the Apple II, Game Maker was essentially moderating between you and your machine’s assembly language, and it did so through its own graphics-heavy interface. It was entirely possible 5 quarters!to load the thing down with enough code to cause a slowdown. But in the meantime? There was nothing quite like it. Arguably, some applications by Penguin Software and Beagle Bros. offered similar capabilities to Apple II programmers, but a solid base of programming knowledge was still required. Garry Kitchen‘s Game Maker was truly the first of its kind: an application allowing gamers who weren’t necessarily programmers to construct their own games… and gamers saw that it was good.