Wing Commander Privateer and the semester of spacefaring

, | Features

When I was in college, I lived in a fraternity house and one of the rules for living in the house was that you had to have your class schedule posted on your door should an emergency arise. This was before the time of cell phones and social networks. No there were not dinosaurs roaming the Earth at the time, as difficult as that may be to believe.

The first semester of my senior year I was student teaching, so my schedule had large blocks of open time in the evenings, time that was usually spent on my friend Ron’s computer playing games. I played so many games that someone in the house took to writing “DOOM” in every block of free time on my schedule. I would have been pissed if it weren’t so accurate. However, had they really wanted to nail down my activities, every block would have been filled with “Wing Commander: Privateer”.

Privateer was the first space sim I ever played. Hell, it was the first real space game I played, period. When I was a kid, I played my fair share of Defender, Star Wars and Space Invaders in the arcade as well as hours and hours of Space Quest. But Privateer was a whole new world. For a kid raised on Star Wars in the theater and Buck Rogers on TV, being able to pilot my own ship and look out of the cockpit, juking and diving as I tried to keep a pirate in my sights and blow him to space dust was like nothing I had ever played. Unfortunately, my inexperience with the genre translated into some dicey situations, namely when the alien probe chased me through multiple meteoroid laden systems after I stole their cool ass green gun. I’m not proud of this fact, but when I fled the aliens, I had to enlist the aid of a fraternity brother to toggle the afterburner as I worked on not smashing into asteroids. Thanks Micah, you were a real life saver.

It certainly didn’t hurt that Privateer let me get a taste of the Han Solo life. Winging into a space station, picking up materials, both legal and illegal, and making my way to another system to unload my wares was just as exciting to me as fighting off pirates or shooting Kilrathi. I may not have understood how the game tied into the Wing Commander universe and it would be a few more years before I played another space sim (Wing Commander IV, for the record) but Privateer got its hooks into me good, making me a bona fide fan of the genre.