So far, SUPERBRIEF has focused on interactive fictions such as Zork and Colossal Cave Adventure as some of the earliest standout computer games. While both of these (and many, many others) claimed tabletop role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons as one of their main influences, pop culture inspired other projects that would prove to be enormously influential. One of these projects was Mike Mayfield’s Star Trek, a simple BASIC program that generated star maps of a universe. rendered in ASCII characters.

Screenshot of version created in C by James Gibbon. Courtesy of cc Wikimedia Commons

With the cancellation of the famed CBS sci-fi series in the late 1960s, Mayfield wanted to relive the adventures of the intrepid Enterprise and her crew. Acting as captain, the player monitored weapons payloads and fuel while scouring the universe in search of new planets, stranded ships, and starbases – all while clearing quadrants of Klingon invaders.

Although simple, Star Trek was remarkable for its open-access quality. Because of its simplicity, players could adapt the code to their liking. In fact, this game was one of many that populated the pages of countless “How-to” BASIC programming books that were popular at the time. It’s hard to believe that there was a time when Paramount’s lawyers would have overlooked (though for awhile the company openly condoned fan contributions to the Star Trek universe). Super Star Trek, the most successful version of this game, was one of those lucky enough to receive Paramount’s blessing, eventually selling over one million copies.

Star Trek and Super Star Trek would inspire many to pursue programming (I myself recall plugging away at BASIC Computer Games offerings). One of these would be Atari programmer Doug Neubauer, Attempting to recreate a more graphical version of the game, he would eventually create the lucrative title Star Raiders.

Taken from the Infocom text adventure A Mind Forever Voyaging, the command SUPERBRIEF displayed “the name of a place you have entered, even if you have never been there before.” It is also the title of Kristopher Purzycki’s weekly bit where he reflects upon the earliest PC games, their development, and their significance within the history of the medium.


Kristopher Purzycki Kristopher Purzycki (0 Posts)

Kristopher Purzycki is a doctoral student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where he studies computer games and digital media. His current research focuses on the ways we develop a sense of place within computer games. Although primarily a PC player, he has grown up with consoles since received Video Pinball for Christmas. Since then, he has outlived an Atari 2600, two Sega Genesis, two Playstations, and is currently waiting for his kids' Xbox to quit so he can pony up for a Playstation 4. For them of course.