Before The Sims, before Tamagotchi, there were Little Computer People.
It’s hard to know what to say about Little Computer People. The concept was profoundly, wonderfully bizarre: Little people have been found living inside your computer. Players were given an open side view of a three story house. According to the Activision documentation, you weren’t playing a game. The program simply made your computer’s inhabitant visible.
The person living in your computer was a man with a randomly generated name. Once your character had been created, he was yours for life. The only way to get a new character was to buy another disk. You interacted with him as he went about his daily duties, supplying him with things like food and drink, as well as the occasional gift. He would write you notes about his feelings, and if he was sad you had to play cards with him. That made him happy. You could make him even happier if you let him win. That was it. There was no action and no plot. You just shared in your Little Computer Person’s life.
The game came with a few extra goodies. You got a deed to the digital house inside your computer, instructions on how to care for your LCP, and a magazine called Modern Computer People. The magazine contained stories like “Study Research Team’s Amazing Untold Story: How We Finally Contacted Computer Dwellers” and “Read How Researchers Are Working Around The Clock Studying Fantastic Computer Beings.”
David Crane, the genius behind Pitfall!, designed the game. It was released in 1985 for the Commodore 64. Despite the somewhat curious concept (more or less the first life simulator game) it was well received by critics and gamers alike. It received a Gold Award from Zzap! and won Best Original Game Of The Year at the 1986 Golden Joystick Awards.
Entire sociological studies could be written about the postmodern nature of the game: an escape from real life which simulated the mundane, day-to-day activities of real life. Still, if you bought into the charming concept of tiny people inhabiting your computer, it was an amusing way to pass the time.