Blog Traces History of NYC in Video Games

April 23, 2008 -
Everyone who follows video games knows by now that Liberty City, the setting for the hotly-anticipated Grand Theft Auto IV, is an ultra-realistic depiction of New York.

But the Big Apple has been the setting for many a past video game, according to The Bowery Boys:
The difficult part is actually figuring out, in fact, if a game takes place in New York. For instance, Frogger could take place in New York, if the West Side Highway straddled a Hudson River full of logs and turtles. Pac-Man is certainly a metaphoric representation of the Financial District. If Donkey Kong is an homage to King Kong, wouldn't that mean he's throwing barrels from the Empire State Building?

...In 1984, anxious Atari and Commodore 64 owners got their hands on a more literal tribute to the city -- The Big Apple. In the simple game, a player maneuvers through a traffic free midtown Manhattan... This game looks a bit like a malfunctioning digital watch and was appropriately forgotten.

The Bowery Boys go on to list several old school titles, including Punch Out!!, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project.
The first [game] to make a real attempt at a recognizable New York landscape was probably 1989's Manhunter: New York, a clunky and mostly unexciting action game set in the post-apocalyptic future of 2002. However it did manage to depict city landmarks in ways that were at least recognizable, if primitive...

The excellent write-up also names games such as Duke Nukem: Zero Hour, Deus Ex, Max Payne and XIII, while noting True Crime: New York City as a turning point for its realistic depiction of NYC. It's definitely worth a read.

Comments

Somehow, I doubt that those games will get blamed for half the crimes in NY from now on.

Deus Ex was an awesome game set in NY. Although the crimes against humanity that gould be perpetuated therein were generally on a more cataclysmic scale.

[...] wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptEveryone who follows video games knows by now that Liberty City, the setting for the hotly-anticipated Grand Theft Auto IV, is an ultra-realistic depiction of New York. But the Big Apple has been the setting for many a past video game, according to The Bowery Boys: The difficult part is actually figuring out, in fact, if a game takes place in New York. For instance, Frogger could take place in New York, if the West Side Highway straddled a Hudson River full of logs and turtles. Pac-Man is certainly a metaphoric representation of the Financial District. If Donkey Kong is an homage to King Kong, wouldn’t that mean he’s throwing barrels from the Empire State Building? [...]

Ha ha, "action game." Manhunter was a Sierra Online adventure. For god only knows what reason, several times through the course of any Sierra adventure of the time, you would have to negotiate an arcade sequence. If you lose, you die. If you win, you get to continue. The engine was not up to action sequences, the players did not want them, and they did not fit into their games, but by God, they must be in every game!

Don't forget Crush, Crumble & Chomp, a game I used to play on the Apple II+. In the game, you chose to be a movie monster (Godzilla, The Blog, etc.) and attacked a particular city. I believe you could choose from major cities like D.C., Philly.... and NYC. The best part was that particular buildings were mapped out. So, if you wanted to attack the Empire State Building, you could. You could actually try and take down the White House! It was a simple graphical affair (obviously), with a one-color top-down approach, but yeah, it sees like this type of gameplay would be controversial today.

@Truthiness:

Sounds like an early Rampage, which I think was also set in New York... and I think you could eat people as well as destroy cars and sky scrapers.

And I'm not sure I would call "The Blog" a monster... sure it gets out of hand from time to time...

j/k :P

@Truthiness Advocate

If a game like that were made today it'd be a "terrorism simulator

Ahh, I love that New York considers itself to be the center of everything, ever.

@mogbert

They had like EVERY city in Rampage. That game was so amazing...

In my opinion, the only thing special about New York is how huge it is with lots of diverse things. Other then that it is nothing special, just an over crowded city.

You should check out the SNES game Urban Strike if you wanna see something that would be branded as a terrorist simulator. The game involves piloting a helicopter around fighting terrorists as they invade American cities. Mission 5 is in New York.

Wanna guess what happened to the twin towers? The terrorists blew a hole in the side of one. Ouch.

The digital depiction of NYC will not be complete until they can bring home that hobo-pee-and-garbage smell that permeates the city and outlying area.
 
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