I never really liked cassette radio plays, only the six-part radio play series “Lego: Pirates” did it for me. It made sure that I dressed up as a pirate for the kindergarten carnival, was into stick-sword fights and played in the sandbox mainly with plastic pirate ships. A better birthday present than The Secret of Monkey Island could hardly be given to a five-year-old boy with a pirate’s career aspiration. But when I was five, it was a pretty long way to Monkey Island. Already the beginning of my journey was marked by starting difficulties, because the family PC at that time was old and the main memory was often not sufficient – only the DOS command “MemMaker”, which could magically optimize the memory of the computer, made a game start possible at all.
According to a game time survey, the average playing time is about seven hours – it took me several weeks, if not months, to finish the game. On the one hand, this was due to the complex puzzle chains that developer Ron Gilbert had devised with the help of his Puzzle Dependency Charts, but on the other hand it was mainly due to the language barrier: I couldn’t read yet. Words, signs, place names, dialogues,… – my parents had to read everything to me so often that I could simply remember the things at some point. Considering how long I was stuck on Melee Island, I don’t envy my parents in retrospect for this task. The island seemed huge to me at the time: countless places, some of which only revealed themselves as the game progressed, a huge forest labyrinth and houses that could be entered. That impressed me enormously back then and the virtual island has definitely burned itself into my head. Until today. And yet it is not this island that is the most important.
After I had spent my entire childhood on Melee Island, at least it felt this way, I actually made it to Monkey Island. I couldn’t believe that there really was a second big world in this game. A new world overview map! New, completely unexplored places again! A game within a game, so to speak! I remember that I was overwhelmed by it, because I had not expected the (supposedly) infinite size of the accessible world(s). But “my” Monkey Island moment can be seen as a placeholder, because what was my Monkey Island moment may have been the huge dungeon in Ultima Underworld for others – or Liberty City from GTA 3 or Hyrule from Zelda: Breath of the Wild for later generations of players. The feeling of sheer endless vastness!
Monkey Island itself is not necessarily my virtual all-time favorite place, but its very existence was both overwhelming and fascinating. I didn’t know until then that a game world could be this big. Therefore, the island stands symbolically for a kind of “video game awakening experience” of my five-year-old self. And this symbolism has a further, equally personal level: in all probability, Monkey Island does not even exist as a virtual place. Rather, as the end of Monkey Island 2 indicates, it is probably just the fantasy of a little boy named Guybrush Threepwood. A child with a pirate’s career aspiration.
In 1990, The Secret of Monkey Island by LucasArts shaped the adventure game genre for all time – and put the career aspiration pirate on the list of all gamers.
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