You can now play developed video games behind the Iron Curtain


Image: Image from the Slovak Design Museum.

The cold war could not prevent the game of prosperous in the Eastern Bloc. From the late 1980s to the early 1990s, a generation of young people living behind the Iron Curtain designed and released their own video games and arcade cabinets. Now you can play English translations of some of those lost classics from early games. One is a text adventure where a Soviet military officer hunts and kills Rambo.

The translated games are all from Slovakia and are the result of a collaboration between the Slovak Game Developers Association and the Slovak Design Museum. During the days of declining Soviet communism, public life was an oppressive mess, and Western art seeped from underground sources. Curious teens watched movies like Indiana Jones and Rambo and were inspired to create art from them.

Computers have also crossed over. Britain’s ZX Spectrum broke through the Iron Curtain and was cloned in Czechoslovakia, producing similar machines that Slovak teens learned to code for. “There was active exchange and copying of games on tapes in Svazarm interest groups, PC fans exchanged experiences, and many of them, like the West, started creating their own games, which were shared with friends and acquaintances all over Czechoslovakia, ”a blog post on the Slovak Design Museum site explained.

According to Stanislav Hrda, one of the programmers who created the games on offer, only children made video games. “The games were not sold in stores and the authors were not entitled to remuneration,” he said in the post explaining the project. “As a result, hardly anyone could engage in video game programming as a business activity, and adult programmers worked in public institutions at most on mainframe computers. Thus, video game programmers have become mostly teenagers.

The computing power was limited and the technological know-how of the teenagers almost non-existent, so many of these early games were textual adventures.

“These could also be programmed in the simpler base language that every home computer has built in,” Hrda said. “Textual games offered the opportunity to imprint one’s fantasies in a world of characters, places, descriptions of reality or fantasy at will. This is why hundreds of these video games were created in the 1980s in Czechoslovakia. Authors from the ranks of adolescents have portrayed their friends, but also heroes of films distributed on VHS tapes or of the Western pop-cultural world from comics, films, television series and books occasionally available.

Hrda loved American action movies and programmed the video game atochina textual adventure where a Soviet officer tracks down John Rambo. “The match was very difficult to win”, Hrda Recount Ars Technica. “Every time you made a little mistake, you died. So before you win, you are killed ten times by Rambo.

There’s even a hidden minigame where players can take control of Rambo and fight with his Soviet rival in a house for disabled veterans. “Mention of Rambo was unimaginable in official media, newspapers or censored books,” Hrda said on the project’s website. “But for the aging gerontocracy of the communist kleptocracy, the realm of video games and the subgenre of homemade text-based adventure games were under the radar, and games circulated freely, mostly among friends, without restriction or censorship, like with the books that disturb. by disturbing authors.

The project located ten games for Western audiences, including atochinwith plans to tackle more over the next few years. “Games translated over the next 2-3 years after the end of the project will account for almost all of the 8-bit computer-era video game production in Slovakia, with an emphasis on text-based adventure games.” , the site said.

English versions are available here and can be played in the Fuse emulator. Slovak versions can be played online via the project website.

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