Games for 8MB Video Cards

My home IT infrastructure has suffered a streak of bad luck. After upgrading the graphic card in my desktop, the power supply was subsequently sucked dry and failed. My large-screen laptop has developed the loose AC adapter connection so common in PC laptops (why didn’t they solve this weak design years ago?). My PS2 console stopped working around the time the PS3 was coming out, no small coincidence.

As a student, I can’t afford a high wattage power supply for the desktop, and I don’t own a soldering iron to fix the laptop. I’m down to my “couch computer,” a Dell X1 Netbook.

I have some free time, as school is on break, and I want to do some gaming. I’m limited by my Netbook’s graphics capability: an Intel Mobile 915 series with a lame 8MB VRAM chip. It’s a great computer for surfing the net or watching Netflix, but not a gaming laptop by any stretch of the imagination.

I played the Windows games for the first couple days of vacation, but that gets old pretty fast. That was followed by a SimCity metropolis that was built in a day, then destroyed in an evening by space invaders (this was compounded by a mayor who refused to build fire stations). On day four I found myself outside (gasp!) and enjoying the weather, the very thought of playing another round of Spider Solitaire driving me to wander around my yard in a kind of daze (I now understand the migration patterns of the American red ant).

I then began my search for games I can play on my Netbook. As I discovered classic game titles such as Fallout, Quake and Starcraft, it became obvious the solution was to focus on popular games from 10 years ago. Back in the old days, 8MB of video RAM was high-end stuff. My next roadblock to gaming utopia was that these games are no longer commercially available.

I found a few sites that offered free downloads of classic games, but they all redirect to a site called gamesunite.net. This site sucks because you have to sign up for a “free” account that requires a credit card on file. I’m not giving my credit card information to anybody that promises a “free” account.

About the best options I can find for my gaming desires are D&D DOS based games. These are uber-low-graphics games that have a very basic D&D style story. They seemed like so much fun when I was a kid and visiting my mom’s office (mid-80 Digital Equipment Corp). But after decades of blow-me-away graphics and in-depth character development, I found these both frustrating and dull.

I think I could probably find many classic games on bit torrents, but my fear of shared files prevents this avenue. I lost an entire design portfolio from a file sharing virus back in the day. Once bitten, twice shy. Right now I cannot afford an infected computer.

My last ditch effort was to visit Target and see what they had for ‘value’ PC games. Even these games require more video RAM, or they require a Direct X 9 or higher graphics adapter, another fail.

In the end, I have dug through my long neglected moving boxes. I found Diablo II, Baldur’s Gate and Starship Tycoon (one of my all-time favorites). These games should keep me busy until classes start again. I think I will continue to search for a safe and free download of Starcraft, as so many people continue to enjoy that title. I will probably spend some time modifying the migration patterns of the American red ant as well; I could probably use the vitamin D.

Chad D’Auray is an IT Technician and freelance web designer. Chad has worked in the IT field for 12 years and has been gaming for over 20 years. He first began writing basic code on a type writer, sending a game concept to Activision at age 6 (got a letter in response and was thrilled). He continued to write code for the Aquarius, Commodore 64 and Amiga. Today Chad lives in Commerce City, Colorado with his dog Santa and is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in IT.

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