In 1989 on a Saturday at 6AM, my friend Anthony and 7-year-old-me snuck out after a sleepover and put the disk labeled “BARBARIAN” into my Dad’s Atari ST computer. Minutes later, Anthony witnessed the most amazing thing we had seen in our lives up to that point.
“Do it again!” he yelled. So I did. I restarted the match, moved the joystick left, and pressed the red button on top. My little pixelated barbarian on screen spun around swinging his sword at shoulder level and chopped off the enemy’s head. We both watched the screen, completely enthralled, as the head popped up in the air, the body dropped to it’s knees spurting blood out the neck before collapsing. A small goblin creature casually walked by, grabbing and dragging the body before kicking the head like a soccer ball towards the edge of the screen.
“Barbarian” was developed by
Psygnosis Palace software and released on the Atari ST computer in 1987. It featured both a single-player hack-and-slash campaign as well as a multiplayer 1 v 1 fighting game, but I didn’t need the campaign. All I needed was two joysticks (one to keep the enemy player idle), and the same move over and over. Joystick away from the opposing player, joystick button press, and watch the action. Even years later this move has stayed stuck in my brain. I can’t remember my new phone number I got 3 months ago but I have never forgotten how to decapitate someone in Barbarian.
Soon after Anthony and I screamed with joy, my mother walked in to tell us how much she did not like that game and to turn it off. Dad kept the game supposedly hidden away, but I knew where and I would sometimes sneak in a session until one sad day, the Barbarian floppy disk mysteriously disappeared. Fortunately for me, 3 years later Mortal Kombat was released on Genesis. Take THAT Mom! Now if only my phone number were the blood code...