Gaming as a social affair: Memories of Total Annihilation

This essay is written by guest writer Laeeq Khan 

Nothing is as engaging as a video game played together with family. Stating from a Commodore 64, video games have had a great impact on use of our family time. Whether it was Pacman or Mario Bros., we had to make sure that we did not play more than an hour a day.  I still remember loading a game from a cassette player onto the Commodore, and it took no less that 30 minutes! Back then it seemed to be the greatest technology anyone can get his/her hands on. Not many would deny the natural lure of video games and the excitement associated with colorful graphics, engaging sound effects and endless fun.

With the advent of consoles, faster processing and large storage, computer gaming had started gaining popularity.  I am happy to state that I had tried all those consoles of that era. Atari at that time seemed like the best console on the planet; and it was. As the gaming world developed to where it is today, it has progressed through stages and remembering all those stages is nothing short of a great experience; great because zeitgeist is always engaging, always exciting.

Commodore 64 was my first computer in 1988.  I got introduced to the gaming world through it. Can still remember many of its games and loved every bit of those days. IBM personal computer appeared on them market as a big leap in computing. It had also evolved in terms of the types of games and their complexity. The arrival of Windows operating system changed the computing landscape and is leaving its mark till today. It was nothing like anything out there.

Total Annihilation (PC) was released on Sept. 30, 1997. Developer: Cavedog Entertainment

With the passage of time, I had become busier with studies while my younger siblings took control of my wealth – my video games and my computer. They became far more knowledgeable about gaming and introduced new games that were simply amazing but very time consuming. One of their favorites was a strategy game called Total Annihilation (those game enthusiasts out there would know exactly what I am talking about).

I could not fathom experiencing an activity that involved fighting for superiority using advanced weapons even if it is in the virtual world. So the very idea of engaging in a war was beyond my imagination at least till the time I had not played the game. It would be for hours that I would see my younger siblings staying in front of the computer screens, with passions ignited and no idea about what time of the day it was or whether they had to take a break for some nourishment especially at lunch or dinner times. So being the kind of control freak that I was, I was requested to participate in the game for just once. Taking advantage of the availability of time in the summer break, I decided to give it a try.

Screenshot of Total Annihilation

The game was quite engaging and offered attractive graphics and superb sound effects. It was also very attractive because it was the first game to feature 3D units and terrain. The game involved constructing things that would increase one’s power. Raising an army was only one aspect while planning a successful conquering strategy kept every player busy. With battles raging on surface of new planets and moons, each team player vied for superiority, carving out an offensive or defensive strategy upon which survival hinged.

I realize how that game was very beneficial in stimulating our cognitive processes. We had to plan a good strategy using limited resources, and make the best of what was available. The game also allowed creating alliances if that proved to be a winning combination against a stronger player. These skills translate well into our real lives. Time, money and various other resources are usually limited in our lives. We have to move forward using our mental abilities. We have to have the foresight to meet challenges and a strategy based social game not only sharpens our minds but also serves a glue to further bind the family together, as it did in our case.

So I do believe that games are wonderful. Games can also be directly learning oriented and a good game design can do wonders for its players. Social and strategy games can challenge our intellect, help us interact with each other in a strategic manner, stimulate our foresight, teach us patience and to deal with issues with caution, increase problem solving skills, and allow us to evaluate options and possibilities. If the objective is winning and maximizing benefits, then these winning strategies can potentially be applied in real lives.

Laeeq Khan is doctoral student in the Media & Information Studies (MIS) program at Michigan State University. His research interests are diverse and include understanding social media and learning. To see Laeeq’s personal portfolio & blog, visit

Editorial Notes


One response to “Gaming as a social affair: Memories of Total Annihilation

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