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Historians hail Grand Theft Otto as first video game

hailed by critics as 'a massive ego trip' from start to finishThe remnants of the illustrated instruction manual and some of the beautifully detailed glass slides for Grand Theft Otto, lavishly printed in German in 1899, have been found in the loft of an ancestral home in Mainz. Historian Elsa Schmidt said that they provide an amazing insight into political and domestic trends at Europe of the time.

‘Players take on the role of the Prussian Chancellor, Count Otto Von Bismarck, and try to reunify Germany without catching syphilis, getting assassinated or accidentally starting the First World War prematurely,’ she said. ‘One moment you are trying to penetrate the complex underwear of a fin-de-siècle courtesan, the next you are hot-wiring a Daimler whose top speed was 12 miles per hour!’

The hardware specifications for the game dictate that it could only be played by the leisured rich. It required eight magic lanterns, eight horses, 100 candles, five gas lamps, a small loaded pistol, a steam powered tug (optional), a string quartet, diverse livestock and 48 megabytes of RAM.

‘The game would take a whole day to ‘boot up’ with the aid of servants, and if you wanted to play it online with a French count or British royal cousin you had to have a strong fibre telegraphic connection or very fast horses to convey messages,’ said Schmidt.

‘All the same, Prussian officers would play it for weeks on end, locking themselves away in lavish Berlin apartments with enough supplies of roast mutton, prostitutes, moustache wax, smoked peacock, swords, Bordeaux, brass button cleaner, candied fruits, liquid morphine, cheese, paraffin oil, messenger boys, schnapps and cigars to go the distance.’

British video games pundit Mickey Smythe is leading a campaign to get EA Sports to update Grand Theft Otto for the 21st century. ‘This could be gaming’s Downton Abbey moment,’ he wrote on his influential blog. ‘Gamers are known for their active intellectual curiosity, fascination with period detail, thirst for informative cultural references and passion to understand the sweep of modern European history generally. It would be a blast!’

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Posted: Sep 27th, 2013 by nickb

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