The newly installed Microprocessor and Digital Lab (MDL) at the 2nd floor of UIC Annex in Bonifacio. The room was half full. Earl David Alegre and Cresenciano Justado were at the corner, fixing their malfunctioning device. Veda Joy Victorio and Lovella Baco, on the other edge, fine-tuning their project before showing it off to their teacher.
Suddenly a loud shriek of frustration caught everyone’s attention. Somebody was being crowded with curious onlookers. On an old yet functional color monitor, the game of Dyna Blaster / Bomberman was on progress. The character hero in the game just got bumped by a quick piggy-faced antagonist, preventing the rescue of a princess. As the last remaining “life” of the hero starts to resume, a collective murmur alarms the player, and he immediately presses the Esc key, thereby aborting the game.
Shortly after that disturbance, everybody seemed to go back to fixing, welding, wiring, and programming — the real business in the room — including the one being crowded. An instructor comes in. And with the sight he sees, these bunch of Computer Engineer-wannabes seems on track with their stuff, he thinks and goes out.
Beneath the game faces of students immune to the smell of metallic soldering irons and burnt transistors are worn-out brains wary about many things from miscalculated mechanical measurements and locally unavailable chips to only losing much sleep and money for the devices to work. In the MDL, stress levels are high, and immediate relief is needed, without the necessity to spend more. With spare 80386 computers used to test assembly language instruction programs available to every group, treating stress with a computer game is likely a welcome antidote for something caused by machines themselves.
Pac Man or Super Mario could easily share the spotlight with Dyna Blaster, but the appeal of the latter is also contributed by its lack of hype and fame the other two have achieved over the years. On an individual level of getting rid of stress, the game provides a typical scenario. As the hero-miner digs for resources by laying bombs to destroy walls and uncover hidden keys, Batch97 tries to explore new things with such “MDL inventions” which could lead to bigger things.
That being said, there are also other reasons why this is the game of choice:
It is light
The whole program fits in one micro floppy disk at just 443 kilobytes, and can efficiently run into an old, slow PC with very little virtual memory required. Other games require specific hardware add-ons, and portability can be an issue.
It is simple
It does not take a lot of time to learn how the game is played. Arrow keys and the space bar control the arsenal of the hero character.
It is fun
Most importantly, the game serves its purpose, to have fun and ease tensions. It quickly creates excitement that, if uncontrolled, spawns pandemonium in the MDL that could lead to reprimands from the Dean of Engineering.
Some notable experts easily reach advanced levels and finish the mission and trying hards who can’t complete the task even if they admitted to having dreamt about the game in their short sleeping privileges.
And as the fulfillment of a dream came as UIC Computer Engineering Class of 1997 did the graduation march at the grounds of Davao Convention and Exhibition Center, one tiny game managed to keep everyone his/her sanity at the time when he/she almost lost it.