“One minute your task is to penetrate the complex underwear of a fin de siècle courtesan. Then you are trying to “hot wire” an 1898 Daimler whose top speed was 12 miles per hour!” exclaims German historian Elsa Schmytt. “This, to all intents and purposes is a hundred year old video game, with amazing similarities to the ones we play.”
The remnants of the illustrated instruction manual and some of the beautifully detailed glass slides for Grand Theft Otto Von Bismark, lavishly printed in German, have been found in the loft of an ancestral home in Mainz. “They provide an amazing insight into political and domestic Europe of the time,” explains Frau Schmytt. “Players take on the role of the Prussian Chancellor and have to steal some of the word's first petrol driven cars, then reunify Germany without catching syphilis, getting assassinated or accidentally starting the first world war prematurely.”
The hardware specifications for the game means it could only be played by the rich. It required eight magic lanterns, two newly perfected telephones, eight horses, 100 candles, 5 gas lamps, a small loaded pistol, a steam powered tug (optional) a string quartet (or gramophone, in some territories), diverse livestock, and 48 megabytes of RAM.
“This was an enormous drain on resources of the time,” explained Elsa Smytt. “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. All the same, we think very wealthy 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 gaming community. “This could be gaming’s “Downton Abbey moment.” he writes in “Game Boy” his influential blog. “Gamers are notoriously well known for their active intellectual curiosity, their fascination with period detail, their love of narrative, their thirst for informative cultural references and their passion to understand the sweep of modern European history generally. It would be a blast!”