Down Memory Lane to Area 51

The approach to Area 51 - photo by Dennis BalthaserLately it seems there has a resurgence of interest in Area 51. This was one of the old-school neighborhoods I grew up in, conspiracy-wise, and it brings back many fond memories. The first time I learned of such things I was mesmerized. From the interviews of Bob Lazar to Bill Cooper and his detailed information on secret government treaties, hidden underground bases, and the alien “O.H. Krlll” who we kept alive for years on a diet consisting partly of strawberry ice cream, to the story of Phil Shneider and his strange ongoing relationship with the secret government running the show in the “underground theater”- these were the incidents I cut my teeth on. In those days of dreadfully slow modems and sans-web I found my information through painstaking research and at the expense of hundreds of hours. Of course, I wouldn’t have traded any of it for the world.

My friends and I were working on a CD-ROM adventure game that was going to blow the lid off all this stuff and expose it to the public. Dreamland, Camo Dudes, MIBs, the Majestic-12 documents, even the strawberry ice cream- we had it all in there. The story we had in mind was very much like an X-Files episode with you (the Player) as the hapless investigator who gets involved in a bizarre mission surrounding the base. Little by little you would learn more and more about what was going on- finally making it inside the base itself in act two. The climactic final act of the game was going to involve commandeering and escaping in the alien spacecraft described by Bob Lazar, blasting your way out through Dreamland and flying out to tell the world.

We did a lot of cool interface designs and some great character art, and wrote all sorts of complicated systems for tracking the player’s learned information through the course of play. We planned to make the Non-Player Characters respond to the Player in different ways depending on how much you knew. The game never got made because we couldn’t find anyone to finance it. Which is a bummer.

But nothing brings back the mixed emotions for me like looking at photographs of Area 51, because back in 1994 we made a trip to the area to do some research. We were buzzing with the rush of all this information- which although a little dated, was still quite new to us- and we had a crazy idea to get close enough to take pictures of the secret installation which we would include in the game.

Recently I came across some similar photo-excursions into the area, and the stories they tell about the procession of singular landmarks on the way in are like the phrases of a well-remembered old song. One of the best is provided by Dennis Balthaser, co-editor of “Alien Seeker News” who visited the area in January and reports that Area51 is still actively patrolled to this day.

We never made it as far as Balthaser did. In fact we chickened out and turned tail on the main road the moment we saw a 4X4 far down the road heading in our direction. I don’t even know whether it was camo dudes or not because the sun was behind them- but the vehicle was a dark color overall. By the time we got back to Rachel I was so angry I couldn’t sit down. I just kept pacing up and down the room- ranting. “What if we had kept going, how bad could it be?” I asked. “What if I had been the one driving?” and so on. They finally forced me to promise to stop talking about it, because I was just repeating myself. I spent the rest of the night tormenting myself silently with “what if” questions while we talked about probably everything else in the world.

But that was a long time ago, and there’s no sense in beating myself up about it anymore. I look at Balthaser’s photos and they take me back. The old memories and emotions are still there- they can still grab me. But now there is another emotion on top of it all. A hollow and somber emotion- part pity and part wonderment- for those days. Those simple, naive days when- to my limited knowledge- the definition of conspiracy amounted to no more than a hidden spaceship.


~ by theylive on August 5, 2006.

2 Responses to “Down Memory Lane to Area 51”

  1. You know, you could still make that game today. It wouldn’t be that hard to program the entire thing into flash. I think it would make an amazing game. I mean hell, they made Deja Vu for nintendo a long time ago, and this would be way better than that. It sounds like it would handle in a much similar style, but be much more informative and exciting. I’d recommend rethinking making, because with all the possibilities today, it’s much more possible to do it without having to worry about getting financed.

  2. I think about it once in a while. Yeah, it would be cool- but I feel my time is better spent on other issues these days. Things have- umm- let’s say “escalated” since then.

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