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What Computer Game is Magnum PI Playing?
In the season 5 episode of Magnum PI, Little Games, Magnum needs to take on a jewel thief. It is a great episode filled with action and a bit of romance. What truly makes it memorable though is the first scene where Magnum makes an appearance.
We join Magnum as he is playing a computer role-playing game called The Dungeon Master on Robin Masters’ $100,000 Dracos III Computer Security System. It is a remarkable game with high-end graphics and amazing customized sound. It is also not real.
The game shares its name with the computer classic Dungeon Master (1987), which was not released until over two years after this episode aired in 1984. And while it draws inspiration from text adventures like Zork and some of the games made by Sierra at the time, it is far more advanced than those games. In fact, you wouldn’t find a game even close to this on any PC in 1984.
The work for this game was done by the very talented art department on Magnum PI. They created an evocative animation sequence that combined artwork, text, and audio that made it look like a real game. You combine those elements with the drama caused by Magnum talking to a game that talks back, and you have an extremely compelling package.
Everything about it was way too advanced, but that has not stopped speculation that this is a real game. It is just one of those instances where talented artistic people capture the look and feel of a game that people want to see. Magnum PI’s The Dungeon Master was just way ahead of its time.
I am not so sure that Robin Masters got his money’s worth when he purchased the Draco III. While it certainly does seem powerful, they could have done better than using a TV for a monitor and painted keyboard from a Kaypro 10.
In the end, The Dungeon Master proves too much for Magnum and the Dracos III. It crashes the pricey security computer, and as for Magnum’s computer avatar? Well, he didn’t make it either.
While this game might not be real. Other classic video games and computers do make appearances in Magnum PI. This included an Atari 400 in Smaller Than Life (1983), a Tomytronic Handheld Pac-Man in Black & White (1982) and Birdman of Budapest (1983), and a complete retro-style arcade in Jororo Farewell (1984).