There've been several fun stories in the news lately about the technical hurdles than the very first Wing Commander games faced. In 1990, it wasn't enough just to have the hardware necessary to play cutting edge games. Players also had to be adept at customizing their system's setup files in order to specifically arrange memory and drivers to support demanding titles. Revo-emag has posted an article on "Wing Commander and the art of config.sys." It's a fond recollection of the technical tweaks that young computer gamers had to learn in order to function. It wasn't so long ago that the CIC would post config.sys tips in the news to help Wingnuts get new hardware running. Modern solutions like DOSBox are already a dozen years old, but they still seem relatively new to those of us who worked with actual DOS!
The thing is, this isn’t a “do once and relax” ordeal, as you’d have to tinker with these files anytime you get more memory or have to load a new driver. Some games used XMS, some used EMS.
Thankfully, you don’t have to do this stuff anymore, but I dunno… I still feel like it was an important learning experience for a young gamer, like a geeky rite of passage or something. It definitely made me feel more pleased with myself once I finally got my games to work!