Gaming moments – I’ve been playing around

I’m a self-confessed gaming addict — 36 years and counting. It’s been, at the time of writing this, 30 minutes since I last gamed.

We’re obviously talking video gaming, so not slot machines or general gambling, here. Doesn’t really matter what the format is, it seems to be quite easy to get me hooked and avidly playing something constantly, until the next one comes along that is.

Doesn’t matter if one day I’m mayor to a town of cute, but dysfunctional, animals that need everything done for them, or fighting a seemingly never-ending army of [insert generic horde from any moment in time], racing round a track gleefully taking out computer and human competitors alike, or mining and building in an open world environment. I can find the most basic or the most mind numbingly complex games fun to play. The only limitation is the amount of time available to play them all! I don’t want to know how long I’ve spent playing video games. It won’t be a small number. Some would be shocked or disappointed, but I’ve  never considered it to be wasted time.

I like multiplayer and single player games equally, but prefer playing by myself for the most part. I love the social competitive gameplay of things like Mario Kart, Bomberman and Splatoon 2, but generally avoid the bigger arenas like CoD:MW, CS, Unreal etc. Online play is spoilt by cheats using bots, aim bots, wall hacks — all manner of cheating systems. Don’t even get me started on this topic, it gets me so angry. I’ve considered doing a separate post on this topic, but not sure I can sit and write about it without ending up mega annoyed by the end.

Give me a game where there’s loads of options, items and some amount of freedom and I’m happy for hours/days/months. Anything with a large kit load out, like Fallout, Oblivion, Rainbow Six, Skyrim, Zelda and I’ll agonise for ages on what to keep and carry, what to sell and what to throw away. I’ve dragged bodies, bags and more,stuffed so full of items, half way across a game map, at an agonisingly slow pace, just because I was too greedy to limit my load or make multiple trips.  I love quality storylines that immerse you in the game, the likes of GTA, Fallout, Mass Effect, Tie Fighter and CoD or MoH.

FPS, strategy, resource management simulations, no real genre keeps my attention more than another. I do suck at driving games though and have never really enjoyed point and click adventures.

As far as I can remember, it all started back in 1981 with Astro wars and the Intellivision console. The first was a tabletop game produced by Grandstand, regularly bought in on the last day of the school term by a friend. It was common in UK schools for the last day to be a free day when everyone brought in games of all kinds. Although basic by today’s standard, it was the height of technology back then. Everyone would crowd round it and watch, then when the batteries ran out, we’d line them up on top of a radiator and after a while they had enough charge to run for a bit longer (definitely don’t recommend this!) I got to take it home a couple of times and would play it till the graphics were burnt into my retina. Hiding under the covers after bedtime, trying to keep the sound down so no one would hear me blasting away at a constant, brightly coloured alien invasion force, hell bent on using the same tactics to attack and destroy. Thankfully with the mains adapter, so no battery overcharging.

Intellivision was a console produced by Mattel, owned by my cousins who didn’t live close by. So I only got to see and play it on a couple of occasions. It showed me how much fun playing video games on a TV could be. It was also the first time I saw that you could have more than one game on the same system.

Both kicked off the part of my brain that deals with pleasurable and competitive activities and I was hooked from then on. As a family, we didn’t own a games system, but both me and my brother were bought handheld games. Grandstands Pocket Scramble for me and Grandstands Mini Munchman (Pac man) for him. I still have both of these, in their original l boxes too.

Being an avid gamer, I’ve owned many different games systems, from an array of manufacturers. Having never been a fan boy of one over the other, just happy playing whatever was available. Every system has a game that is just awesome, that someone else doesn’t have. Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog, Gran Turismo, Halo. etc. It certainly helped working in the retail — and later games retail specifically — industry. I worked at a branch of Dixons and a Game store in my home town of Bromley, Kent and was the assistant manager of a Game store in Kingston-upon-Thames. Following that I worked at The Virgin Megastore on Oxford Street, a nirvana of entertainment at the time. This gave me access to not only the consoles, but games and accessories, plus a generous staff discount that made buying everything much cheaper!

I’ve owned the following game systems over the years:

  • Philips Video pac G7000,
  • Commodore Vic 20,
  • Amstrad 464 CPC,
  • Amiga 500,
  • Nintendo Gameboy,
  • Sega Megadrive,
  • Neo Geo AES,
  • Super Nintendo (SNES),
  • Sony Playstation (PS1),
  • Goldstar 3DO, Sony
  • Playstation 2 (PS2),
  • Sony Playstation 3 (PS3),
  • Nintendo 3DS,
  • Nintendo Switch.

As well as various self-built desktop computers and laptops of ever-increasing power and capability. Each one, whatever the weak excuses of using it for something serious, has been purchased and used for playing games on. Sure, MS Office needs 16Gb of RAM and a 6Gb video card. That helpful little paper-clip is quite resource hungry, don’t you know!

That’s quite a history of home entertainment evolution. It’s a shame I don’t have them all still as it would make a good display and mini museum to look back on. Some were fairly commonplace and sold 100,000s of units, while others not so much. I’ll go into more detail in the console specific post that’ll come later on, as this is supposed to just be an intro.

I tried explaining some of it to my 7-years-old son. He’s definitely from the iPad/iPhone instant gaming generation. He’s pretty sure I made the whole thing up, as a lot of it sounded too crazy to him. No one would wait more than 20mins for a game to load from a tape cassette, even with a picture being slowly drawn on the screen one line at a time (also, what’s a tape cassette?). Why would you buy a handheld device that only came with one black and white, highly repetitive game on it? Why were Lemmings constantly trying to kill themselves?

I’m happy being a gamer. There’s nothing wrong with it, in moderation (define moderation though). I’m certainly past staying up till 02:00am playing Street Fighter & SSX or spending entire days off on a game (Civilisation III & IV — I’m looking at you!), but I do still enjoy playing a good game. To be honest, I’ve also quite enjoyed the odd bad game too, briefly. Sometimes it’s a great form of stress relief after a tough day at work, or if you feel you need a bit of a mental workout. Sometimes the opposite, and it’s the most frustrating and annoying of activities. I’ve never yet reached the point of bouncing a control pad off the wall, but been pretty close to it at times (more on that in Gaming moments – Top moments countdown).

So, what’s this all about? I’ve been away from my blog for a while now and decided I wanted to get back into it again. I’d started following a few people on Twitter that have been talking a lot about retro games and hardware that prompted memories myself. Writing some posts is a great way to remember things, and maybe relive a few memories that have shaped my love of video games. I’ve decided to make several posts around the various gaming moments I’ve had over the long length of time I’ve been playing them. Where possible I’ll try to keep a consistent timeline, and start at the beginning and continue into the present. No end? No, I’m pretty sure that I’ll die still in the middle of some game or other, so it’ll be an ongoing pursuit. Can just see my headstone now: “Died while attempting a Streetfighter 99 twenty-five button combo Hadoken”.

My gaming memories are fairly broad and numerous (in my opinion), so I’ve decided to try and split them up into several posts, hopefully with logical parts. If these parts are too large for convenient reading, then maybe I’ll also split them up too (feedback is always appreciated on post sizes and people’s’ tolerance for how long they take to read).
To start with there’s a history from a purely arcade perspective, and then moving on to consoles, personal computers and then handheld gaming. There’s no way that I could squeeze everything into one post and do all the memories and fun I had proper justice.

This series will appeal far more to other gamers, but hopefully non-gamers will also get something from it. Even if it’s only to find out why I always seem to have a game of some type playing near me, or which occasions have brought me so close to tears or Hulkesque rage.

So, sit down, get a handful of loose change ready and look out for the first part of Gaming moments – Please insert coin (Token 1)


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