Retrogaming has become increasingly popular over the last few years with a wide variety of gamers; from those who were around at the time right through to the ‘Playstation Generation’ and beyond.
Article by Darren Browne – PART ONE – THE EARLY YEARS
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I consider myself lucky to have been a teenager in the middle of the console boom of the 90’s when gaming became part of the mainstream and I thought I would share some of my memories of growing up around this time – hopefully the younger crowd out there will find it interesting and the older gamers will enjoy reminiscing! Please feel free to let me know your thoughts! There’s plenty to write about so I’ve broken it down to The Early Years (earliest memory to 1990), 1990-1999 and then 2000 up to present day
The earliest memory I have of computers was way back in 1984 when I was just 7 and played Booty at a school friend’s house on his older brother’s Commodore 64 – I remember the cassette cover better than the game mainly due to the fact it had the old British Telecom logo on the packaging and was just a logo I recognised.
We moved house a year later so it would be a while before I got to play on a C64 again but my new school had a BBC Acorn and myself and a friend became the school ‘computer monitors’ – this basically meant wheeling the computer ’round to whatever classroom was using it that day, loading up software such as Postman Pat or Granny’s Garden and showing the teachers how to use it. In return we got to play games such as Daredevil Dennis and Repton during our breaks. My first competitive memory of gaming started the day one of the teachers brought in a new game, Mr Ee (a clone of Mr DO!)! My friend and I would take it in turns to try & beat each other’s record on who could get furthest in the game to get kudos from our classmates! Because home computers were still a few years away computer games were something I only got to experience during school hours.
It wasn’t until I came to write this that I realised my first true home video game experience was on the console that pretty much started everything! A school friend had an Atari 2600 handed down to him by his older brother (who had got a NES for Christmas) and in the summer holiday of 1987 I would go to his house and play The Smurfs, Pitfall and Keystone Kapers. Sadly we never played on his brother’s NES – an experience that ended up being reserved for visits into town with my parents where I would get to play Super Mario Bros on the demo unit in Rumbelows!
Around 1987 my friends started getting ZX Spectrum +2’s and after playing games such as Daley Thompson’s Decathlon and Yie Ar Kung Fu I started bugging my parents for one – as the eldest of 4 kids my parents couldn’t afford to get me the latest model but one glorious day my dad came home with my first ever computer – a 2nd hand rubber-keyed 48k ZX Spectrum!
At the time I was always jealous of the kids who had the built-in cassette deck of the Spectrum +2 but as I’ve got older I’m glad I got to own and appreciate the rubber-key excellence of the 48k – I’ve recently ordered the new Bluetooth version from Elite to relive some old memories! The games I got with my Speccy were pretty tough; Airwolf and Saboteur being particularly unforgiving but luckily there were quite a few people with Spectrum’s by this point and I was able to get my hands on better (and easier) games by swapping with each other (and occasionally copying!). The tapes on the cover of Crash magazine also meant getting a chance to play something new on a regular basis!
There were so many great games on the Spectrum and I’m sure everyone has their favourites for reasons that are personal to them. Ocean software were the giants of this time and it seemed as though every game was a hit – Head Over Heels, Robocop, Batman (both versions), Op Wolf/Thunderbolt & Rainbow Islands (to name just a few!) – the artwork for the games by Bob Wakelin is very memorable and I have both Rainbow Islands and The New Zealand Story posters at home as I still enjoy playing those two games today! On the subject of artwork Oliver Frey needs a mention as the covers for Crash were also stunning – something I didn’t fully appreciate at the time due to my young age but so impressive looking back now. Other titles I remember playing a lot were Ghostbusters, Afterburner, and Way Of The Exploding Fist but my fondest memories are from the hours I clocked up playing Andrew & Phillip Oliver’s Dizzy titles.
In 1989 the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles (‘ninja’ being too violent at the time!) were everywhere and having spent our pennies playing the arcade game in the Summer, we all wanted a version to play at home and it didn’t take long for a game to be released – nothing like the arcade but everyone still wanted it. I couldn’t afford the £9.99 game outright so I ended up copying it from a friend (I know, throw me in jail!) – I guess Imageworks/Konami had anticipated this however and the game had copy protection which requested random words from the manual. I was so desperate to play the game I spent over an hour writing out these codes by hand (probably in place of some homework that was due in the next day)!
Around this time consoles were increasing in popularity – instant loading and superior graphics definitely caught your attention as a 12 year old! The only magazine worth having by this point was Computer & Video Games (C&VG) as you got to see so much more than just your own system and there were the Sega and Nintendo adverts to entice you!
The TMHT game ended up as a NES exclusive leaving kids (and I suppose parents) with the tough choice that year of either the NES or the Sega Master System – the first real console war had begun..