Friday, May 31, 2013

Bad at Games (1)

I’ve decided I may be too old for video games. 

There, I’ve said it. With the announcement for the new Xbox One and the PS4, both new and exciting consoles that can do everything bigger, faster and with more amazing graphics than ever, I looked at what was planned with a feeling a disappointment and boredom. I’m sorry. I’m just not excited by the prospect.

When I started this blog I was going to do a few reviews, discuss gaming stuff about roleplaying games, and reflect upon my life as a roleplayer. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that it’s been gaming as a whole that’s been following me over the years. And it’s videogaming that I’m disappointed with at the moment.

I grew up in a seaside town which meant something major when it comes to anyone my age – arcades. We had a few in our little town… not as many as the neighbouring seaside towns, but we had a healthy selection of arcades that would suck up every spare 10p I had. Starting with Space Invaders, and the revelation that was Galaxians, we used to hang around at the arcade and play the lot. 

Many of them were pretty basic, especially by today’s standards, and probably the most gaming time would be spent either on Gauntlet (let’s face it, it was trying to be a video game version of D&D – they certainly saw us coming didn’t they), or trying to master the elaborate controls of Defender.

Warlords on the Atari VCS (1981)
Then home gaming came. Coop and I both had the old Atari VCS, where we’d play the Space Invaders cartridge for hours. The best Atari experience had to be from the simplest of games – Warlords. It was basically “breakout” but four players used the breakout paddles to control a little defence thing that span around a castle in each corner, and we’d hurl little pixelated blobs at each other.

We progressed into computer gaming after my parents bought me a Sinclair ZX Spectrum (48K) one Christmas with the hopes that I’d become a wiz-computer programmer and make my fortunes in the growing computer industry. However, Sinclair BASIC was not the language of choice in most cases, and my A-Level Computer Science project that was printed out on that heat-sensitive Sinclair Printer “silver toilet roll” may not have put me in good stead to become the next Steve Jobs. 

But we played them all – Jet Set Willy, Horace Goes Skiing, Atic Atac, and of course Elite. Even upgrading to the Sinclair ZX Spectrum 128, and playing what would be the pinnacle of Spectrum gaming for me – Starglider (which took around 30minutes to load from cassette).

Aliens - The Computer Game (1986)
Even then, I could see one of the major problems I’d have with video gaming. It started with Aliens, the computer game. Published by Electric Dreams, this was possibly one of the most basic forerunners to a first person shooter. You controlled a squad of six, running around the installation on LV-426, with basic graphics, and just the constant heartbeat noise of the motion-tracker for company. You’d run through many identical rooms, encountering the odd facehugger that would leap out at you, before you ventured into the scary hive, and the warriors would take your squad out one by one. I never got very far, never saw the queen. All I’d see would be teeth, and six flatlining monitors as my squad all became either eaten or impregnated.

It was terrifying. I used to get sweaty palms, and have to stop playing. Sad really…

Eventually, I sold my Spectrum to a colleague at the Archaeology Unit where I worked, and I turned my back on video games for a bit…  That was until I met my future wife, played an intense six-hour session of Doom and she was introduced to Lara Croft on the PS1…


There is a point to this story, but it’s a long story. Too long for one blog post. A tale of epic quests, midnight launches, heartbreaks and halos. Of Master Chief and world tours. Of bank heists and riding into the sunset, before it all starts to go horribly, horribly wrong…

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