Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Bad at Games (2) - PS, I Loved You...

(Continuing my story of a gaming life, this time through video games...)

It was a time without games. I'd sold my ZX Spectrum, and the Atari VCS, and had no video gaming outlet really at all. My time was dominated with sitting in my room and writing on that old electric typewriter, desperately trying to get West End Games to notice me and commission a Ghostbusters RPG adventure or three.

Then came college, and art and writing still dominated every free moment. And movies. The local Dixons wasn't part of the real Dixons chain, and rented videos as a sideline to selling TVs. Each movie would be 50p for the weekend, so it wasn't unheard of to hire eight at a time to see me through.

An attempt at a social life (for a socially redundant nerd like me) meant that video gaming was on hold most of the time.

Doom, on the PC in 1993
There were a couple of moments of gaming. After relocating for art college I have distinct memories of visiting another student house and encountering Sonic the Hedgehog for the first time (and being rubbish at it). However, a trip back to my hometown exposed both me and my future wife to a couple of games that would become real classics.

Visiting a couple of "the Eight", my old RPGers, while I was back in town we experienced the first real networked multiplayer game - Doom. Mole, one of "the Eight", had a couple of PCs in his house for work, but had them networked. This was like magic in those days. Computers that talked to each other? What witchcraft is this? However, Mole knew we were coming to visit and hooked up a third computer for the evening and loaded up a little game called Doom.

We spent the evening running around shooting nasty demons, and often each other, while Mole's cat took it in turns falling asleep on our crossed legs. About five hours later, we staggered home and I suffered from real motion sickness from a video game for the first time. I wasn't used to it. Hours of just moving around on a little monitor, the hypnotic swaying of the gun and the inability to look up and down.

A little later we visited Coop. Another of the Eight, he'd invested in Sony's little grey whizzing box - the Playstation. Coop had kept playing games when I'd given them up, progressing onto Amigas and then the Playstation. We tried the mindblowing experience that was Wipeout, but the real game-changer was seeing Tomb Raider for the first time.

Tomb Raider (original) - The Lost Valley level
encountering the T-Rex (1996)
Considering the games I was used to, the fairly basic affairs that I'd played for years on the Spectrum, Tomb Raider was amazing. Coop showed us just part of the St Francis' Folly level, and witnessed the sheer size of just one level of the game. The gameplay was simple, easy, and gripping. You targeted automatically, you could shoot while doing midair flips, and you could do insane stuff. It was a cooler Indiana Jones, and I could see the glint of an addiction forming in the wife's eyes.

We saved up, and purchased a Playstation (second hand) and Tomb Raider, and we both worked our way through the huge campaign (wife first, of course). We were stunned by the scale of the game, and the first encounter with dinosaurs had us both shouting at the TV in excitement. And then, when the plot went off and revealed the existence of Atlanteans and the final levels in the pulsating, weird corridors, we were just amazed.

We were hooked. The Playstation had us.

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