The Ten Most Awesome Things About – Being an Old-School Gamer

I’m something of a PC gamer. I think that I’ve probably made that abundantly clear over the past 18-ish months,

So there I was, alone, facing down a Rift.

EVE Online, my first impressions.

The Joy of Minecraft.

and really those articles are just for starters.

I adore computer games, I have since the very first time I ever sat patiently, and expectantly through 10 minutes of screeching as a school owned Amstrad 464 loaded up a tape, finally letting me play Chuckie Egg. That you see is how long I’ve been a gamer. I started when a state of the art console came with the word “Atari” on it’s wood-effect encasement.

How gaming used to look.

So with all of those years of digital delight behind me, (Digital delight is kind of like Angel Delight, but with less artificial flavourings.) the time has come to share my ten favourite things about being an old-school gamer. Enjoy.

10: Games consoles genuinely used to come in a wood-effect casing. And what’s weird is that they kind of looked awesome because of it. Guess I’m just showing my age here, but I wish the Xbox came with a wood-effect option.

 9: Those same consoles used to come with things called joysticks. No direction pads, just a phallic shaped controller with one fire button, and it was fantastic, no learning hundreds of button press combinations, just so you could walk across the room. Just move the stick, and shoot pixels at other pixels. Classic.

See? Wood effect, and just one fire button! (Image via wikipedia.org)

 8: Multiplayer meant having friends over. This will shock some readers but, there was a time before wi-fi connections, before the internet, before online gaming. In this age playing a video game with more than one person meant you had to have more than one person physically in the room with you. They would sit there, with their own joystick in their hands, and you would both proceed to have this thing we used to call, fun. Yes kids, fun by making blocky pixels shoot blocky pixels are other blocky pixels.

 7: 25 million versions of Pong! Or at least it felt that way.

 6: The satisfaction when after five minutes of frantic blowing on the connectors, and repeated insertions into the console you finally got your cartridge to run. This may also have been good practice for dealing with the crushing disappointment of those first few sexual experiences…

 5: Bubble Bobble. Encasing enemies in bubbles, and then bursting them both with what amounted to headbutts. This was video game violence for my generation, and you know what? Our parents worried about the effect it would have on us too.

4: Joysticks were usable on more than one manufacturers console, or computer. This one addles a lot of younger people but there was a time when a Sega joystick or joypad worked for the Sega Megadrive (Genesis in the States), the Atari 2600, and both the Amstrad 464, AND the 6128. This would never happen these days, but back then it meant that the cash strapped gamer kid always had a ready source for a replacement controller.

3: Elite. I’ve already written in detail about this game, but it’s impossible to overstate the effect it had on my gaming generation, and me personally. It gave many of us our first taste of what gaming would become in the future, with it’s (for the time) great graphics, fascinating game play, well thought out controls, balanced combat, moments of utter frustration, moments of heart pumping victory, and Blue Danube playing over the start screen.

To this very day Blue Danube is my favourite piece of classical music thanks to the start screen of Elite. And it was due to just how good that music sounded, combined with the beautiful wire-framed graphic of my own ship spinning, and swooping in front of me that I was finally irrevocably addicted to video games.

 2: The day of the great upgrade. After playing an Atari 2600, or a truly primitive computer (that your first mobile phone  could out process by a few million times) for years, the day came when you upgraded. For my brother, and I it was a Nintendo Entertainment System. And it was a shock, 4 buttons on the controller start, select, A, and B. It was so much better than the Atari, or Amstrad. But it was still simple, gameplay still ruled, incredibly detailed, realistic graphics, and physics engines still lay in the distant future. And cartridges sometimes still needed a good blow to make them work. (I still maintain this was good experience for later human relationships.)

 1: My memories of the early home gaming industries attempts to bring the arcade into the home, I feel, gives me something which anyone who missed it lacks. Perspective. I have listened to 12 year old kids bitching about how bad “Murder-slash 3,000” is because the blood isn’t realistic. I’ve heard teens complain about how they hate a certain game because you can’t “Kill the people walking on the side walk.”

Leaving aside the…concerns those complaints raise about the sanity of younger gamers, (I mean after all who cares about the pedestrians as long as you can shoot the cops, (I kid, I kid)) these are what makes a game bad these days?

And then I remember that these kids never experienced games where the controls were so slow, and clunky that the character changed direction a full two seconds after you pushed the joystick, and a full second after they’d lost half their health-bar. Assuming they had a health-bar, and not just two extra lives with no continues.

They never experienced a game screen that was a mess of different shades of green, where you spent most of your first ten times playing just trying to figure out which of the weird shades of green was you.

They never bought a brand new, still sealed in the case game, that came with NO manual. And kiddies, there was no internet either to help your figure out what the hell was going on.

They never had genuine fun playing a birthday game that was so hard you were still trying to beat it when your next birthday came around. Because that was what meant quality, a game that was hard as hell, but still playable, where you knew you could probably beat it, if you just tried hard enough.

This Christmas my Partner in Crime has promised me a new console, my first in ten years, an Xbox 360. With it I’ll play first person shooters, and who knows what else with friends who aren’t even in the same country, much less the same room. And yeah we’ll have fun. I’ll have fun, but I think I’ll probably enjoy modern console gaming all the more because I remember a time when often the only way to get your game running was to give it a good blow before you just stuck it in.

I don’t know if I want to live on this planet anymore…(Image via Dam-age.com)

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