When Games Came on Cassette.

While writing Tuesdays post on the joys of being an old-school gamer I remembered what should probably have made number one on that list. But instead I decided to write about it on it’s own, so it would not have to share the limelight with its lesser brothers.

You see there was a time my younger readers, and those of you who pushed the Q-Tip just a little to far inside thus wiping the memory from your brain, when music came on these long strips of magnetic tape. Those strips were encased in plastic, and revelled in the title “Cassette”. Well, the thing is that computer games came on them too, and didn’t we just love to hate them. Let me set the scene…

It’s 8pm on a cold, dark, wet Winters Friday night. School is over for the week, your homework is done sort of anyway, and it’s time to play. You’re hopped up on sour cola bottles, and really bad cheap cola, so sitting still is now a thing of the distant past, and your favourite game is in your computers tape deck. Can you hear it screeching, and wailing? Can you hear those weird clicks? Yes, the ones that bring to mind the words, Eldritch Horror.

Finally the sounds stop, and you wait for the load screen to clear. Your mouth is dry, will the Gaming Gods deny you this day? Or will you be transported to a gaming Nirvana where different coloured blocks fire different coloured blocks at other different coloured blocks…

FUCK! It mis-loaded, ten minutes of precious gaming time wasted. Turn the tape over, or if your game saves (assuming the game did in fact have saves) rewind it, and try again.

That’s what it was like once upon a time. You’d sit for ten minutes in absolute silence, trying to twitch as little as possible, despite what the E-numbers in your sweets were doing to your nervous system. This, so as not to anger the Gaming Gods, in the hope that they would actually let the damned thing load. And everyone I knew had their own ritual of appeasement for those cruel Gods, sitting silently wasn’t enough. Oh no, you had to turn clockwise three times, while chanting the lyrics to a specific Queen song backwards, and make sure to sacrifice a virgin as you pressed the play button on the player.

Then you didn’t move, you didn’t speak, if you coughed you winced, if you farted you knew, just knew that load attempt had been destroyed. Worse still if your mom came thundering into the room you may as well just burn the cassette, and buy a new untainted one.

But worse still was loading up a game for the very first time, you had no idea if you were about to play another Jet Set Willy, or another Impossible Mission (yes I’m reviewing that particular game soon, pray to Athena for me, that my suffering is short). Youngsters today think they know what a bad game is, just because it ends if you get hit by twenty bullets. Oh no youngster, a bad game was a game where you lost if you got hit by ONE bullet, ONCE! No saves, no extra lives, no continues. And what’s more that one bullet hit you in the first ten seconds on the first screen.

I know fear, I once played Impossible Mission. (Image via AtariAge.com)

Of course you probably only got to play those ten lousy seconds of lousy game experience after you had to run the entire cassette through the player TEN GODDESS DAMNED TIMES!

Yes the Gaming Gods were truly cruel. And in no way what-so-ever, just.

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3 Comments to “When Games Came on Cassette.”

  1. That’s what it was like once upon a time. You’d sit for ten minutes in absolute silence, trying to twitch as little as possible, despite what the E-numbers in your sweets were doing to your nervous system. This, so as not to anger the Gaming Gods, in the hope that they would actually let the damned thing load. And everyone I knew had their own ritual of appeasement for those cruel Gods, sitting silently wasn’t enough. Oh no, you had to turn clockwise three times, while chanting the lyrics to a specific Queen song backwards, and make sure to sacrifice a virgin as you pressed the play button on the player.

    My ritual appeasement was jamming my index finger between the play button and the tape deck because some arsehole told me holding down the play button helped games to load. And it had to be my finger holding that button down because the Gaming Gods didn’t like it when I cheated by shoving down some folded over cardboard or a plastic lego spear from my collection. No, only my finger could be trusted for a job this important. Of course I blew on the tape deck too before inserting the tape. Because everyone knows that matters.

    I don’t even want to think about how many hours I spent in my bedroom with my finger aching from being jammed behind that damn play button anxiously waiting for the game to load. Some games had a near 100% success rate, while other, the really good games like robocop and lords of chaos and r-type, were 50/50.

    • Oh Gods, I’d forgotten about R-Type. I never once got that to load. It would always make it as far as the load screen, and then just sit there doing nothing.

      But you hit a very important nail right on the head there Gavin. The lies arseholes in school told other people.

      “Don’t make any noise or…”

      “Don’t walk around or…”

      “Don’t look too hard at the tape deck…”

      The list just went on, and frikkin’ on. I hope that there’s an especially ironic hell set aside for people like that. Maybe an eternity of never loading Commodore games, just that painful ever changing shrieking in their ears for all of time…We can but hope.

      • R-type was a pretty regular loader for me. Which was good because it was a damn multi-loader where you had to load the next level after finishing the last. I played it again recently on an android tablet. I still remember the exact order and pattern of the attack waves.

        If you are interested, I made my list of old school games: [here]

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