Our new next-door neighbour must have recently upgraded his computer and had his old one going spare. Jumping the garden fence he offered up a mystical box of tricks with the immortal words “this is something your son will need to learn about”…
The 16K ZX Spectrum was thus my first machine and is very fondly remembered for many, many weeks of family competition trying to break high scores in Jetpac and Cruising On Broadway
Said next-door neighbour was on the upgrade path again. This time he offered up his last box of magical tricks for the princely sum of one hundred 1987 British pounds. Having learned my coming fate I spent the summer in the local library reading their copy of the Amstrad CPC464 user manual cover to cover.
The CPC was with us for 6 years and while we did have the colour TV modulator the vast majority of it’s use was with the GT64 green screen.
Paperboy, Bomber, Rockstar Ate My Hamster, Elite, Fantasy World Dizzy, How To Be A Complete Bastard, Bulldozer, Rick Dangerous, Flight Path 737, Biggles, Oh Mummy!, Leaderboard, Gauntlet, etc.
A friend had a Commodore 64 with Hewson Consultants Anarchy. Another owned an Amiga with the utterly brilliant Moonstone: A Hard Days Knight. The arcades offered Final Fight, Bubble Bobble, Afterburner, and Green Beret.
Amstrad Action was the monthly magazine and ACE (Advanced Computer Entertainment) the bible.
Starting further education the Government was foolish enough to give me a college grant to help pay for my books, pens, travel, etc. Pah! You don’t hand a 16 year old hundreds of pounds and expect it to remain in their bank account for 3-4 months.
The Amiga 600 was my first personal computer purchase. A trip to old school friends provided me with suspect copies of key games that would mark this era of video gaming.
Street Fighter II, Flashback, Pushover, Civilization, Battle Chess, SimCity, Jimmy White’s Whirlwind Snooker, Puzznic, Oblivion, Zombie Apocalypse, Lemmings, etc.
At some point I’d upgraded to an Amiga 1200 and the old A600 was attached to the family TV like a games console. My younger brother brought games consoles into our life acquiring a Tomy Driver, Binatone Mk.8, Sega Master System and SNES in quick succession.
In February we signed an agreement to sell up our assets to the local Cash Convertors, pool our resources, and we bought a Sony PlayStation. Tomb Raider was the big game of the day. And coming from the A600 and SNES it was a major eye opener. Along with Tekken 2, Crash Bandicoot and Final Fantasy VII.
The classic era of gaming is now officially over. While gaming remains, for many years to come it will become something of an after thought. Just prior to starting University I did a home study PC-Repair course and, well, built my first custom PC.
AMD K6-2 400, 64Mb Ram, ATi Rage graphics, few 100MB on the hard disk, a CD-Rom drive and a ISDN internet connection.
The few games were of the more serious ilk – Call to Power, RISK II, Railroad Tycoon, etc. Though this also marks the first forays into retro gaming with early DOS emulators for MAME, Neo-Geo, Nesticle, Genecyst, and ZX Spectrum.
Working for a major national PC retailer help pay my way through University (actually I’d left by this point and gone full time) LAN gaming became all the rage. We’d regularly meet up at each others house with newly built gaming PC’s in hand (Athlon XP and GeForce 4Ti) to kill each other in Medal of Honor and Battlefield 1942.
Off the back of this Halo: Combat Evolved was the big first person shooter of the day, and that meant buying an XBox at launch. Alas it didn’t mean actually playing it though. The systems game library remained unexplored for a good 15 years or so.
Still Project Gotham did get a lot of play time. Getting Kudos for drifting a Mini Metro around Trafalgar Square in Split Screen action against your brother will always be fun.
Having not really played or explored the original XBox buying a 360 at launch, the 20Gb hard disk model mind, with the HD-DVD drive just seemed the thing to do.
Gaming had devolved in to a paint by numbers affair. I had my racing game (Project Gotham 3), my first person shooter (Quake 3), my versus beat-em up (Dead or Alive 3), well you get the idea.
To be fair the game selection wasn’t improved with the switch to PlayStation 3 a couple of years later.
There seems to be a pattern forming. My younger brother, the decidedly non-gamer, being the major influencer and catalyst for change in my gaming habits. It was he who brought plastic drums to my attention.
In late 2007 Rock Band was released in North America. Alas my trusty unused XBox 360 didn’t like the idea of playing imported game discs. So a choice needed to be made. Wait for the official UK release (later in 2008 it turned out), or be impatient.
360 sold, PlayStation 3 acquired, a months mortgage repayment donated to international postage (the full band kit having some heft). The era of mullets and annoyed neighbours had arrived.
I’m clearly a gamer today so something beyond wacking plastic symbols with wooden sticks must have happened. What’s shocking is how relatively late this would be.
While I’ve been gaming since 1986 it had never been a serious or overly enjoyable pursuit. By 2002 it had all but died away. Something I must be seen to like because it’s what other people expect of me. Clearly I was missing something. A decade wasted because, quite frankly, I’d never found the right games. What I needed was the modern equivalents to Fantasy World Dizzy, Flashback, and Tomb Raider. In 2011 that’s exactly what I got.
It started with my brother, yes him, the non-gamer, again, lending me a copy of Batman: Arkham Asylum. Some hackers convinced Sony to introduce me to PS Plus which brought an hours free trial of Assassin’s Creed and Red Dead Redemption was one of the first free game give-aways.
By 2013 a XBox had been soft-modded, games I should have discovered earlier like the Hitman Trilogy, Mafia and True Crime NYC had been played. I was ready for the ultimate conversion therapy – The Last of Us and GTA V.
Buying a PlayStation 4 at launch was an absolute no brainer. As was buying a new 1080p Plasma TV to support it. And all for one game. Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag. Having played all the previous entries in the series there was no way I wasn’t enjoying this one in the best quality money could buy. My next gen gateway drug. The sign of a true gamer.
Alas, the PS4 never really followed that game up with anything. There’d be one or two cross-platform games like #Watch_Dogs otherwise for the first couple of years it was all quiet in PlayStation land.
Never fear I’ve a soft-modded XBox laying around…
I stepped off the modern gaming carousel for a while and embarked on my first RetroReplay (archived). Playing a new game each week, starting in 1979 and working forward at a game a month pace, I tried my first answer to the what-would-I-have-played question.
Philips Videopac G7000, Mattel Intellivision, Commodore 64, Nintendo Entertainment System, Sega MegaDrive, Commodore Amiga CD32, Sony PlayStaion and Sega Dreamcast.
Having made it to the start of the Dreamcast era events in my personal life took a drastic left turn. With my home life turned upside down gaming obviously had to take something of a back burner.
As I started getting my head back together I started looking back and catching up on the PS4 games I’d been missing out during the first RetroReplay period.
With access to a soft-modded Wii and Nintendon’t I embarked on a small journey playing Star Wars games and finished up in 2016 taking part in an Assassin’s Creed Marathon.
I really missed the RetroReplay journey I was on between 2014 and 2015. I knew I needed to rediscover it. Discovering and enjoying the history of gaming being as important as experiencing the latest and greatest visual onslaught.
Over a two year period I took a different journey than last time (archived). This time looking at the Atari VCS, ZX Spectrum, CPC6128 and Amiga. While at the same time keeping up to date with PS4 releases before looking back at PS3 and XBox 360 combined.
By the time I was playing PS3 and Amiga games it was clear this wasn’t working. Too many games. I needed to refocus. A more concise, manageable, playable selection was wanted.
My initial thoughts was to focus on console gaming and the history of PlayStation specifically.
Atari VCS, ColecoVision, NES, SuperNES, PlayStation, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 4 Pro.
15 games on each system seemed a good number. A top 10 with honourable mentions but without descending in to filler.
The Coleco wasn’t working. A nice machine but a limited library. The ZX Spectrum was a far better fit. The PS4 and PS4Pro are the same machine so they were combined. The result was a gradual increase in games for each system. From 15 on the VCS to 30 on the PS4.
This scenario was a winner. Passing every test I threw at it. A good selection of games coving gaming history.
Still, despite passing every test, something was nagging in the back of my mind. Most of the time it went by a name – Amiga. An itch that needed to be scratched. But how?
I liked the RetroReplay format. I liked looking back over gaming history. But one game per month lead to far too many games to play and a lot filler. Then there’s the issue of time and FOMO on modern gaming.
I need a way of combining a RetroReplay with a limited selection of games that also allows me to keep pace with modernity…