Sunday, 5 February 2012

Nostalgia ain't what it used to be...

I've always enjoyed computer games. The younger reader might be forgiven for thinking there was nothing to do before Call of Duty, but video games go back much further.

First I knew about it was Pong. Bat a big square pixel from one side of the screen to the other. Your opponent would do his best to send it back to you. First to 15 won or something. Extremely simple of course, but for the first time we had some control over what we had in front of us.

And of course, what started simple gradually evolved into more and more complex things. By the time I was in my early teens, there were arcade machines everywhere. In newsagents, in the bar of my local swimming baths. Come half past three to four O'Clock, when I was walking home from school, I'd call in at the local shop and there would be a crowd of pre-pubescent boys clustered around the latest game. Jostling for the best view. Those with any proficiency were sort of lionised. Held in temporary awe.

In the great scheme of things, I wasn't particularly good at these games. I wasn't spectaculerly bad either. But I was as avid as any of my peers at either playing or watching these games.

Now of course, what represented the pinnacle of electronic engineering 30 years ago could easily be played on your mobile phone. And you can play them all on your PC as well.

There is a bit of software that turns your PC into an arcade game cabinet. The games are ROMS that you load into the emulator. As far as the software is concerned, it's sitting in a cabinet in an arcade waiting for some spotty kid to come and put 10p into the slot. It even goes through all the hardware checks when you load it up.

So I've been busy reliving my youth by attempting to play some of the old games I used to know and love.

 Defender was hard. It's still hard. Donkey Kong was relatively easy once you got your head around it. Pac Man never really grabbed me. Scramble absolutely enthralled me. I'd spend my entire pocket money trying to get a bit further through the caverns.

Playing them now, for free, I find that they've lost most of their ability to capture my attention. Probably for the best I suppose. Of the games I've tried, the last one pictured, Track and Field (the logo was emblazoned with the Stars and Stripes - 1984 was the year of the Los Angeles olympics) entertained me the most.

driving lessons in Wallasey?


Jim Bliss said...

There were few things more impressive to my young eyes than the sight of someone playing Defender really well.

Scramble was one of my favourites too. The game I personally excelled at though (it came a little later in the cycle) was 'Gauntlet'. I fed far more coins into that bloody machine than was sensible.

Paul said...

I agree. In fact, I contend that those few with the skills to play defender well would in an earlier age have had the greatest proficiency as hunters. Then too, they would have held the esteem of their peers. Defender required real speed of thought, eye and hand.

Gauntlet on the other hand was for speccy kids with an unhealty obsession with Tolkien and games with funny shaped dice. I'd have loved it if only I could have found someone to play it with me.

Pete said...

Hmm yeah, there's a trip and a half down memory lane.