Sunday, 7 April 2013

The day I met you....

Hello there sister!

Since I wrote my introduction, I've been having a sly peek at what other bloggists are up to, and frankly, I'm disappointed. In my own abilities. 'Harrumph'.

But, I am hoping that you, dear non-reader ignoring this post again, will be charmed and enthralled by my simplistic approach and minimalist attitude to content!

So, with that in our so-called 'minds', I'd like to take you by your beef-stained hand and attempt to explore one of the filthy roots of my gaming illness.

Chapter 1: I saw her standing there...

When I was miniature, I used to be taken along to a place called Blackpool. Like all poverty-stricken families from that era, Blackpool Pleasure Beach was a glamorous tourist attraction full of wonder & chips.

(The 'Pleasure Beach' wasn't a franchise of Hugh Heffner's orange & silicone bimbo cull factory, it was a collection of rides, stalls and, most importantly, arcades.)

Arcades. Dimly-lit temples to the newly-born temptress named gaming. These places from the outside seemed like warehouses full of blinking lights and various beeps, whooshes and bzzzzps. Only the truly dedicated passed through those doors into the confusing electronic hell within, or were nagged into it by the little excited people drunk on anticipation!

Now, when I was smaller, the arcades were scary places. All the big kids went into arcades, and lingered intimidatingly around the better cabinets, or 'game sarcophagi' as I used to not call them. So, the newer releases were out of bounds to me, as I was a coward even back then. The pinball machines were the worst, but thankfully I'd be turned away from pinball forever with the discovery of the stuff in the next paragraph!

Pole position. This cabinet had a steering wheel, gear selector and pedals. Actually REAL and ATTACHED. This, to my growing brain, was only one step down from a real car. It featured stylised pictures of Grand Prix cars on the sides, and chewing gum cruelly stuck to the underside of the steering wheel in the optimal position to make me cry.

It was, nearly obviously, an attempt to bring the death-defying sport of Formula One to life for idiots.

And it worked on me, sister.

When I dropped that 50 pence piece (about £130 in today's money), I was transported to another world. I felt like I was there, the true seal of immersion.

The car I piloted was three or four black blocks, the track was a grey, jagged tear in a screen of green with a perfect blue sky meeting it in the middle. The enemy drivers, all determined to steal food from my plate and leave me upside down in a ball of flame with stains on my smalls.

The track would advance toward you, the enemy scum would appear on the horizon and grow, block by block, until you murdered (overtook) them with a flourish, sending them back to their wives & children as broken men with incurable psychological damage.

The gear selector had 'lo' and the dizzyingly dangerous 'hi' settings. Obviously, 'lo' was for girls with nits, and 'hi' was for real men like Burt Reynolds in Cannonball Run.

I played the heck out of this game, begging for 50p's like a boy band member on Comic Relief. Whenever I'd get to those Blackpool arcades, I'd be drawn almost romantically to it, like a tramp trying to woo a wheelie bin.

This game is responsible for my love of the real F1, and for my soft-spot for the racing genre as a whole. I loved it.

Although, I can't really remember it that well! I tried to find a picture that matched my recollections, but this is all I could find with minimal effort!

Not what I remember, can you do better? Then shut up!

 This is probably the reason I love games. Well, one of them anyway. Read on boss!

Chapter 2: Not as good as chapter 1.

The other arcade-based thing I remember being hooked on was called 'Green Beret'. This was a cutting-edge military simulator, certain to have been used by the SAS in preparation for wearing gas masks and that.

I think I remember the game started with a heart-breaking message about captive troops, which fired me up and made me as patriotic as an illiterate child can be. I imagined then all tied up in a draughty barn, steely determination etched on their bedraggled faces, dreaming of home and muttering.

Then, a DEAFENING SIREN would sound, signalling the start of your mission. A sideways-scrolling enemy compound would appear, filled with despicable terrorists, bigots and ladders.

It was terrifying! They would rabidly sprint towards you, frothing with disappointment at your intrusion on their villainy. Armed only with a truly enormous knife which lashed out from your chest area inexplicably, you had to jump, climb and otherwise dodge these raging baddies. Luckily, the baddies had received such a cripplingly poor standard of training that they were easily stumped by you simply lying down or jumping at the right time. God in heaven!

I was so bad at this game that I may as well have not bothered playing. I could have just swallowed the coins, to be honest. I hate myself and wish I'd never been born!

They are literally screaming in my face as they charge at me!

But therein is a lesson for nobody, guys. Remember when we played just to play, and progress-based frustration didn't exist? No achievements, ranks, trinkets or cupboards to obtain. Just a coin-operated dream machine you longed to be with, no matter how fruitless the whole thing was.

Beautiful. But gone. Or is it? Don't ask me!

Of course, there are tons of other arcade titles that deserve at least a name-check, but I can't remember them. Did you just 'tut'? Well, don't. I'm only human you oppressive cow!

OK, that'll do for now. As usual, nobody cares and the world is a heartless, competitive place, but don't let that stop you from remarking, no matter how nonsensical or threatening.

 I'll stop if you say so, chief!

GL & HF!



  1. A great read, reminded me of the times i would beg my mum for coins to play Street Fighter at the arcades. I would get up to Vega and lose all my money everytime. Good times.

    1. Glad to stir up your pot of memory soup boss!