There’s a lot on in my life, as has been the case since (checks calendar) about August of last year. It’s ironic that my change in real life fortune corresponded with another Warcraft Expansion launch, but the writing was on the wall long before that point. There is no longer either desire or ability to immerse myself in gaming as I once did. This isn’t new, either, and for the first of a series of posts about my obsession with pixels, there needs to be some understanding of why addiction has always been a problem.
It all started with an Atari 2600 cartridge called Frogger.
My father worked for a large, American car company. The 2600 wasn’t a present for me or my brother, it was very much dad’s toy, would have to be returned to exactly the same place it had been left or I’d be in trouble. There are a couple of games remembered fondly: Missile Command, Pitfall and this, which was, I now realise, probably the first indication there was an issue with hand/eye co-ordination which is only now being addressed. Still, this was glorious, and the highlight of after school faffing.
It is probably worth stating I can remember the Three Day Week in the 1970’s: in the early part of that decade, something like this would have been unheard of in our house. It was my father’s change in fortunes that opened a door, and the place my parents loved to visit as relaxation which only reinforced that interest. As Mods in the mid 1960’s, they’d come to Southend with their mates to hang about and look cool. As parents in the 1970’s, me and my younger brother got dragged into amusement arcades on the Seafront.
This is where Galaxians comes in.
Oh, this game. The first time I saw it was probably sometime in 1980 (which would have made me thirteen at the time) and honestly, so much pocket money got burnt on doing this. I was awful, so utterly bad at it but BOY would I try. It never got bad enough that I’d get on the train from home and go to Southend myself, but there were times when it seriously crossed my mind.
Knowing this, and clearly sensing that daughter had a skill in both programming and playing, I was lucky enough to have access to a BBC B. Again, it wasn’t technically mine but my father’s machine, to which I was granted access. This was the girl who, by this point, was obsessed with Blake’s Seven, Sapphire and Steel plus all those amazing US imports like Battlestar Galactica, Wonder Woman and Buck Rogers. However, I couldn’t dock a spaceship to save my life, and realised that maybe, gaming like this wasn’t for me.
It was games such as The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (had to wait until 1984!) and the Lords of Midnight where it became apparent I’d found the niche that worked for me: the text based adventure, or the almost mind-numbingly slow RPG ‘turn-based’ games were the way my shortcomings with a joystick, keys or mouse could be ignored. There were a number of the hand-held Game and Watch liquid crystal things too, as I vaguely recall, but it didn’t matter… I was just rubbish.
Programming was my interest, and playing around with new pieces of equipment ended up in the end being far more beneficial than ever being able to boast at my ability. It would also prepare me for the neophyte world of Personal Computers, my first ever sight of a Macintosh, and begin the start of a forty year love affair which shows little sign of diminishing. At the start however, it was all just a bit too much for me, warning that my life would never satisfactorily mesh with certain types of games.
It is only now I’m beginning the process of challenging these shortcomings.