This isn’t a history of one videogame, it is the history of all videogames…
How this world was born… part 1
Okay, let me start by saying that I am old, old enough to remember when the MCP was just a chess program (#tron). I mean I’m not 25, I’m older than that. If I was in Logans Run, I would be dead by now. If I told you that I first used a computer in 1980, owned my first computer and played games in 1981, then that kinda paints you a picture. What do you mean they didn’t have games machines before the PS1? Fuck off now! or shame on you and read on…
My first computer was a Sinclair ZX81. It was one of the first “home” computers aimed at non-commercial users, the likes of you and I! It cost £99.99 from WHSmith, no such places as “Game” back in the day. From the minute I opened it on Christmas day I can honestly remember not sleeping for 3 days, and I never left the house for 14 days, only then because my Mum forced me to go to school. Christmas 1981 bought me this beauty, with a whole 1K (1,064 bytes) of RAM. That means I had to write a whole computer program smaller than the amount of words in this little diatribe of mine. I was extremely blessed to be given a 16K add-on pack, opening up a whole universe of programming options.
Well my friends, what the fuck has this got to do with you? Well, you wouldn’t be playing Call-of-Duty today, if it wasn’t for these machines. The early 80′s opened the flood gates for home computers to the common user, at a sensible price. No longer did you need the entire 3rd bedroom of your house, and a second mortgage, to own a PC. No longer were computers just used to put dogs in space or control nuclear arsenals, they were used for teenage virtual nuclear wars through pleasures such as “Missile Command”. Every day we destroyed mankind, and loved every bloody minute of it. BBC Pantorama/Daily Fail please note: I’m quite a sane guy, never murdered anyone, don’t stalk anyone too seriously, leave my house at least once a day, can manage a coherent sentence with other humans, have quite a nice well paid job and consider myself to be reasonably chilled out and open minded – and I have been playing computer games for nearly 30 years. Call yourselves journalists? I call you biased ill-informed fucktards.
Sorry, I digressed, back to the issue: In the 80’s little computers created by companies like Sinclair, Commodore, Dragon and Atari all became the best orgasms a 14 year old could hope for. Games on the ZX81 included the heart stopping “3D Monster Maze” by JK Greye (where are they now?) It was hailed as the original FPS (though no actual shooting was involved) and paved the way for the likes of Doom, don’t we all know where that took us!
The king of Platform games, Mario, was born in the 80′s and it still one of the most loved characters, and style of gaming, today.
Schoolboy bedroom programmers became millionaire’s almost overnight, software houses sprung up everywhere. “Ultimate: play the game” regularly released bestselling games to phenomenal fanfare and the welcoming hands of youngsters, raping them of every scrap of pillaged pocket money. “Ultimate” are still going strong, in their current disguise as “Rare”.
I personally wrote 2 computer games at the age of 14: A “Tron” light cycle rip off and an adult version of Space Invaders called “Penis Invaders”. The latter was the most fun, for a 14yr old of course. It involved controlling a penis and shooting sperm at the passing eggs, which if hit then changed in to babies and crashed to Earth. Sadly I lacked foresight and these just got swapped around the playground, otherwise I wouldn’t be sitting freezing my tits of in Kent right now, I’d be on a beach in the Bahamas.
Arcade halls sprang up everywhere, and became the coolest place to hang out, for geeks and nerds (commonly known as virgins!). Force feeding my 10p’s in to “StarForce” on a Saturday morning was one of the most gratifying experiences of my teenage life other than wanking, which may have been cheaper but generally my 3 lives at StarForce lasted longer.
Where to go with this now, if you are still reading. Well the birth of Games Consoles seems to be a sensible move. With the advent of home computing there became the home gaming market. Nintendo and Sega soon jumped on the bandwagon, launching your own private arcade for the bedroom. The Nintendo Entertainment System bought us the birth of Zelda and Mario, whilst Sega gave us Sonic and… well… Sonic. No keyboard required, just plug in and go. All you needed was a TV and no life, a glass of shandy by the side of your bed for refreshments, and to piss in when it was empty – saves valuable gaming time.
Ninty and Sega ruled the World for nearly a decade, many other followers came and went. New heavyweights muscled in on the market, namely Sony, and they all comfortably held station for almost another decade. Microsoft then discovered that there was a large part of this brave new world that they didn’t already own, so their soldiers invaded the outlands with their Xbox tanks and blew the crap out of Sega, sending it scurrying away to the evil dark wasteland of game development. Ninty retreated from Europe and decided that they could hold out in Asia, failing to recognise that Europeans actually enjoyed their games, particularly the RPG genre. Sony also took a black eye from M$ and threw most of the eggs back in to the Asian basket, cuddling up in the same room as Ninty for shelter, but in separate beds, both of them left a few scraps of gaming heaven for Europe.
So here we are; the future is very bright for the gaming industry, probably one of the strongest survivors of this 21st Century global banking fuck up. Although apparently there are small areas of Peruvian Rainforest that Microsoft hasn’t monopolised yet, as they seem to be gaining control of our daily lives. But this isn’t a M$ bashing, we should be very thankful for their input from the start. Nintendo seem to have taken a completely different direction to gaming, preferring to see unfit housewives leaping around the dining room, rather than destroying mankind on a daily basis. But this seems to have done wonders for their market share. Sony are still doing well and trotting along slowly behind Microsoft, like the quiet youngest brother in a family of three. And before you berate me with the usual tirade of screen abuse, I’m not a fanboy of any kind. I own all 3 of the current consoles and I would like to rate them accordingly, but I won’t because some of you fuckers wouldn’t agree and I can’t be arsed to start a fight – enough of those on the web already. Save that shit for another time.
The only way that computers buck a trend is that, in most aspects of life, retro is cool and fashionable. However, loading up my 3D Monster Maze next to your Medal of Honour will result in both of us finally playing much more of MoH, regardless of what you think of the current incarnation. Old computer games were awesome, they paved a future for you, just be proud as I do to look back through rose tinted spectacles at the history of our world through the tiny screen.