Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Loading Screens And Dreams Part 1

This blog came about from a conversation I was having with a friend of mine. Its due to him that I am writing this and he also gave me the title as well. This is the first part so Karl Winship thanks very much for the inspiration.

I remember the first ever computer game I played. It was called Pong. My dad bought it for me and we played it for hours. It was quite simple, a black and white screen, two white bars hitting a square ball back and forth. The only problem was that, that was it. You couldn't put anymore games in it. It came with Pong and Pong was what you got.

I also remember the first time I saw a game cabinet. We went to Thorpe Park, it hadn't been open long and stuck in the corner of the restaurant was a big yellow cabinet. In that cabinet was a game that would change everything for me. That game was PAC-MAN. I put in my 10p and watched as the little yellow head was chased around the screen eating little dots chased by ghosts. So, so simple and so much fun. A new industry had been born.

In the early 80's there were these new fangled things called computers. If you think the fan boyism of the current generation of PlayStation vs Xbox vs Nintendo is bad you don't know anything. The big battle was between Spectrum and Commodore. You had one or the other that was it. I never had one of these computers I had an Amstrad 6128  which came to market a little later than the others and became the home computer. This was THE computer to have as a kid, because it came with a built in disk drive, but unfortunately there wasn't many games for it. As successful as Alan Sugar was at bringing the computer to the masses he couldn't get the biggest software company at the time which was Ocean (remember them?).

There were some cracking games out at that time, Manic Minor, Hungry Horace, The Hobbit, Skool Daze, Jet Set Willy, we would play for hours. The graphics weren't great normally 8-bit and at an absolute push 16-bit. To give you some idea of what that was like, you now get better graphics on the loading screen of your mobile phone. We didn't need graphics though we had game play. That's all that mattered. These games were extremely difficult too complete and great kodus was heaped upon anyone who managed to it.

The other great thing about these early computers was they also spawned another new industry. Computer magazines. There were some great ones at the time ZZapp was one and Amstrad User was another. The great thing about these magazines was they were written by fans for fans. Guys in their bedrooms who wrote the code needed and then gave it away in the magazines. Zzap also started to give games away on the front of their magazines. I spent hours typing out the code that they printed in the magazines to get another free game. The early computers needed tape decks attached to them to load the games on and they weren't cheap so this was a godsend.

There were downsides to this though by any means it want perfect. One of the problems was that you would wait 30 minutes for it too load and it would crash so you would start again. The other was that when you typed in the code if you got ONE thing wrong it wouldn't work. Do you know what though? We didn't care we just started all over again. Doing it again and again until we got it right. We would spend hours doing this and we loved every minute of it.

There computer boom lasted a few years and then it was all to change again with the introduction of a whole new way of gaming which I shall cover in another blog. Its important though to remember that without these first computers there wouldn't be the games we play today. They changed everything, they challenged and intrigued the programmers of the future to write the games we know now. As Walt Disney changed the way films were made, Jet Set Willy and Manic Miner changed the way we played games.

Ill always hold these games and the systems we played them on in high regard even of they haven't stood the test of time. They were a special part of my childhood which I and others like me, will not forget. That is exactly the way a cherished childhood memory should be as well.

No comments:

Post a Comment