Posted by: splosher | 08/11/2011

Gaming the Light Fandango… pt 1

I am a moron. There, I’ve said it now. In fact I’m going to go a step further and state that I’m not only a moron but an ape, an arse, a clown, a cretin, a tool and ultimately, a twat. Indeed, there are many negative terms I could relate to myself without even becoming abashed at the brevity such monikers instill within our society because I accept that I am nothing more than an absolute pillock. And why, may you ask, am I reducing my very existence to the lowest of common denominators? Well it’s all because a life-long, crippling addiction – controlled for years via private solitude and introverted withdrawal – has suddenly raised its wanton head into my life again and in doing so, now appears to have cost me immeasurably.

What, pray tell, could this personal horror of horrors I speak of be? Perhaps it’s a lapse back into drugs and the utter banality being stoned represents at forty? Or maybe the pull of the drink has yanked me back to the jar after seven years sobriety? Or possibly even some form of sexual paraphilia deviancy consuming my whole being with a wanton lust? Ha, if only I was blessed with problems as light as these! No, the life-governing compulsion coursing through my very genes is an addiction to playing video games in all shapes and sizes.

This time however, my blind greed has cost me immeasurably because I’ve just blown up my self-built (and extremely expensive) PC due to indulging in a game’s graphical splendour after failing to remember its operational caveats. You see, this is what occurred: I decided to run Dead Island at full HD with a two graphic card SLI set-up and forgot just one small thing: I’d added my second Nvidia GPU months ago, but never tested the new build via my gaming addiction due to my PSU being underpowered. Cue the Zombie-slaughtering action, to which my feeble power supply exploded in a flash of electrical discharge and acrid toxic smoke when it came face-to-face with ultra high texture mapping of the un-dead. So, as I’m now trying to come to terms with how much expenditure a new computer build is going to set me back, I think it’s as good a time as any to reflect upon my 35 years of video game addiction over two blog entries…

I can remember seeing my first video game way back in the latter half of the 1970s. My Dad turned up one day with a ‘Grandstand’ video games system that he’d gotten hold of because “it fell off the back of a lorry,” but this explanation only resulted in greater confusion because I was convinced it would be broken in pieces due to hitting the road! Once he’d screamed my confusion into submission, the video game was plugged into our rented Binatone telly, eventually tuned in and the black-and-white building-block graphic splendour of Pong flashed up on the fuzzy screen. There and then, my fate was sealed as a virtual hole was blown through my receptive mind; indeed, the square, single pixel ball of programmed beauty had literally performed a graphical trepanning upon me and nothing would ever be the same again.

I was quickly onto playing an Atari 2600, complete with actual single-button joysticks, game cartridges with 104 colours and a lovely fake wood finish surround. Obviously I didn’t own one personally due to the extortionate price involved and with my Mum being poverty-stricken straight after Labour’s ‘Winter of Discontent’ at the end of the 1970s, I didn’t have a hope in Hell. However, my best mate got one in 1980 due to his parents’ owning a shop and being a spoilt little shit, so at every available opportunity I would stay over at his house and play Space Invaders, Asteroids  and Pac-Man over the next two years to my heart’s content.

The early 1980s heralded the home computers and I was lucky enough to own two of the biggest names at the time: first up in 1982, I had a rubber-keyed 48k Spectrum and then by the mid-80s, I’d progressed onto a Commodore 64. With masses of Kilobyte RAM memories, actual coloured games, real electronic soundtracks and the ability to store data on audio tape, the home computers were so far in advance of the Atari generation that the technology allowed people to believe that they, the users, could create their own games. Indeed, many of the world’s leading game designers started in this ‘home brew’ time period and although I gave it try myself – I can still recall being hunched, hour after hour over pages of meticulously typed-out BASIC code – I lost patience pretty quickly after I’d put a full stop in line 3,467 instead of a comma. What then followed was the never-ending screeched sound of looped data from the tape recorder as the computer perpetually searched for the next coded instruction, but sadly to no avail. I believe it was shortly after this point I had to borrow a tape recorder from a mate due to the fact that mine was strewn across our back yard in several shattered pieces having failed to survive its lobbed trajectory through my bedroom window; whenever I spot an old cassette player out and about on my travels, I always feel a ping of consternation…

Then from 1985 onwards, the world was introduced to the Japanese gaming monsters that reinvented the game cartridge as their own, such as the twin behemoths of Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and the Sega Master System; off in the background though – and beyond the pocket of most mere gaming mortals – were the lesser known Asian game powerhouses, such as the Turbo Grafix and the astonishing Neo-Geo video games systems.

But these were my teenage years, so I bypassed most of the 8-bit scene due to discovering drink, drugs and female over-indulgence, only to come out the other side as the 16-bit Nintendo SNES and Sega Mega Drive systems were in their twilight years. I chose to back Nintendo and as such was able to experience the unshackled genius of perhaps the greatest games designer of all time, Shigeru Miyamoto. Now blessed with more memory and better graphics to work with over his seminal work, Donkey Kong, Miyamoto’s brilliance tempered my post-teenage excess with titles of such reverence as Super Mario World, Zelda: A Link to the Past, Star Fox and Super Mario Kart, to name but a few of the technologically outstanding games now available in your own home: indeed, video game arcades all across the world began to notice a drop in profits as kids soon realised the discrepancy between a hugely expensive Jamma board of Street Fighter ll and the £40 SNES version wasn’t the graphics anymore, but rather the lack of a coin slot needed to play your next game.

With just a hop, skip and a jump in technology terms, we were onto the next generation of games consoles within just a couple of years, with Sega doubling their bits to 32 and introducing the Saturn and Nintendo introducing the world’s first 64-bit system, named unsurprisingly as the Nintendo 64. However, in-between these two monoliths’ unveilings things were about to change when the newest video game kid on the block pushed their silicon into our lives and we quickly realised – like addicts everywhere – that they had the best shit of all. With its black-finished gaming discs, sleek console design and ergonomically-perfect controllers, this cancelled, co-designed project between Nintendo and Sony heralded an epoch-defining era for gamers everywhere in 1994 (if lucky enough to be Japanese!): the original Sony Playstation.

What came next in the search to sate my addiction as a gaming Lord would encompass the other side of the world (Japan), lots of money (not mine) and rapidly diminishing eyeballs (unfortunately mine)!

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