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School Days & Your Gaming Life

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This talk of arcades reminds me that when I was a kid, myself and my mate Neil used to regularly go to the local swimming pool. And we'd go swim to keep our parents happy, but our real, true reason for going is that they had arcade cabinets of Golden Axe, Altered Beast and P.O.W., and nowhere else in our town had arcade machines. We'd regularly spend more time on Golden Axe than in the pool.

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I was born in 1978 and I've got vague memories of playing an older cousin's 2600 before I was 6. Then on Boxing Day 1984 my parents gave me and my sister (who was 14 at the time) a Commodore 64. I absolutely loved it, especially Daley Thompson's Decathlon, some Centipede knock-off and Panther (that music!). For a while at least. At some point in probably 1986 I just wasn't that into games and didn't turn the C64 on much. Not long after, my best friend got a Spectrum and became game crazy and it got me hooked again.

 

But oh no! Try as I might I couldn't get my C64 to work. It seemed to turn on but even though I tried it with different TVs around the house I just couldn't tune it in. Every few days I'd try again. I told my dad and he couldn't figure it out. Then one day I came home from school and he asked me to show him again what was going wrong – this time it worked. I thought I was going crazy but I realised the RF lead was slightly thinner this time. It turned out he'd replaced the dodgy cable and everything was now OK. I went back to loving my C64 and reading games mags like crazy.

 

I didn't have much experience of arcade games but I went on a two-week holiday chalet trip to West Wales with my family and my Speccy-owning mate came with us. We played in the resort's arcade every day. Still now I could sketch the layout of that arcade and in my head THAT is what an arcade looks like and what games should be in in (Star Wars sit-down, Kung Fu Champ, Green Beret, Battle Zone, Ghosts & Goblins…).

 

The magazines of the late 1980s made me ache for an Amiga. I had to go into hospital for 2 weeks in the summer of 1989 and when I came home there was an A500 with Forgotten Worlds and Blood Money. I'd been getting Amiga magazines because I knew it was inevitable so I also had a small pile of demo discs and PD games. I got my mates round and we gawped at the Blood Money intro thinking it was better than an arcade game. Soon after we visited some relatives a few hours away and an older cousin (not the 2600 one) introduced me to a friend with an Amiga. He gave me a pile of blank discs with pirated games on. I had never bothered with this in the C64 days.

 

A few weeks later I started high school and was the only person with a 16-bit machine in form 1, although someone new joined a few months later and he had an ST. Still the only friend I ever had who owned one. Gradually, as Commodore started doing games bundles for the Amiga at £399, more of my friends got them. Less than a year after getting it I spilled tea all over it. It was fucked. I don't know if I even confessed to my parents that I knew why it wasn't working. They sent it off to Commodore in Maidenhead to get it fixed. They had it for weeks but eventually got in touch to say it was all sorted and was on its way back. It was due to arrived the morning of the 1990 FA Cup final but it didn't. I was heartbroken. It eventually arrived the day of the 1990 FA Cup final replay a few days later. For some reason this is burned into my brain. Soon after, an older boy I went to primary school with but was in a different high school became a supplier of cracked games. I would still like to buy games in Boots (my sister got a discount) because I liked the packaging but I got a lot of enjoyment out of pirated games from him that I probably wouldn't have bothered with otherwise. Christmas of 1990 I got a Gameboy. I liked it, but I loved my Amiga and the GB seemed so primitive.

 

The Amiga became huge in my school although a couple of people had Megadrives by 1991. Me? I was obsessed with the Super Famicom games I saw in Mean Machines. Somehow I persuaded my parents to import one for Christmas 1991. I got Mario World, Super Tennis, Goemon and Castlevania. I was blown away. I converted at least three people just by showing them the most gimmicky levels of Castlevania. I felt like I had the best of all worlds at this point when it came to games. The titles for the Amiga, SFC and MD seemed so different and between my friends and I from 1992-1994 (the year I finished high school) it felt like we had every major release covered. I was buying Japanese games exclusively at this point and had Street Fighter II before magazines over had even reviewed the import version. My friends and I poured so many hours into this. At some point during my GCSEs an import game shop opened up in the Queens West shopping centre in Cardiff which meant we could finally try out games that were not over here yet. I ended up buying Starfox from there for £90! Only one UK mag had reviewed it and the shop had only managed to get one copy. Luckily for me, I'd bought Super Star Wars (US) for £40 a few weeks earlier, found that on my SFC it crashed after level one and sold it for £70 to a friend who had a UK SNES it ran on (he actually made the offer knowing how much I'd paid – he was THAT desperate for it) so it felt like it 'only' cost £60. I also got a Multitap around this time and that made a huge difference for gaming sessions with Bomberman and ISS Deluxe the main time sinks.

 

For some reason, my girlfriend in 93/94 bought a SNES and became addicted to Mario and F-Zero. She had barely shown any interest in the my game collection when she was at my house. We had a massive row because I refused to reach a hidden exit in Mario for her. I felt she'd get much more satisfaction reaching it herself with me guiding her (with help from the June/July 1992 issue of Console XS that had all the levels mapped). The prospect of going without sex even for a day or two meant I caved and played it for her instead.

 

I bought the PlayStation and N64 on their UK release dates but I was doing my A Levels then at a tertiary college so I'm not including them in "school days".

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8 hours ago, Zio said:

This talk of arcades reminds me that when I was a kid, myself and my mate Neil used to regularly go to the local swimming pool. And we'd go swim to keep our parents happy, but our real, true reason for going is that they had arcade cabinets of Golden Axe, Altered Beast and P.O.W., and nowhere else in our town had arcade machines. We'd regularly spend more time on Golden Axe than in the pool.

We only had one arcade machine at a time at our swimming pool (the sports centre in Colchester, before it became Leisure World) but to this day I remember they were Gauntlet, then Quartet, then Afterburner, then Hard Drivin (standup versions), then Golden Axe. Then it became Leisure World and they didn't have arcade games any more. 

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The swimming pool in Greenwich had battlelantis (medieval space invaders) and Salamander, and 1941, and the smell

of monster munch and chlorinated water.

 

the working mans club had mr.do, and the smell of cigarettes and alcohol.

 

the kebab shop though... rtype, rtype2, tecmo soccer, final fight, aliens, turtles, snow bros, and a shit tonne of SF2 variants. and a fruit machine. 

 

NOT ALL AT THE SAME TIME OBV.

 

when the funfair was on blackHeath there’d be a truck, loaded with exotica: splatterhouse, bubble bobble, grabbers, and pushers. Battlezone and continental circus. 3-player sprint, steering wheels!

 

Margate was king of the arcades. first time I played sitdown Star Wars. And a mechanical rodeo bull.

 

Brighton too. sit-on hang on, tilty bikes. Pinball tables

 

I didnt go to Southend until I was nearly in my twenties.

 

but, and I’m an idiot, between 11 and 17, you’d go up the trocodero in Piccadilly. Sometimes with your mates. Sometimes with a girl. Sometimes you’d take a girl to the arcades. No, actually do this. Two things can happen. One, they get bored, or worse, beat you at something. like LA Machine guns, (that was the wife though, so I must have been in my mid 20s by then) Friendly rivalry. Forge bonds with common experiences. I never played the sitdown mx5 version of ridge racer.

 

lea valley ice rink had pole position... 2, but the ice skating was the important part. You know how in Rocky he takes adrien to the ice rink? Yeah...

 

if you can find someone who likes games as much as you do they’re a keeper.

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6 minutes ago, SeanR said:

Loads of great arcade memories 


The mention of Ridge Racer reminds me…

 

Summer of 94. We’d finished our GCSEs and were doing a 6-week summer City & Guilds computer course. It was pointless but we got paid £35 a week to go and £50 for passing. I used my ‘bonus’ to buy Super SFII from the import shop but every lunchtime we’d go to Caroline Street to buy chips then go to the arcade on St St Mary’s Street to watch people play Ridge Racer.

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How on earth did I forget Chip Shop gaming?

 

The two good spots in Stourbridge were Carol's fish bar in Coventry street, and the one at the top end of town next to the subway who's name escapes me but is now a pizza place. Both of them would have a couple of machines in, and as this was around 1989/90 it was the best era for arcade gaming IMO, .

 

There was usually a football game that I didn't care about, but Carol's had things like Prehistoric Isle, Silkworm, Twin Cobra & 1943 at 20p a credit so a couple of quid could last a long time. This tended to be the quieter one of the two so I'd wander into town with Guns N Roses playing on my Walkman, blow shit up, and head home.

 

The other chippy was a much bigger venue with seating and more passers by, so this was quite the social hub for a teenager and you'd get an audience if you happened to be good at something. It tended to go for more co-op or vs games with a lot of beat em ups. Ones I can remember from there were Double Dragon 1 & 2, Golden Axe, Final Fight, Street Fighter 2 and so on. It wasn't just fighting though, as they had Time Soldiers, Robocop (which I can still complete on a single credit on a good day) and more.

 

Oh those were *such* good times. I can get really nostalgic about that part of my life.

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I don’t really remember arcade machines being in chip shops etc. Maybe a fruit machine but never proper games. Is that because I lived by the seaside where we had a selection of proper arcades so they didn’t bother?

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Oh and I just remembered another thing:

 

Cocktail cabinet Pac-Man in a chip shop in Greenwich. Not that it had the room, but I guess it made them money. 

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5 hours ago, acidbearboy said:

I don’t really remember arcade machines being in chip shops etc. Maybe a fruit machine but never proper games. Is that because I lived by the seaside where we had a selection of proper arcades so they didn’t bother?

 

Must be.  We always had arcade machines in our chip shops in South Norwood.  I would say that chip shops would kill for the same amount of football today but they seem to be more popular than ever without those gimmicks :D 

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:)


Wow reading the posts up here brings back some memories...

 

Home pong machines is where it started for me one of my Dads friends bought one and we played it a fair bit. Think it was called a Grandstand Sportronic or somthing (still have a cart somewhere for that thing!!!).

 

Think the first entry into the world of computing/gaming etc was when I got my 48K ZX Spectrum back in '83. Loaded Manic Miner and I was hooked. Of course played that to death but that and the Hobbit were the only game I had with it (other than that Horizons tape supplied with it - that had all sorts of odd stuff on it... foxes and hounds anyone?!). So I then found the ZX Basic programming book and had a mess around coding up things from that....

 

Had all sorts over the years... C64, Sinclair QL(!), Amiga 500 and PCs.

 

Really liked the old days of computing there was so much variety of machines out there to explore with differing specs etc. Seems a bit boring these days at times.. .PCs and consoles! All the power you could ever wish for but it just seems different... guess its the spark of something new and magical that has gone (tech and PCs etc were all something very new back then).

 

Anyway... I'm still playing (despite being on the wrong side of 40!) more so on my Switch than anything else. Still love tinkering with tech and work in development... did something right! :D 

 

 

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I have a clear memory of being genuinely amazed when I discovered someone else at primary school who also had a computer at home, and who had even played some of the exact same games. Albeit on an Amstrad PCW rather than a ZX Spectrum. 

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Not just chip shop gaming but newsagent and  off-licences.

 

At lunch time we used to jump the school fence and go down to the local off licence, which had Double Dragon. Later we’d go to a sweet shop on the high street which had Street Fighter 2.

 

I think some of those shops made more from coin ops than papers. There always seemed to be a crowd of kids in there.

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