THE start: A dozen matchbox cars with a garage. One of the cars was a red Mercedes Benz convertible. After a few months the cars became covered in scratches: wear-and-tear, numerous imaginary crashes and pushing them down the stairs. My earliest memory of toys and gaming.
Exit matchbox, enter board games. First-up was Snakes and Ladders. Next, Draughts and getting to grips with the moves, jumping and strategic gameplay. Then came a trio of classics: Operation, Game of Life and Monopoly. I won a newly-boxed Scrabble board game in a school raffle that added to the board game collection; for a number of years, board games ruled in our household.
It must have been the mid-to-late 1970s when a Binatone gaming system arrived – being the youngest of six, I did not know the details of where-from or cost. When television programmes on the black and white television were not being watched, the gaming system was swiftly connected. Once connected, the game we played was Ping-Pong.
During the early 1980s, the start of secondary school, a flurry of handheld and desktop electronic games appeared; Munchman, Firefox F7, Astro Wars and Donkey Kong. The games manufacturer, Grandstand, was incredibly popular at this time. Coming from a household of six, my parents could not afford to splash-out on these relatively expensive electronic games at the time, but I did manage to break my handheld gaming duck in the Christmas of 1983: I bought Pocket Pac-Man from Woolworths using the pocket money I’d saved.
It was about 1982 when one of my brothers walked-in with a colourful, rectangular box (he is nine years older and was working full-time). I watched him unpack the box and connect the various wires. Many of our family stood in awe as the Vic 20 home computer powered into action. We spent hours in the bedroom playing games like Cosmic Cruncher, Hunchback, Chariot Race, Pit, Duck Shoot and Emmit Attack and Space Invaders.
After the Vic 20, I wanted a Spectrum. I also wanted a Commodore 64. I got neither the Spectrum or C64: financial constraints the stumbling block once again.
I did manage to buy a C64 in the early 1990s: baking bread during the nightshift in London’s Ladbroke Grove, earning £140 per week helped fund the system. When I’d finish my nightshift, I’d catch the number 18 bus back home and play Robocop, Question of Sport, Spyhunter and Batman on the C64. I would then head to bed at 12pm.
After the C64 the Super Nintendo arrived. By this time my nightshift days were over and I wasn’t living like a vampire. Mario Brothers ruled and my nephew joined-in with the Super Nintendo fun.
I can’t remember the exact year, but it was in the 90s, when I also bought the PlayStation. I remember the debate as to which game was best: Street Fighter or Mortal Combat? For me it was Mortal Kombat all-day-long; Scorpion being my favourite character, firing that crossbow-type weapon whilst yelling ‘Come here!’ when reeling-in his opponent.
With age comes loss of memory: I flogged the PlayStation and bought the PlayStation 2 but I can’t remember the year; I do know it was about eight months after its release. Favourite game on PS2: Max Payne.
The PlayStation 2 was sold on eBay six years ago. Since 2011 our household has been video-game-free but that has come to an end; I’ve fairly recently purchased a Nintendo Entertainment system with pre-loaded retro-games and I love it!
I don’t know where the Binatone system or the Vic 20 ever ended-up. I don’t remember what I did with my C64. What I did with the Super Nintendo is a complete blur and as explained, I sold both PlayStations. I can be forgiven for not holding onto the Binatone and Vic 20 as technically these were not mine. As for the C64, Super Nintendo and PlayStations, I’ll regret selling these for the rest of my life. If I had a crystal ball I would have seen that retro would eventually be cool and I’d turn out be become a nostalgic geek. If my feet could comfortably reach my backside I’d give myself a good kicking. Still, for now, my gaming memories are still fondly recalled from my huge hard-drive encased in skull.
A fictional story about the Vic 20 is featured in my latest retro book, Section N Underpass. A fun and factual look back at entertainment, leisure and advertising from the 70s and 80s.
For more info click on book cover below to get the rundown: