On Saturday evening Channel 4 aired a programme about how video games changed the world. In it Charlie Brooker skips through the last 30 odd years detailing the games that defined the era.
Predictably there’s initial reference to Space War and a brief look at Atari and the arcades before we delve in to the home computing scene of the early 1980s.
This was where my interest lay.
As a boy playing games at home I played the games of Jeff Minter, Tony Crowther, Matthew Smith, Adam Billyard, David Braben, Paul Woakes, Tim & Chris Stamper… the list goes on. I think this underlines my point. I knew the coders behind the games. They were my heroes back in the day and a crucial part of the British gaming scene.
Better still they were a direct influence on a young boy’s imagination providing a bucket full of inspiration to a budding game designer.
I remember typing out code listings from the gaming magazines late in to the evening only to find that they didn’t work. If there’s anything that hones your skills and tries your patience it’s fixing syntax errors on a Dragon 32 at nearly midnight on a school night.
After much frustration and guesswork I’d get the game working. Of course the game was never really what I was interested in. It was to provide a blueprint for my own game. I just wanted somebody else to have written the high score table and the collision detection.
There was always a certain amount of bewilderment at how PEEKs and POKEs worked. Similarly the endless lines of DATA that were punched in to create graphics left me baffled. I just knew that the end result was something that looked like a game.
I must have written dozens of games in this way.
My favourite Rasta Plaster Blaster was an adapted Breakout clone. I’d pinched somebody else’s code for firing a ball at a wall and turned it all on its side. My paddle was a little man that shuffled up and down the screen hurling white dots at a coloured wall.
I loved it.
For me the British gaming scene always had an element of eccentricity. Manic Miner, Jet Set Willy, Wanted: Monty Mole, Head Over Heels to name but a few. I’d love to see two hours of TV handed over to this period in the history of computer gaming. It’d be awesome to see just what the developers of these little gems thought about their work and discover what they’re doing today.
There’s probably enough scope to cover the likes of Jeff Minter and Matthew Smith in their own shows. I guess it may not have national appeal but I’d be willing to bet there’s an audience for it somewhere.
Check out the interview with Charlie Brooker over at Edge Online in which he discusses the TV show and his own gaming past.