Dominik Diamond, host of cult show GamesMaster, salutes the bygone age of bleep-heavy soundtracks and dusty cartridges
Not CDs that get scratched if you so much as look at them funny. Cartridges. Big hunks of plastic you could stir a pot of pasta with safe in the knowledge that they’d still work. And if they didn’t you just blew on them.
Proper social gaming with guys in the same room
Far more satisfying than battling some cypher from Bolivia called B458jizz on the internet.
50 million different kinds of joysticks
Which all looked like sex toys.
Game loading screens
The philosopher Roland Barthes said what is truly erotic is the tiny flash of bare skin betwixt the stocking top and the dress bottom. It was the same way with loading screens that appeared line by line. Yes it was. Admit it.
The gaming equivalent of that first White Stripes album. If games were supposed to sound like orchestras then Rock Band would have come with a triangle and tuba.
Old fashioned arcades that were just full of games and cigarette smoke. Not fruit machines and hand sanitiser.
Parents thinking games machines were proper computers
“Here’s a Commodore 64 you can do your homework on…”
That cassette loading noise
Somewhere between the shriek of an electric sheep and outtakes from a Kraftwerk recording session, where someone swapped a keyboard for a bag of amphetamines, lurked the sound of a Spectrum or C64 game loading. Ironically this was the most comforting of noises. It meant the game was coming through. It was, to all intents and purposes, “the gamer’s lullaby”.
Cheats in gaming magazines
Today, you have an ocean of cheat codes a mere mouseclick away five minutes after you open a game. In days of yore you had to wait a month before Mean Machines helped you out. Often you just had to work sh*t out on your own.
Recent hit Dishonored features Oscar winner Susan Sarandon, but in the original Resident Evil we had Barry Gjerde as Barry Burton. His legendary delivery of the line, “That was too close. You were almost a Jill sandwich!” was the video game version of “To be or not to be”.
Terrible collision detection
In Angry Birds a plank can slip through a gap the size of a pig’s pubic hair and scupper your demolition plans. But in the old days there were some platform games where collision detection was so clumsily bad you had to leap over an approaching obstacle three days before it got to you. If the world today had this kind of collision detection we almost certainly wouldn’t have a global economic crisis.
Forget today’s multi-button mice and ergonomically designed joypads that pamper gamers hands like Oil of Ulay. My generation was weaned on Q for up, A for down, O for left, P for right and spacebar to shoot. The fact that our hands today resemble arthritic gaming claws is only an extra badge of pride.
Machines that just played games
Was your ZX Spectrum a wireless house-wide multimedia device? No. It was for Daley Thompson’s Decathlon and Daley Thompson’s Decathlon alone. At no point in the Eighties did your daughter livestream Carly Rae Jepsen album tracks on your Amiga, and your wife certainly didn’t stop you playing Dig Dug on the Atari because she wanted to watch a Blu-ray on the telly.
Today you need the brain of Stephen Hawking and the finger dexterity of Ron Jeremy to copy video games. Enterprising kids used to be able to do it with an Aiwa cassette player and a stump.
Three Lives and that’s It
Old games taught you if you got hit by a bullet you died instantly. Today Call Of Duty convinces kids that if you get blown to bits by a grenade you can recover in five seconds by having a quiet sit down. Our future army is screwed.
Working- class gaming characters
Today gaming characters are futurist space mercenaries and bioengineered vampires. In the Eighties they were plumbers like Mario and miners like Willy. Realistic salt of the earth guys with working class jobs who went home after the game and had chips and stout for their tea. Probably.
Companies Releasing Games That Were Actually Finished
No reliable internet meant no ‘patches’ released a month afterwards because the multimillion dollar first-person shooter you’ve been waiting for has 50 walls you can walk through. The game you got was the game the company was proud of, tested to within a millimetre of its life. Today, at times, it’s like buying a bike and waiting a month for them to send you the back wheel.
That TV show with Patrick Moore and the girls
You had to be there…
For links to Dominik’s writing and radio show head to dominikdiamond.com