It’s time to drop our obsession with the word addiction

An article published on Kotaku a few days ago read “OK, I’m addicted to Hearthstone“.  It is the sort of turn of phrase we throw around all the time without giving it so much as a split second’s thought.  Seemingly every game that we play and enjoy elicits a claim of addiction.  That Skyrim was so addictive.  My god Planet Puzzle League is addictive.  Dark Souls II addiction has set in.  Of course what we’re saying is that we are enjoying a game so much, that there is almost nothing we’d rather be doing.  Claiming game addiction has become a badge of honour.  The internet laughs and moves on to the next ‘addiction’.

But ask people with problems with addiction and its probably not a laughing manner.  Addictive behaviour is a serious condition, in some circles considered a mental illness, that has serious social and personal implications for both those addicted and their friends and families.  In most cases these addictions are hidden from love ones and left untreated for long periods of time. Gambling addiction is one of the more publicised illnesses, and according to the Australian Government, up to 500,000 Australians are at risk of becoming, or are problem gamblers, at an estimated social cost of $4.7 billion every year.  And depending on who you ask, cases of internet and video game addiction are on the rise.

The fact is there are people all around Australia and the world, that are or are at risk of becoming seriously addicted in some form.  It isn’t something they are proud of in most cases, and rarely are they likely to publicise their addiction as something to be proud of. So while we laugh at how ‘addicted’ we are to games, the reality is we can and do stop playing of our own volition.  That isn’t addiction and nor should we trivialise it as such.  So let’s try and remove it from our vocabulary, in respect of those people that are suffering from some form of legitimate addiction or addictive tendencies.

And not to pick on Kotaku, but you know what, homelessness isn’t very funny either.

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Borderlands’ violence borders on overkill

BorderlandsBA

I have played my fair share of violent video games.  I’m not proud of it, nor am I ashamed of it, it is just an accepted truth when you play as many games as I do.  In fact it is so common that I don’t tend to notice it any more.  A head blown off here, a torso torn apart there, it’s just the way it is for the most part, and I derive close to zero pleasure from watching some clever animator’s handy work in drawing a contorted and bloody torso.  I go to games for the stories, character development, clever mechanics.  The violence, well that is sometimes just a nice little wrapper, that entices nor offends.  It just is.

That is until Borderlands.

I have been playing Borderlands for just over 10 hours now and still am not entirely sure why.  I don’t find the role playing elements particularly gripping, the loot is uninspired, and the story, i think, is somewhere in the background noodling away.  The game looks great from a technical standpoint but is incredibly dull from an artistic one.  In short I’m not really that gripped by the game.  And so here I am debating whether I’m going to persist with it, but also unsure as to why I’ve come this far.  Or at least I’m in denial as to why.  The truth is Borderlands hits at something primal inside of me that I didn’t know, or at least hadn’t noticed, existed.  Video game violence is something I’ve denied (with caveats) is an issue for years.  I’ve defended video games from the siege laid upon them by lobby groups and the mainstream media who claim that video game violence is the bane of our modern existence.  And yet here I am with the stark realisation that, the only reason I persist with Borderlands is an inner thirst for violence.  Borderlands is no more or less violent than other games in its genre, but violent is all it is, really.  “It’s just a bit of fun” I said.

And I maintain that video game violence is okay, providing it’s in service of, or at least, accompanying some greater narrative or mechanical draw.  The problem with Borderlands, at least personally, is that there is nothing outside of  the sheer act of inflicting harm on (virtual) others keeping my interested.  I think about the key mechanics driving me forward, the collection of better and faster ways to dispose of my enemies.  Without the distractions of story or character attachment, the guns and the violence, are the only real reason to persist.  Call of Duty is violent, yes, but I come to those for cheesy storylines of mateship and Government conspiracies.  With Borderlands everything is built in service of making you the best possible killer.  Bigger, faster and more powerful guns are the only aim.  And with that I’m forced to admit that, yes, I am only playing Borderlands because of the pleasure I’ve derived from killing people.  I play because I’m in the habit of finding better ways to kill.  .  And that’s not a great thing to admit.

If you’ve seen the film The Hurt Locker (and minor spoilers here for those that haven’t) you would’ve been surprised at Sergeant First Class William James’ (played by Jeremy Renner) decision to leave his family and return to the battlefield, seemingly at odds with his traumatic experiences throughout the film.  But the film brilliantly sets out a character, and empathy for that character, that it is infinitely clear that he knows nothing else, that is driven by the adrenaline that comes with the combat scenario.  He obviously finds some personal growth from war, as humans we always strive to be better at what we do. Rightly or wrongly, he doesn’t continue because he wants to, he continues because he has to.   I’m not familiar with war, but I am familiar with being a creature of habit.  And I’ve come to the realisation that I’m not playing Borderlands because I want to, I’m playing Borderlands because my human nature is telling me I have to.  Its an inner-bloodlust that is keeping me playing, and while it would never translate into the real world, it is making me feel incredibly uneasy about who I am as a person.  To some people Borderlands is just light entertainment, to me its a window into my own psyche that I’m not entirely comfortable having open.  And so with that I’m making the decision to stop, rightly or wrongly.

Have you ever played a game you thought was a bit ‘too much’ in its treatment of violence?  Tell us in the comments!

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The great mobile gaming snub: who will remember poor old Bubble Ducky?

I can remember people laughing at cell phone games.  And its not really that long ago that people in the west laughed at Square-Enix releasing a Final Fantasy game in Japan exclusively for mobiles.  It goes to the fickleness of consumers and the games media proper that it was not long until they were celebrating mobile games and hailing them as the market to watch. Fickle industry aside, mobile games are now big business (for a select few). But for such a large segment of the videogame market, it is amazing how little is documented about mobile games.  Sure, we all will remember Flappy Bird for its moment in the sun, and Plants Vs Zombies because in some ways it was the first mobile game to really connect with traditional players; but what about the others, the older games that were released between mobile gaming milestones Snake and Wordjong?  There are a lot of them, and I’d hazard a guess that they’ll be lost to the annals of time, as we move from fashion to fashion, ditching these expendable pieces of entertainment for the new hotness for the price of little more (and more often less) than a free-to-play microtransaction.

Personally I’ve never been one to indulge in mobile games, mainly because I don’t find myself in a situation where I absolutely need to play a game, but only have my phone handy.  Even in the toilet.  But I there have been a few instances where, just by absolute chance, I’ve happened upon a little mobile game that took my fancy.  In most cases they failed to hold my attention, and just as soon as I’d downloaded them, they were deleted from my phone never to be seen again.  But one game, more than a decade ago bucked that trend, and still remains to this day the mobile game I’ve spent the most time with.  That little game was Digital Chocolate’s simple colour matching puzzler, Bubble Ducky.

Bubble Ducky

Now I’m under absolutely no delusion that Bubble Ducky was a great game.  It brought absolutely nothing new to the video game table, and in most ways, was inferior to just about every other portable puzzler that has caught, but more importantly held, my attention over the years.  But it was simple enough to pick up and play, but deep enough to be more than something I played once and ditched.  It played into my slightly obsessive personality, as many puzzlers want to do, and ate at me until I had cleared the screen of bubbles and (to use an American term) beaten the game.  Best of all it disguised a pretty severe degree of difficulty with a bright and colourful aesthetic that was charming, and if I’m honest, brightened my days in a lot of cases.  So, no, it wasn’t a great game, but it was one that was impeccably designed to be fit for purpose, that is being a game that is designed to be consumed in bite sized chunks at times when you’ve got nothing you’d rather be doing than passing the time.

Bubble Ducky is the only mobile game I’ve really ever spent significant amounts of time with.  Not because I have an in-principle or snobbish aversion to them, but more because I don’t have the place in my daily routine where a mobile game would come in handy.  But they are out there, and people are obviously consuming them at a rate of knots.  I hate to think how many mobile games have been released since Bubble Ducky, most of which have probably gone unnoticed.  I’ve written about the revisionist history of videogames where the press and enthusiasts are curating a version of the industry that they think is worthy of being remembered, and therefore perpetuating a false version of events.  Mobile games are likely to fall into this camp, and while many of these games aren’t masterpieces, it is a legitimate part of our pastime and one that we shouldn’t let fade into history.  After all there are seemingly countless parts of the internet covering the obscure and terrible corners of console and PC games of yore, and while enthusiasts like to discount its legitimacy, mobile games are still a tangible part of this industry we call videogames.

There are some great sources for mobile games, so for more in-depth and ongoing analysis of the mobile games market:

Pocketgamer.biz Mobile Games industry news – www.pocketgamer.biz/

Pocket Tactics - the home of proper games on iPad, iPhone and Android

Pocketgamer.com - News and Reviews from the world of mobile and portable gaming

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Trials Fusion and a short argument against series revolution

TrialsFusionIt’s funny just how similar Trials Fusion is to its predecessors.  On picking up the controller I was immediately thrown back into the light touch input mode that has caused me no end of repetitive strain injury symptoms from playing the series in the past, and before long the nuances of traversing across perilous platformers on two-wheels came flooding back.  Trials is a simple concept that has been finely tuned between entries.  It started as brilliant physics-based platforming disguised as a motorcross game; and Fusion is no different.  At its core Trials Fusion is the same game as Trials HD and Trials Evolution before it.  And that is in no way a bad thing.

Video games are strange beasts of things.  The environment in which they exist is constantly changing, as technology brings with it new opportunities and expanding horizons.  Games adapt to these changing parameters, as developers seek squeeze every ounce of new power from new consoles, in pursuit of the ‘perfect’ game.  Of late this has been cleverly disguised by creative directors coming out and claiming that the new game is ‘how it was originally imagined’.  Of course what this is all leading to is changes of the guard from old to new.

Progress is a great thing and it’d be naive of me to claim anything otherwise.  But when it comes to a long running series, it can bring with it wholesale changes that can in some circumstances represent a significant departure from previous entries.  Sometimes this results in something that plays worse – the long-running Sonic the Hedgehog’s transition to modern consoles immediately springs to mind, and while I have fond memories of Doom 3 it is far from a critical darling, especially compared to its predecessors.  But for the most part, anecdotally at least, games improve largely in line with technology, resulting in modern masterpieces like Rayman Legends or Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes.  And we so we should all rejoice in knowing that the best is still ahead of us.

Rayman

But this definitely has its downsides.  If you look at it from a slightly more cynical angle, you could argue that these small steps forward for games represent mass redundancy of everything that came before.  Rayman Legends is so beautiful and so fluid that going back to the first Rayman game released in 1995 is nearly impossible.  It is slow, it is plodding, and while it looked a treat at the time, it is well and truly showing its age now.  It’s not a bad game by any stretch, but when its compared to more modern entries in the series, it suffers in just about every respect.  It is a problem that is almost unique to video games and one that makes so much of our past near impossible to appreciate to anyone that doesn’t have that historical context.

While many series are widely criticised for stagnation, there is an argument to be made for slow and methodical evolution rather than revolution.  Trials Fusion is a great evolution of a great series, but it doesn’t make everything that came before redundant.  I could (and have) happily gone back to some of the best tracks in Trials Evolution without their brilliance being lessened by the new and shiny sequel. Rather than the Trials game to rule them all, it is just another solid entry in an incredibly solid series.  In no way could, or should that be levelled as a criticism.

Revolution is a sure fire way to gain critical and consumer acclaim, and it would be hard as a creative director to contain the desire to do something new and exciting.  But I think we give far less credit than is deserved to a developer that knows its formula and maintains a steady state.  While it may not get our hearts racing, and our Twitters tweeting about just how “our minds were blown”, being safe can in some ways be much kinder to your own legacy.  In the case of Trials Fusion it can, and likely will, be viewed as stagnation or void of creativity, but I prefer to be positive and think of it as future-proofing their series roots and legacy.  After all it would be nice to avoid those all too common words “it doesn’t hold up by modern standards” from being uttered by future video game enthusiasts.

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GUEST POST: Nostalgia is a thing that is sold at Hot Topic

Following on from my post on the Americanisation of gaming history I invited fellow games enthusiast, writer and friend, Matt Mason to lend a US perspective on the issue…

ClashatdemonheadSPMatt - When I see a fresh-faced kid walking down the street, pants a bit too skinny and his hair a bit too foppish, wearing a shirt emblazoned with an NES controller and the word “roots” underneath it, I kind of have to shake my head.

Someone bastardized my childhood and made an industry of it.

The fine gentlemen of A Most Agreeable Pastime offered me the chance to try and redeem the seeming Americanization of videogame history. But…I can’t in all honesty do that. Sir Gaulian was right: the internet has kindly swept the likes of the Commodore 64 and Sega Master System under the rug in favor of a culture that was built upon Nintendo Entertainment Cereal, cartoons starring portly plumbers and other things stamped with an the big N’s gold-crested “seal of quality.”

That’s what tends to happen with history though; we’re never given the nitty-gritty details, just the glossy and happy iteration that looks good in a book somewhere.

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial obviously killed the Atari and video games as we know it. It had nothing to do with salacious software like Custer’s Revenge, in which you raped a Native American woman tied to a cactus or Chase the Chuck Wagon, the blatant advertisement in which you played as the titular carriage from Purina’s dog food commercials.

1UPElectronic Arts has become the most terrible corporation because of its market manipulation, odd pricing schemes and abhorrent micro-transactions. But in no way is it gamers fault because they bought into it all in the first place, leading EA to consistently expand upon those dirty trends.

We don’t want to hear the whole story – just the one that succinctly wraps it up in a bow and makes it look like a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.

By definition nostalgia is “a wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one’s life, to one’s home or homeland, or to one’s family and friends; a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time.” It is by no means a tangible thing; but with the right sway, you can feel nostalgic even if it’s for something you haven’t experienced first-hand. Hence the aforementioned kid, probably not even a twinkle in his parents’ eyes when the NES came to be, living it up like he’s on to something nobody else is.

Now don’t get me wrong; I’m all for younger generations playing the games of yore, if not for how engaging they can be than to at least look at them with an analytical eye and appreciate them for what they did. You can’t blame those who came after you for not necessarily enjoying them in the same way you did; it’s hard to fathom that the amount of tech and memory that’s used to animate Mario today is probably somewhat equal to the entirety of the original Super Mario Bros.

What is weird is how when people ingrain themselves in a culture, and I don’t mean just in videogames, is that they kind of adopt social norms and take certain things as givens. Of course the NES was the roots of gaming; people within say it is and Hot Topic sells a shirt to corroborate that fact. Sure, arcades, home computers, Atari, ColecoVision, ZX Spectrum, Odyssey, Fairchild and Intellivision came before it; but damn it the NES was where it all began.

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As humans, we have this predilection to remember the more dramatic things life has to offer. The more exciting, the more titillating, the more traumatic the better. Or, in the case of videogames, the more marketed, the more exposed, the more ingratiated the better.

This whole post came about because of an interesting exchange I had with Sir Gaulian about an uber-obscure NES game called Clash at Demonhead. He had mentioned it as a pillar in the NES’ history, when in reality it was anything but. He didn’t know any better; he just heard the name in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and assumed as much. I don’t know anybody who’s actually played it; hell, I’ve never actually seen a copy. But because Brian Lee O’Malley encountered it and named a band in his book after it, suddenly it was as big a part of classic games thinking as playground strategy sessions and Electronic Gaming Monthly.

We are a culture that is inundated with ideas, thoughts and opinions that sometimes we forget to make out our own. When I started having kids, I so badly wanted to teach them the ropes, have them play the classics and apply their experiences to the games of today that I forgot to let them nurture their own nostalgia. My oldest son feels about Minecraft the way I do about Super Metroid. Instead of holding that against him, I should let him expound on it. He may never play EarthBound, Mega Man 2 or Secret of Evermore and I have to be OK with that.

Instead of griping about the kid in the NES controller t-shirt whom never knew its initial impact, I should applaud him for at least acknowledging the past. Not every little tidbit is going to be discovered; but he’s on the right track. Not every game is going to be well-renowned, played ad naseum and debated upon. But that doesn’t make them any less important. They meant something to someone, even if it was just the developer who created it or the store clerk who stocks it or the kid who randomly finds it at a rummage sale.

Even though it may not get the recognition or cultural clout that you wished it would, the fact that your favorite game/console/experience happened at all should be enough. And it is.

Thanks to Matt for providing a uniquely American perspective on the early years of video games.   You can follow him on Twitter (@MHMason) or visit his blog at Obtain Potion.  Join me in thanking Matt in the comments.

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Player Manager: Why I’ll buy Football Manager Classic 2014 on Vita

FMClass14Anyone who grew up alongside Commodore’s home computer powerhouse, the Amiga 500, recognises the name Dino Dini.  As the man responsible for the incredibly popular Kick-Off series, his name is etched into all of our brains as one of the grandfathers of virtual football.  Kick-Off was fast, frantic, and a hell of a lot of fun, and for anyone only now learning about the wondrous world of 80′s and 90′s home computer games, should be one of your first ports of call.

Perhaps even more influential however was Mr Dini’s Player Manager, widely considered to be one of the first, and certainly my first, football management sim.  A simple team and player management system was placed over the existing Kick-Off ‘engine’ to make what is still to this day one of the best, and easy to learn, examples of virtual football management.  And I spent days, week, months, with the game that in my view gave rise to a genre.

Fast forward a decade and Sports Interactive’s Football Manager series (or Championship Manager as it was originally known) caught my imagination in much the same way Player Manager did all those years ago.  There is nothing quite like the feeling of taking a struggling team to glory, or taking a virtual version of the team you support to the Champions League final.  Football Manager has always been about carefully balancing risk with reward while being as efficient as you possibly can with spending and roster management.  It is like one massive economic problem ready to be solved; albeit one dressed up in short shorts and a muddy strip.  And the obsessive in me won’t stop until I’ve taken my team to the top.

To me Football Manager is a giant sandbox full of an almost infinite number of possible combinations to experiment with.  Sure its nice to buy all of those dream players that Feyenoord could never afford in real life and build the modern-day equivalent of Rinus Michels’ 1974 Dutch world cup squad, but there is even more satisfaction in scouting and buying up a team of largely unknown quantities and building up to something big.  “It may not happen overnight, but it will happen”, you tell yourself as your team slumps to the 10th loss for the season.  “I just need one more game”.  And so you tweak, experiment and perfect your craft.  It is a feeling unrivalled in the gaming world, and I suspect the reason for the series’ incredible success over the years.

The problem is Sports Interactive’s games are so comprehensive and full of options that it is now at a point where its just overwhelming.  Spreadsheet after spreadsheet of information is presented in a precise and clinical fashion with a near flawless level of detail, begging you to get down into the nitty gritty and micro manage every aspect of your team’s operation.  One loss and you’ll be searching for answers in training regimes, contract clauses and player dynamics.  It is ostensibly the perfect simulation of football, if not the perfect simulation of the humanity.  But after a long day’s work I honestly just cannot be stuffed.

So it was with great sadness that I gave up a seemingly lifelong Football Manager habit . That was until the Playstation Portable versions.  The not-quite feature full versions of the game struck the perfect balance between accessibility and complexity to draw me back into the world of football managing.  Buying and selling players, tweaking set pieces and formations and managing training regimes became second nature and before long I was spending time staring into space during the day contemplating how I was going to beat cross-country rival Ajax.  Perhaps paradoxically while it was the digestibility that drew me in, it was the hidden complexity and nuance that held me there.  The slick and streamlined interface hides this surprising amount of depth beneath its surface in what is either a stroke of game and interface design genius, or a happy accident.  Football Manager is known for its complexity and completeness, bur the fact is the stripped down PSP versions took me back to the days of the simplistic joy Player Manager where you are always just one game away from success if you play your cards right.

I feel like Football Manager Classic is built for me, the 30-something that grew up honing their football management craft, and now has less time on their hands to rekindle that love affair. It feels like Football Manager and plays like Football Manager, but instead of the oversaturation of information in the game propr, is built upon the same core values of simplicity and accessibility that made Player Manager so compelling and addictive in the 1990′s.  When it comes down to it, really when all is said and done, Football Manager ‘lite’ filled a spot in my gaming repotoir I save for pick up and play experiences.  A player transfer on the train, a sneaky game at work, a touch of roundball before dinner, and a spot of Football Manager before bed.  Either way it made managing footy on the go absolutely essential portable gaming that I’d kick myself for passing up on the Vita.

 

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The great videogame retCON: how the internet has Americanised our gaming history

competitionproA500Or Americanized….

I never owned a Nintendo Entertainment System and in fact only knew a handful of people that did.  But if you talk a stroll through the virtual pathways of the internet you’ll likely find hundreds if not thousands of Australian video game enthusiasts in their 30′s and beyond spouting their eternal and undying love of all things Nintendo.  They’ll say how they’ve always been fans of Nintendo and how getting an NES on Christmas Day in the mid-eighties changed their lives for the better and kickstarted their interest in video games.

I’m not calling these people liars, but they certainly weren’t the same kids I knew as young lad growing up in Australia.

I grew up right alongside the renaissance of videogames in the 1980s, right after the industry’s fabled full-scale collapse in 1983.  But in Australia, and probably Europe and the United Kingdom, they never went away.  Atari was most definitely a thing, and almost every household I have ever been to has an old Atari sitting in an attic somewhere gathering dust, but it didn’t signal the end of all things interactive entertainment like it did in the United States.  In fact it didn’t really register on our radars.

You see there was this little company called Commodore that, through much of the 1980′s and arguably the early 1990′s, cornered the market to become the premiere destination for games in Australia.  While the 16-bit era saw Mega Drive and Super Nintendo kiosks at big retailers spruiking the latest in console-based interactive entertainment, prior to that it was almost unheard of to see an NES in the wild.  No, down here it was all computer monitors running the latest Amstrad, Commodore 64, and later Amiga 500 (and ill-fated 2000) games. Shadow of the Beast, Space Ace, and the still incredibly impressive Stunt Car Racer were centre-pieces of electronics stores and department stores, wowing not just kids that wanted to find a home computer under the tree at christmas time, but also the parents who were blown away at the cinematic quality that these machines were pushing.  Commodore, and to a lesser extent Amstrad, were household names rather than phenomenons restricted to the younger consumer.

It was a truly universal thing, and school yard discussions were less focused on Super Mario or the Legend of Zelda, and more on West Bank, Strange Loop, and later,  Shadow of the Beast.  This was helped in no small part by the rampant piracy of  software, particularly on Commodore platforms, with programs like X Copy taking pride of place as the premiere software used to copy and share games between friends in the school yard.  It was part of the culture of the industry at that time, and as most people of my age, we were just ignorant children who wanted to experience the latest Sensible Software release.  So while children in United States schools were talking about the Clash at Demonhead, in Australia we were plotting global conquest in what is arguably Peter Molyneux’s best work, Power Monger.

PowerMonger

It would be remiss of me to discount the impact that consoles had in this time, though.  The Sega Master System, released in the mid-eighties, enjoyed tremendous success in Australia and was a tour de force in the country well into the Mega Drive’s life.  The release of the Master System II in 1990, in hindsight a real oddity of a system in the context of its time, gave it legs to really sit side by side with its big brother on store shelves.  But as far as consoles go, while Alex Kidd was all the rage, Mario didn’t really hit his peak of popularity until Super Mario World and chances are most people had their first experience with NES Mario in their enhanced Super Mario All-Stars form.  An NES was a rare sight in the 1980′s and it wasn’t until much later that many of us, myself included, had the chance to experience many of the games heralded as classics by the American and Japanese retro gaming enthusiasts. To me Duck Hunting was something the royal family did, and Zelda was a rather pretty name for a young lady who was new to the school.  I’m being a tad dramatic, but I think you get my point.  To drive my point home there was one kid in my year level at primary school who owned an NES.

Then things started to change, something I put down to the incredible popularity of the Game Boy in school yards across Australia, and the resurgence of arcades fuelled by the likes of classics such as NBA Jam, Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat.  While Commodore’s popularity waned and its business case started to crumble, led by the abject failure of the Amiga 2000, and more importantly, the Amiga, CD32, the japanese giants of the industry started to gain ground on traditionally dominant home computers.  Instead of toting your Competition Pro to a friend’s house for an afternoon of Speedball, you were toting around your SNES or (more likely) Mega Drive pad for a round of Mortal Kombat.  And I will tell you now that it was more likely to be the version with the blood.

By the early 1990′s the era of the console had begun in earnest.  The market dominance of the console manufacturers in the United States and Japan meant that they had the clout and money to draw developers into sinking huge amounts of capital into porting these technical powerhouses at the time to consoles.  The massive arcade renaissance was driving consoles into Australian homes at a rate of knots as consumers demanded arcade-perfect experiences in the comfort of their homes.  Retailers were pulling down their mounted Amiga displays and replacing them with stations playing Killer Instinct and Streets of Rage.  Japan had won and the era of the home computer as we knew it was over.  While PC gaming picked up a lot of the Amiga crowd years later, it never quite reached the same critical mass as Commodore had reached and maintained for more than a decade. It was an absolute paradigm shift for the industry down under, and one that would set the scene for the successes of Playstation and Xbox a decade later.

Read the internet, though, and this isn’t the way it went down.  I admire the dedication to Nintendo who admittedly an incredibly influential and important company in the history of video games.  As a business it brought an entire industry back from the brink and was responsible for delivering to consumers some of the most well-loved and pervasive game series’ of all time.  But while they were around, they weren’t the be all end all.  Unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, the dominance by American outlets of retro gaming discussion on the internet has led to much of our own unique video game history being revised with people emulating their experience.  There are plenty of people wearing 8-bit 1UP t-shirts, but where are the Amiga 500 t-shirts or the vinyl statues of the Bitmap Kid?   It is not uncommon for people of my age to proclaim that their first great love was Princess Zelda, which isn’t impossible, but from my experience very unlikely.  But we are more likely to bore you to tears with tales of Turrican, Cannon Fodder or Kick Off.  I’m not calling for complete disregard for the incredible impact both the United States and Japan had on making the industry what it is today.  But I am asking that we don’t forget where we came from and how we all became who we are today.  The kids of today may not remember the pioneers of the home computer scene we grew up with, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t at least know about them.  After all, they’re why I’m here writing this today.

Did you grow up playing videogames in Australia or the United Kingdom during the 1980′s and 1990′s?  Does this stack up against your experience?  Tell us in the comments below.

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