Ahh, the Commodore 64, my first games device. The origin of my ruination. Hours of my adult life have been wasted gaming instead of doing something productive. I am fat. My brain has been dulled from years of shooting aliens and terrorists. If I had not received this Commodore of Doom, setting a path of idleness I would follow later in life, would my life have been different? Would I be mentally sharper, more qualified, fitter?
Moving on, I don’t remember receiving the C64, but I know I loved it like a fat kid loves cake. If not more. Whenever I had enough pocket money saved, I’d venture out for a new game. If I had saved some big bucks (£10 or so), I often found myself in a snafu. Should I buy two or three budget games, or one AA title? I could get, say Batman or Rainbow Islands, or three games I’d never heard of. This was often the biggest decision of my young life.
I’d buy my games in Partick, from a shop possibly named The Micro Shop. Well, it eventually became a shop, but it started out as cabin. It was a treasure trove. Games for £2.99, with cover art completely unrepresentative of the game inside. The darkest day of that era was turning up and finding that the cabin was gone. I practically leapt with joy when a friendly passer-by told that the shop hadn’t closed, it had just moved to premises just down the road.
My favourite game was Octapolis. It wasn’t the most popular game, but was a great platformer and flying game (for its time). I don’t remember the story, if it even had one. But you were a bad-ass space pilot. You’d fly and fight through swarms of alien fighters to land on a ship. Inside, some cruel alien sunsabitches had crafted rooms full of elaborate platforms to stop you. Using your gun and hopping, you would avoid or murder space ogres (!), fireball-shooting skulls, and giant, hovering eyes (!!). I played this game for hour upon hour, and I still don’t know what happened after all the platforming. I presume that, once you finished a ship, you moved onto another one. Otherwise there would only be one flying level. Or is that looking for too much logic in a game of that era?
Four Soccer Simulators did exactly what it said on the tin (case). It didn’t really. One of its game modes was a gym simulator. You would lift weights and run around cones. That’s not soccer as I know it. It’s not even football. The other modes were 11-a-sides, fives, and street football (really just fives with some cars thrown in). The game was prone to problems, due to the tape loading system. There were two games on each side of the tape. If the tape didn’t stop properly when the first game loaded, the second wouldn’t load correctly either. Imagine, with your 2011 mind of immediacy, waiting ten or fifteen minutes for a game to load. Then realising that it hadn’t worked, having to rewind, then wait that time again.
Speaking of loading times, there was a rumour around my school that the coloured stripes displayed on your screen during loading times could hypnotise you. I had to find out, of course. I sat at my monitor in the dark, inches from the screen, waiting for hypnosis. Incredibly enough, it didn’t work. I didn’t have a contingency plan. I didn’t even tell my mum what I was doing. She may have come into the room and found me, a catatonic wreck on the floor, never knowing the Commodore was the culprit.
My gaming setup wasn’t ideal. I had a plastic chair. The back of it would routinely slide off. I wrapped plastic and paper around the loose side, but it didn’t help. If I’m humble now, it’s because of that chair. It punished arrogance. I’d complete a level and lean back, cocky about my alien-killing skills. Then whoompf, the back would come off and I’d go crashing to the floor.