Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Gaming Memories - Part 1

It was on a family holiday that videogames first got their hooks into me. Sure, they were around before that, and I was vaguely aware of them, even 'dabbling' on occasion, such as when I played the table-top classic, Astro Wars, for practically the whole weekend I stayed over at my cousin's house, for example, or when I played Frostbite on a school friend's Atari VCS after school now and then. At that point though, they were never anything more than a passing distraction.

That aforementioned holiday was pretty much my first vacation and would see us visit the land of my forebears. Namely, the Torbay area of Devon, and we would stay in a rented cottage. I was around 11 or 12 at the time and was very excited about my first trip away. It sounded fantastic, even if it would be occurring in the school summer holidays, thereby failing to ensure that I'd miss any schooltime! For those who don't know, Torbay is a beautiful area on the south coast of England in the county of Devonshire coast known as the 'English Riviera'. It enjoys a mild climate and is home to a sizeable marina, some nice sandy beaches, and three lovely resort towns - Torquay, Paignton, and Brixham - which collectively feature a whole host of sights and attractions of magnificent splendour. I, however, ultimately saw very little of all this after I first wandered past an amusement arcade.

Up until this point I'd had little interest in arcades. Sure, I had seen most of the big-name machines like Centipede, Asteroids and the like dotted around here and there and I had a bash on occasion, like when my dad would give me a few 10p coins to use on the Space Invaders machine at my youth club, but videogames were still a niche interest at this time and weren't widely discussed - some games had intrigued me but none had ever truly captured my imagination.

Until, that is, I happened upon one of the several arcades in Torquay and something caught my eye. I saw a machine, large, bright red, gleaming like a..... Ferrari! Now cars were an interest of mine at that time. This magnificent-looking machine grabbed me by the ears and pulled me in. After watching from a cautious distance for a while, I summoned the courage to approach the dauntingly large machine. I arrived beside it and felt a mixture of excitement and nervousness. Dazzling images flashed before my young eyes. They were fast and colourful. The sounds came booming out of the speakers. There was actual music!... Some of the arcade games I had seen before were pretty impressive, but I'd never seen anything like this - it was amazing! Was this what I had been basically ignoring for the past few years? I had to at least give it a try and, after moaning at my weary parents for what seemed like an eternity, they finally yielded and bestowed upon me a shiny fifty pence coin.

I finally lowered myself into the large seat armed with the coin and immediately felt more important. I deployed it and immediately the game chimed at me as the start button flashed green. After pressing it I was asked to select the music, from an actual car stereo! Magical Sound Shower was selected of course (it had the best name) and the game began, whooshing me onto a bustling start line. The excitement as I floored the accelerator and zoomed away from the start line was immense.

I soon approached the first corner of the exquisite Coconut Beach Boulevard and started to turn the wheel, but wait... Good gracious, the whole seat moved! To say that this was unexpected would be an understatement but I didn't have time to dwell on the new turn (no pun intended) that gaming had taken for me - many more curved sections of road approached, some tighter than others, but I managed to get as far as the uphill chicane before succumbing to the always-hazardous tree-lined roadside. Upon hitting one of them for the first time, I was in for another surprise, for the whole machine shook around! In spite of all that corner-based leaning, this was still rather unexpected to say the least, and it was also quite incredible! Unfortunately this revelatory experience didn't last much longer as my time expired, but it was to become an important experience for me.

Suffice to say, to the annoyance of my parents and bemusement of my sister, the rest of this holiday was predominantly spent in the various arcades of Torquay, and most of that time, sat in an OutRun machine's seat. I never did get much better at it either, but it was more about the whole experience than getting a high-score, and it always has been with pivotal games like this one.

It's hard to explain how much Outrun means to me. It was the first videogame I ever really played properly - the beginning of what was to become a passionate, not to mention expensive hobby, which has been vigorously pursued ever since. It's a real possibility that, had this encounter not taken place, I may not have even ended up a casual gamer, let alone the hardcore gaming nerd that I became and remain.

The holiday had to end though, and upon returning to Hampshire, the source of my obsession was nowhere to be found. This situation was soon rectified, however. After a hard fought campaign (as touched on here), my parents finally relented and bought me a Sega Master System, on which I had discovered I could play Outrun. I had to pay them back of course, so three years of paper rounds ensued, with all proceeds going to this cause. It didn't matter though - I had Outrun!



  1. My Outrun is Star Wars. I think I'll do something similar. Good memories.

  2. I'm loved that too once I actually started playing games but I was a bit of a late starter!

  3. It's amazing how we grow up in such different enviroment...when I was eleven the most excited thing was running in street playing hide and seek...or listening to my sister reading novels at evenings as we did not had eletricity therefore no tv nither games to be amzed with...but I do agree that Torquay is gorgeous and memories we all have our own. Love your writting dear...not the subject though...

  4. I usually visit that area of Devon (and the surrounding areas - particularly the lovely Dartmouth) once a year and I agree, it's beautiful.

    When I'm in Brixham, I always have to have a go on the creaky old Daytona USA cab in one of the seafront arcades there. There's something special about the music and the announcer blasting out into the whole arcade.

  5. Good article
    The first time I played the sit-down cabinet version of Star Wars I was hooked into arcades.

    Since then I've always loved Vector graphics games too.

  6. Thanks! I also discovered Star Wars, on one of the arcade trips mentioned in Gaming Memories Part 2 in fact! It's a shame there's so few working machines left now...