I remember being extremely young, maybe three or four, and playing Dangermouse In The Black Forest Chateau with my dad on his ZX Spectrum 48K. It was a text adventure and he’d read it out to me like a story and I’d tell him what I wanted to do.
I have very few memories of being so young but for some reason this one sticks out. Being unable to read at the time, it’s the only vivid memory I have of seeing weird symbols (the words on the screen) and somehow knowing they meant something, but not knowing what.
I remember A, B, C, Lift-Off! on the ZX Spectrum. It was an educational game. One of its modes had a conveyor belt with crates going along it. A crate would open and a word would appear at the top of the screen: if the object in the crate matched the word, you would press S (for ‘snap’) and the object would be loaded onto the rocket.
I used to adore it: it’s funny how something that wouldn’t even pass as a mini-game these days was enough to keep me enthralled back then.
I remember being at my aunt’s house in America in 1987 and seeing a grey box underneath her television. This was to be my first introduction to the Nintendo Entertainment System, and at the mature age of four years old it was the first time I fell in love.
I only vividly remember two things about that holiday to America. I remember a McDonald’s advert featuring a moon, and I remember Super Mario Bros. That summer the NES was released in the UK and I got one for Christmas, with Super Mario Bros and Mach Rider.
I remember playing Bear Bovver on the Spectrum for hours one day. Bear Bovver was a Burger Time rip-off by Jon Ritman, who had developed the brilliant football game Match Day. You controlled a bear called Ted and had to run around a construction site, dropping batteries onto his van parked below, while avoiding the evil ‘bovver bears’.
The Spectrum’s heat management wasn’t the most advanced, and I played it for so long that smoke started coming out of the power brick. Our Spectrum had to be sent off to be repaired. To this day Bear Bovver is the only game I played for so long that I melted my power supply.
I remember my uncle going to America (again, to visit my aunt) and coming back with some American NES games: A Nightmare On Elm Street and Fester’s Quest. The UK NES wouldn’t play them (they would run for two or three seconds then reset), so we found a shop in Glasgow that would mod my console to play imports.
Although in hindsight the guy probably just soldered some sort of chip to the console, back then I thought it was some sort of magical trick and that my NES was suddenly more special than ever. It made me feel more special too.
I remember reading in an old issue of Mean Machines (a brilliant multi-format console magazine) that the Master System had a secret maze game built in and you could play it by holding the 1 and 2 buttons and up on the D-pad. I remember skeptically trying it out and feeling my heart leap as the screen slowly slid to the left and the maze revealed itself.
To this day I can still hear that music in my head. Later Master System models had Alex Kidd In Miracle World built-in and so didn’t have the maze game.
I remember there was a game shop in Cumbernauld Shopping Centre (it’s now an estate agent) that let you rent games for a couple of days. I rented RC Pro-Am and Bubble Bobble on the NES from them once.
My strongest memory though is getting the Master System version of Ghouls N Ghosts from them and finishing it that day, taking it back the next day and telling them I’d already beaten this notoriously hard game. Looking back it seems the Master System version may have been a great deal easier but hey, they were impressed and I felt like a hero.
I remember Click, the VHS ‘video magazine’ which only lasted for two ‘issues’, probably because it cost a fiver a pop. It was an attempt to present a games magazine in the style of a fly-on-the-wall documentary, with the magazine staff generally dicking around and getting in all manner of (scripted) incidents.
I adored Click: it made me wonder if that was what working for a games magazine was really like. Turns out it actually wasn’t far off it, except we didn’t have Jake Wood (who later became Max Branning in Eastenders) reviewing Amiga games. If you’re curious, watch it online: issue 1 and issue 2.
I remember going on a school trip to the Museum of Transport in Glasgow and spotting, next to the gift shop, an Out Run arcade cabinet. It was the first time I’d played it and it completely blew me away.
I remember signposts and big stone columns swooping past me with remarkable smoothness and speed, and walking away adamant it was the most beautiful game I had ever seen.
I remember Pleasureland in Arbroath. It was a massive grey building next to a pitch-and-putt golf course and was the biggest arcade I’d ever seen. I must have gone there four or five times during my childhood and every time I was in heaven.
I can still remember some of the arcade machines it had and in my mind I can even picture where some of them were located: The Simpsons, WWF Wrestlefest, Mortal Kombat 2, Sega’s weird hologram game Time Traveler, Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles. Pleasureland is still there, but it’s mostly filled with kid’s play areas these days.
I remember so many arcades from my childhood. Every time we went somewhere I’d pray we’d stumble upon an arcade and we almost always did.
The Golden Mile in Blackpool (where I found the Street Fighter pinball machine for the first time). Haven’s Primrose Valley caravan park in Scarborough (where I first saw the notoriously gory Time Killers). Across the chip shop at the Cumbernauld Shopping Centre (Final Fight). Across the chip shop at the Barras in Glasgow (WWF Superstars). The Time Capsule swimming pool in Coatbridge (Mortal Kombat 2). The one at M&Ds in Strathclyde Park when it first opened (SoulCalibur and Virtua Striker).
Every one holds so many memories, and every one either no longer exists or is filled with slot machines and ticket games now. It saddens me to think there’s a generation of gamers who never experienced the thrill of being in a room filled with games graphically far superior to what you had at home, armed with a couple of quid’s worth of 10p coins (because that’s all they cost to play). But I was there, and I remember it.
I also got issue one of a new Nintendo magazine called Total!, which would quickly become one of my favourite mags because of its brilliant sense of humour.
Little did I know that 15 years later I’d be working for its publisher alongside its editor, the lovely Steve Jarrett.
I remember 7 January 1992 at 6pm, watching the first ever episode of GamesMaster (watch it here). I remember being overjoyed at the quadruple-excitement of a TV show about games, a Scotsman hosting it, Super Mario Bros 3 being the first challenge and my magazine hero Julian Rignall (of CVG and Mean Machines) providing commentary.
I never missed an episode of GamesMaster during the six years it was on, even the shit ones with Dexter Fletcher. I could do a memories article on GamesMaster alone (and I will one day).
ABACABB for the Mortal Kombat blood code, ABBAABBA to skip levels in Aladdin, ABRACADABRA to do it in Chuck Rock, ADE-NAI-WRA-LKA as a password to reach level 6 in Splatterhouse 2, Down-R-Up-L-Y-B-X-A to do numerous things in Street Fighter games, AAAAAABC to put a Groucho Marx moustache on Earthworm Jim, ARK in the name entry to play as Bill Clinton in NBA Jam, and so on.
This seems to be something of a dying art, which is a shame: these codes were daft but you felt like a super hacker when you entered one.
I remember us driving to the guy’s house to buy it and driving home with my SNES sitting next to me along with Super Mario World, Super Castlevania and Super Tennis.
Never has a car journey home felt so long, and never has a console immediately satisfied me like the SNES did with Super Mario World.
Our battles could sometimes last up to half an hour, especially on Battle Course 2 because you could use a feather to jump into the walled-off water sections and essentially become impervious to all attacks.
I’d always play as Toad and my wee brother would always play as Yoshi, and any time he beat me he’d shout “I’m Yoshi” and try to lick my cheek because he knew it really pissed me off.
I have no idea how many hundreds of hours we put into ISS, me playing as Italy (complete with star Roberto Baggio imitation Galfano) and my brother as Brazil, but I do know every single one was time well spent.
I remember the 16-bit console war in my playground. As the kid who owned both I was the mediator but I saw my first instance of blind fanboyism there: a posh lad called Damien who was adamant that Sega would ultimately become the dominant company because of “the majesty of Ecco The Dolphin“. He was ten.
I pitied him though: his mum was a teacher so during the big Amiga / Atari ST debate he ended up getting an Acorn Archimedes because his mum considered it more educational.
I remember going to a school disco and hating every minute of it because I didn’t have too many friends at the time. I remember leaving, dejected, and being picked up by my dad who told me he’d bought me a Mega CD from AdTrader.
Instantly that night went from being one I was desperate to forget to one I would always remember, as I rushed home and enjoyed my first CD-ROM games, Sol-Feace and Cobra Command.
I remember getting Night Trap on my Mega CD, loving it the first day, then having nightmares that night and not going near it again for a good fortnight (look, I was ten).
Slowly I got over my fear and started playing it again, eventually falling in love with it. I’m certain my love for horror films stemmed from my ability to overcome Night Trap and appreciate the thrill that conquering it gave me.
I remember sniffling away tears of happy memories as I placed my Mega Drive games into big bin bags and wondering if I was making a massive mistake.
Then, later, as I made Mario run around the castle grounds for the very first time, I knew I hadn’t.
I remember the satisfaction that came with putting new batteries into the Nintendo 64 Rumble Pak.
As the Rumble Pak’s batteries died the rumble effect got progressively weaker, but it all happened over such a long period of time that you never really noticed your recoil in GoldenEye packing less punch.
Then you’d put new batteries in and that faint murmur you had grown used to was instantly replaced by a hefty tremor.
I remember using my pocket money to order WWF Attitude on the PlayStation from Jungle.com (which used to be the second-biggest online retailer in the UK before it merged with Argos) and coming home every day from school for what felt like months (but was probably only a week or two) disappointed that it hadn’t turned up yet.
My delight in finally seeing that parcel has rarely been topped. As it happens, the game was shit but in terms of graphics and roster size nothing could beat it at the time.
I remember ordering Crazy Taxi on the Dreamcast from Simply Games (before they became a bunch of wanks) and getting it on a Saturday morning, nearly a full week before it was supposed to be released.
I spent the entire day playing it, to the extent that I knew its four music tracks inside-out by the time my first day with it was over. I will always love that game: its handling was all over the place and its collision physics were about as predictable as a game of bingo, but it was an unadulterated celebration of fun.
I remember buying an Xbox a year after it came out (I was a student, so was pretty poor at that point). Believe it or not, I bought it solely for ToeJam & Earl III because I was a massive fan of the first game, but it ended up being more than a bit pish.
Instead I spent all my time playing Project Gotham Racing, just slowly driving around in a time trial and stopping to look at the amazing recreations of London, Tokyo, New York and San Francisco.
I remember buying its sequel later that year and being even more enamoured, because it featured Edinburgh (where I was living at the time).
I remember the strange mixture of excitement and sheer terror at the thought of being lucky enough to do my dream job, but having to move to London and leave all my family and friends behind in order to fulfil that dream.
I got the overnight bus to London over the May Day weekend of 2006, and didn’t sleep a wink all night. I have never been so scared in my life. But there wasn’t a hope in hell I was going to turn it down and it ended up being the second best decision I ever made (after proposing to my missus).
I remember being asked if I wanted to be the Games Editor on CVG, and feeling massively honoured to join a long list of games journalists – including my hero Julian Rignall – spanning the publication’s 34-year history.
As most people know, CVG’s story didn’t have a happy ending and I was one of two guys (the other being News Editor Tom Ivan) who ultimately turned off the lights at the world’s longest-running video game publication.
But I will always be enormously proud to have been a part of the entity that made me want to do this job in the first place.
I remember how I felt every single time I received an email, forum message, letter or tweet from an ONM, Nintendo Gamer or CVG reader.
I remember the pride I felt in informing gamers the same way I had been informed for so many years, and I remember feeling enormously grateful and thankful for anyone who ever took the time to get in touch with me.
I tried my best to respond to everyone (time willing) and continue to try to do so over Twitter, because the most important part of writing about games is the people who read it.
There are many things that happen in our lives that we don’t want to remember. Deaths in the family. Break-ups. General Election results. But video games give us a catalogue of happy memories that we can build up over the years and call upon any time our hearts need warming up.
The memories I’ve shared above are only a fraction of the things I remember from the 29 years since a three-year-old me first played Dangermouse In The Black Forest Chateau. These will be memories I will always cherish for as long as – God willing – my mind remains healthy.
Over time you will forget some of the bad things that happened to you. I don’t really remember the times I was bullied at school or times I missed the bus to uni. But I do remember the good things that happened to me, and video games provided many of these.
And I always will.
Do you have a gaming memory you remember with great fondness? I want to write a follow-up article called ‘You remember’ in which I post your memories to accompany mine. We’re celebrating gaming on this site, not being negative about it. Either email me at email@example.com or comment below with your own gaming memory to have it added to the article when it goes live in the near future. Please start it with “I remember…” so it’s all thematically tidy and that innit.