Being a child of the eighties I consider myself to be in the first generation where home computer gaming really took off. Yes the graphics and sound were crude (we have better quality gaming on our phones nowadays), and games needed fifteen minutes to load and often crashed, calling to be reset while we cursed the technology but the games were simple, even my father could play them, and mostly comical.
Our first computer console was the home version of Pong (originally released in 1975 by Atari), a game consisting of two small bars at each end of the screen and a ball that you had to deflect back towards your opponent. The ball would start off slowly then get faster and faster as the rally progressed.
The game was extremely addictive, hence its popularity. The makers of the game obviously had the good sense to make it a two player game else it may not have been as successful.
However, Pong was the game of the generation before me as was the next computer we bought which was the Sinclair ZX Spectrum 128k. Originally released in 1982, this computer also had my grandfather interested who enjoyed playing games like Colditz and The Great Escape, which made sense considering he was a World War II veteran.
Here is a list of the games I most remember playing on the Spectrum Sinclair ZX:
We owned hundreds of games but many never worked properly and crashed regularly which would be followed by a few minutes of cursing the screen before re-loading the game. I would sit and wait patiently each time for the game to load watching the endless multi-coloured lines flickering up and down the computer screen. It’s a good job I wasn’t epileptic.
For those too young to remember, the games were not on CD nor were they on cartridges, nor were they on floppy disc. They were on cassette tapes. Apparently there was a way to save your progress in a game by recording onto the tape but I never got the hang of it, probably because I was only five at the time.
Eventually we moved up in the world and acquired a NES (See below) (Nintendo Entertainment System released in Europe in 1986 although we didn’t get ours until 1989) which I’m pretty sure we purchased second-hand with Mario Bros, Duck Hunt and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
The console even came with R.O.B or Robotic Operating Buddy which helped play the game Gyromite. The object of the game was to help navigate a sleep-walking professor safely through the level. This could be done easily on two player mode but for one player mode you needed the assistance of R.O.B. You would place the controller into a special holder which connected to two levers. R.O.B would place spinning discs on the levers in order to help navigate the professor through the level.
Unfortunately R.O.B didn’t always work but the idea was, to me at least, ingenious and way ahead of its time.
I remember being amazed at how fantastic the graphics were and the fact that you could just push the cartridge in and the game was ready to play, although many times you would have to get on your hands and knees to blow the dust out from the inside of the console as well as the game cartridges (Something this generation of gamers will never have to experience). That was all part of the fun though wasn’t it?
Do you remember the same computer games and consoles that I had/remember? What were your experiences of computer games in the eighties?
If you have enjoyed reading this post, please check out Part 2: Computer Games of the Nineties