I’ve enjoyed reading/listening to other people’s posts/podcasts about their gaming history so I thought I would write mine. Particularly after just attending Revival Events this past weekend where it really struck me how different everyone’s gaming backgrounds were. It just highlights how rich the world of gaming has been over the years. So grab a can of Tizer, a sherbert Dib Dab and a Willy Wonka Dinasour Egg and make yourself comfortable. It’s pretty long but I sure as hell enjoyed writing it, so there’s no pressure to read it all!

My earliest gaming memory is of playing a VideoMaster ColourScore in our family home in Glasgow. It must have been around 1980, when I was 4. I don’t remember us getting it, so I think we maybe got it in the late 70s. It was basically a Pong clone which had Football, Tennis and Squash games which you controlled with paddles. Very happy memories of it as it was the first time that the whole family would play video games together in the living room, something that many families didn’t experience again until the Wii. I still have the console to this day and only recently acquired an earlier model, the VideoMaster SuperScore, as well from my wife’s cousin. It really is hard to beat the simplicity of Pong, and it’s a great one to have at an event or party. I have the honour of winning the Pong competition at one of the Retro Lords’ retrogaming events. Glory days.

VideoMaster ColourScore

Then, when I was 6 years old, in 1982, I have an incredibly vivid memory of being at the top of the stairs when my Dad came home from work and shouted up to me and my brothers that he had bought a computer. We ran down and he was holding a ZX Spectrum 48K box in his hands. Well, that was the start of it. I was hooked. My early memories are of playing games like Planetoids, Tranz Am, TLL, Beach Head, Wheelie, Jetpac, Manic Miner, Jet Set Willy, Penetrator, Bruce Lee, Daley Thompson’s Decathlon, Knight Lore and many more. Playing them until my fingers smelled of rubber (the Spectrum has rubber keys, in case you didn’t know). I’m now a digital designer and I can trace that passion right back to the 48K Speccy as I used to recreate the main character from Target Renegade using the graphics mode of the number keys. Painstaking but good fun. I also used to love printing things out on the little thermal printer that got ridiculously hot and smelled of burning.

Spectrum 48k

I was also totally hooked on the magazines, in particular Your Sinclair. I still have all of my back issues. I loved the humour in it, compared with arguably the better reviews of Crash (Zzap 64’s poorer relation some would say). And the cover artwork on YS was just as good in its own special way. I just loved the banter between all the reviewers, some of whom are still in the industry today, and on a family trip to London I even persuaded my parents to take me to the infamous ‘Rathbone Towers’, HQ of Your Sinclair. My disappointment was palpable as I discovered it was just a normal boring office building off Oxford Street and that the public weren’t allowed to visit.

Your Sinclair

But one day whilst perusing Your Sinclair I saw an advert for a strange grey Spectrum with lots of monster, robot and animal hands on it. A classic ad for the new Spectrum +2 of course. I managed to persuade my Dad to get one and my love of all things Speccy continued. I wasn’t aware until a bit later that Sinclair had actually been bought over by Amstrad, its arch rival! The funny thing is that I used to be playing on that Speccy +2 up in Glasgow and now I live half a mile away from the site of the old Amstrad factory in Shoeburyness, Southend-on-Sea which made the +2. I still have the +2 as well. It’s come full circle back to its home. Some of the games I used to play to death on it were Gauntlet, Little Computer People, Starglider, Cobra, Starquake, Quazatron, Batty, Chronos, Dizzy Games, Monty Mole games and of course, Elite. Elite is my all time favourite game and I would spend hours on end playing it. Our art teacher in Primary 7 at school used to tell us how great it was and retell stories of how he would get caught by Thargoids in Witch Space on his way to buy some new Beam Lasers. I was hooked from that moment and am gutted that I only ever reached the level of Dangerous.


Most of my friends had Spectrums. My cousin had an Amstrad but a few friends of mine had a C64. The main thing they used to show me to impress me was The Last Ninja. That’s what they kept pulling out during our Speccy v Commodore arguments. And I have to admit I was pretty impressed with that game. But my heart was always with the Speccy, despite its colour clash and monochromatic games.

I remember reading a copy of a magazine, C&VG I think, and seeing a big advert for the NES, complete with Rob the Robot and Light Gun. I remember being open mouthed at how awesome it looked. But it wasn’t until many years later that I would make the switch to getting a console of any kind. And I never owned a Sega or Nintendo console in the 80s or 90s. The next machine after the Spectrum +2 that we graduated to was the Atari ST. This machine was fantastic. Again I remember reading an issue of a magazine and seeing screenshots from an upcoming 16-bit game of The Three Stooges and being totally gobsmacked by how incredible they looked. Little did I know that that particular game was rubbish, but it still pushed me to convince my Dad to get the ST, and I didn’t look back. We had the 520 STFM model. I just loved the styling of the machine, particularly the angled function keys, and I loved the floppy disks and the feel of putting the disks into the drive. Games that stand out for me on the Atari ST from memory include Elite, Xenon, Xenon 2, Speedball, Speedball 2 (although I still prefer the first one), Rick Dangerous 1 & 2, Bubble Bobble, Mercenary, Overlander, Eliminator, IK+, Lotus Espirit Turbo Challenge, Stunt Car Racer, Lemmings, Test Drive, Lombard RAC Rally, Kick Off and many more. One thing I also loved about the ST was the pirated disks with menu screens by the Pompey Pirates and the Medway Boys. I don’t think the ST had as many demos as the Amiga but these pirates often made up for it with their cool images of orcs etc. I’ll point out at this stage that although I did copy a few games from friends etc I still did buy the majority of my games because quite frankly I loved the box art, instructions and manuals etc. But in summary, I really do have extremely fond memories of the Atari ST and its little green desktop. I remember having tech overload on the day that I got a brand new Casio Databank digital watch and then I went round a friend’s house whose dad had an ST with a hi res monitor that allowed them to display a spinning 3D Atari logo. Yep, a spinning 3D Atari logo. Our tiny minds were blown. That and a game of Xenon was what convinced me that I had to get an ST of my own.

Atari ST

In terms of joysticks, I actually used the grey Sinclair one quite a bit with my Spectrum games but I soon graduated to a Quickshot II Turbo and a Competition Pro (both iconic joysticks). And later on on the ST I also loved the Konix Navigator. This little blue beast doesn’t get much love these days but it served me well for games like Eliminator and Kick Off. It really did fit into your hand extremely well. Only problem was that it gave you terrible blisters on the outside of your thumb knuckle. Not ideal. My other joystick memory was when I was curious as to how one of my old joysticks worked (I think it might have been a Cheetah), and I proceeded to unscrew the bottom and start tapping the soldered pressure sensors on the circuit board really quickly. I forgot that the joystick was still plugged in and it suddenly burst into flames! Naturally I dropped it on the carpet and ran away. I think that’s the textbook fire safety reaction, I’m not sure. The carpet was ok but the joystick never worked again. But to be honest, for games like Manic Miner and Jetpac etc where you have to be quite intricate with your movements I preferred using the keyboards, rubber keys or not.


One other thing that I found extremely useful on both my Spectrum +2 and my Atari ST was the Multiface by Romantic Robot. I think the Spectrum one was black but I distinctly remember the ST one was green. They were very useful indeed for saving your places in games and other cool things like that.

Amidst all this Speccy and Atari ST playing I would also be mixing my time playing on my Game & Watches and TomyTronic 3D Thundering Turbo (which I still have). And after coveting some of my friends’ Game Boys I managed to get one of my own a few years later. I don’t have mine any more but I have since acquired two from eBay and a car boot sale. I still think it is an iconic piece of kit and so well designed. And the massive magnifying glass still makes me laugh! Favourite games on it include Tetris, Super Mario, WWF Superstars and Robocop (just for the incredible music).

Game Boy


But arcade machines were my special treat. I didn’t often get to go to arcades but a few times each year we would get to go to Largs on the West Coast of Scotland and I would go to the Cumbrian amusement centre and play on all the classics of the time. The main other time I would get to play arcades would be at motorway service stations or on the ferry on school trips. There’s nothing quite like getting woken up at 2am for a toilet break on a motorway and huddling round an Operation Wolf with all your mates. Arcades that stand out in my mind are Out Run (best game music ever), Galaga, Bubble Bobble (second best game music ever), Star Wars, Operation Wolf, Golden Axe, Gauntlet, Track & Field and Hard Drivin’. Later ones in the early 90s would be Street Fighter 2, Tekken and Daytona USA.

When the 90s came along I still didn’t migrate to consoles. A friend of mine got a SNES purely for Street Fighter 2 and it really was incredible to be playing that legendary arcade game in his house at what seemed to be almost arcade quality. But my family at this point graduated to a PC. Gaming wise I remember playing Star Wars a heck of a lot. It just worked so well with the mouse and my mum started worrying that I would break the mouse with all that clicking. I can’t actually remember many of the early games I used to play on the PC but there were certainly some great ones. I just remember a lot of them needed multiple discs as they started having more and more video clips and digitised speech. And I remember getting Rise of the Robots after seeing the incredible graphics but then being so bitterly disappointed when the game was barely playable. I think that was on the PC and not on the Atari ST. And I think I actually did get addicted to Minesweeper at one point on the PC.

A few years later I would get my own PC with a Soundblaster audio card and Voodoo graphics card etc and get heavily into games like Doom, Quake (especially Quake 3) and Half Life. These are the last of the FPS games that I would play, as I could never get the hang of playing them with a controller on consoles. I could only really play them with a keyboard and mouse.

The PlayStation was the first console I got. And I liked it so much that I got two of them. I ended up getting a Black Playstation Net Yaroze which was the game developers’ version. I fancied myself as a game developer and I actually got sponsored at university by a games company in Glasgow, but I didn’t end up going down this route and didn’t even learn how to code at all. But it was still cool to have a black PlayStation! A few years later, however, and in my Masters degree in 3D Motion Graphics, I would design a level of Half Life which worked with stereoscopic 3D glasses. This is about 10 years before 3D came back in the cinema, so it was fun to research. Stand out games on the PlayStation for me would be Driver, Gran Turismo, Tekken, Metal Gear Solid and FIFA.


Playstation Net Yaroze

Into the 2000s and I would become a PlayStation diehard, getting both the PS2 and PS3 reasonably quickly after they came out. Stand out games would again be Gran Turismo, Tekken and Metal Gear Solid but also SSX. My time available to game would also start to be greatly reduced from now on and the games just don’t have as much longevity or hold as much sentimental value as the games from the 80s and 90s.

It’s around this time in the mid-to-late-noughties that I found out about emulation on my PC. Obviously the first thing I tried to emulate was the Spectrum. I had been massively nostalgic about the early Spectrum games when I was at University in the mid-90s, only about 5-10 years after I had originally played them.

Oh and I also got addicted to Snake on my trusty Nokia. Such a simple but great game.

And now I don’t really have time to play modern games much. I don’t own a current get console like the PS4. I occasionally buy games like Street Fighter IV for my PS3 but every time I switch the machine on it needs an update which takes ages and by that time I don’t have much time left to play. I do also have a Wii which I occasionally use for Wii Fit, and I also have a DS (Brain Training) and a PSP (various games and also now emulation). I don’t really use emulation on my phone as I just don’t like the controls.

To be honest I get a bit frustrated with emulation as I find it sometimes fiddly to get working properly and I hate not having the original controllers. So that brings me full circle to now being an all out retro gamer. I’ve not really had any space to play or collect old machines up until now as we’ve been living in flats or rented property but now we have a house of our own I’m lucky enough to have a small dedicated office/mancave where I can set up some machines as well as my other 80s stuff. I’ve started collecting the machines again and I currently have a VideoMaster SuperScore, VideoMaster ColourScore, Spectrum 48k, Spectrum+2, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Master System II, Mega Drive, SNES and also some Game & Watches and a TomyTronic. It’s so nice to play the actual games as they were meant to be played. I also obviously just built my own home arcade machine which is amazing to be able to play not just MAME games on it but also pretty much any console or computer that I want. A great way to play with my son too.

It always interests me meeting other retrogamers, as everyone seems to have such different experiences and different areas of specialism. Many people I know never had a Spectrum or never played on an Atari ST for example. And I pretty much missed out on the whole Sega/Nintendo console scene, so that’s a big gaping hole I have in my retrogaming history. It’s always fun to fill in the pieces now.

I enjoy retro gaming because it brings back happy memories, it’s easy to pick up and play because the games are more fast paced, and to be honest I think the gameplay can be so much better in some of the old games. It’s incredible how much the programmers had to work to get all that gameplay out of so few bytes. I mean just think about how David Braben squeezed 8 galaxies in Elite into a mere 22kb!

Not only that but there is one hell of a community for retro gaming these days. And most of it is extremely friendly and supportive of each other.

VideoMaster ColourScore
ZX Spectrum 48k
ZX Spectrum+2
Atari ST
Game Boy
Playstation 2
Playstation 3

These are the absolute top of the top in terms of the games that I spent the most hours absorbed in. These games defined the majority of my gaming life. This is the Top 50 in roughly chronological order. And the Top 20 is in bold.

Planetoids – Spectrum
Penetrator – Spectrum
Wheelie – Spectrum
Bruce Lee – Spectrum
Manic Miner – Spectrum

Jet Set Willy – Spectrum
Jet Pac – Spectrum
Daley Thompson’s Decathlon – Spectrum
Way of the Exploding Fist – Spectrum
Knight Lore – Spectrum
Elite – Spectrum

Cobra – Spectrum
Starquake – Spectrum
Gauntlet – Spectrum
Target: Renegade – Spectrum
Auf Wiedersehen Monty – Spectrum
Treasure Island Dizzy – Spectrum
Rescue on Fractalus! – Spectrum
Starglider – Spectrum
Impossible Mission – Spectrum
Paradroid – Spectrum
Xenon – Atari ST
Xenon 2 – Atari ST
Speedball – Atari ST
Elite – Atari ST
Eliminator – Atari ST

Little Computer People – Atari ST
IK+ – Atari ST
Kick Off 2 – Atari ST
Rick Dangerous – Atari ST
Rick Dangerous 2 – Atari ST
Bubble Bobble – Atari ST
Mercenary – Atari ST
Overlander – Atari ST
Lotus Espirit Turbo Challenge – Atari ST
Stunt Car Racer – Atari ST
Lemmings – Atari ST
Lombard RAC Rally – Atari ST
Driver – Playstation
Tekken 3 – Playstation
Gran Turismo – Playstation

FIFA World Cup 98 – Playstation
SSX – Playstation 2
Metal Gear Solid – Playstation 2
Star Wars – PC
Doom – PC
Half Life – PC
Quake III – PC
Minesweeper – PC
Snake – Nokia mobile