I guess it happens to us all, but back in the late 90s/early 2000s, gaming and I underwent a trial separation.
By that point, we’d been together for about 15 years and thought we’d always be together. Games had been a big part of my life; they’d always been there for when I had a rubbish day at school or work, ever since I got my beloved Commodore 64 at the age of 13. Now it like we were drifting apart.
It wasn’t anybody’s fault; we just wanted different things, I guess. After the bankruptcy of Commodore and the slow, painful demise of the Amiga, some of the excitement and the passion just seemed to go out of the relationship. I turned to the PC and the original Playstation for solace, but they just didn’t give me the same buzz. Gaming started to spend more and more time hanging out with 3D FPS titles and I felt excluded because those guys caused me motion sickness.
In the end, I guess we just drifted apart and some sort of trial separation was inevitable. By the start of the new millennium, for the first time in nearly 20 years, my house was computer and console free (well, that’s not quite true: I did have a PC, but it was only used for work and home office purposes).
We both found it hard at first and kept in touch. I still read the odd gaming magazine (though not as religiously as during my Zzap!64 and Amiga Power days) and kept up with new releases, but I wasn’t tempted to go out and rekindle the relationship.
And so a whole generation of consoles passed me by. No PS2, original Xbox or Gamecube for me (again, that’s not strictly true, I did have a Gamecube on long term loan from a friend for a while, but it pretty much sat in the corner gathering dust, so it doesn’t really count). Even today, my knowledge of that era is far patchier than other in gaming history because I didn’t experience it as a gamer at the time.
I always knew the break-up would be temporary, though. After all, gaming was my first love. We belonged together. Surely it was only a matter of time before we realised this and got back together?
So who or what was it that reunited me with my beloved gaming? Fittingly (for this blog at least!) it was retro gaming. I was fiddling about on the web one day around 2003, when I discovered a couple of excellent sites devoted to the C64 – C64.com and Lemon 64. Just reading about those old games and programmers got me excited about games again. Then I discovered the joys of emulation and that I could download and play whole swathes of games I remembered fondly from my childhood.
For a while, I held out and had a pretty monogamous relationship replaying old Commodore titles. However, my passion for gaming slowly rekindled my interest in more modern machines. I eventually bought a PS3 and bought other consoles, both new and retro when I could (although oddly, with the exception of a Gamecube, I never went back to the PS2/Xbox era). I’m still not as prolific a buyer of games as when I was a kid (ironically, although I work full time, I now have less disposable income than when I was at school!) Family commitments and work also mean I have less time for gaming, but if I do, I’m likely to spend it with a console or handheld.
There’s possibly a moral in there somewhere, or some sort of life affirming message. For me, though, it just proves that gaming is just like a relationship with a long term partner. You might fall out every once in a while, but deep down, you stick together because you know it’s right.
Once a gamer, always a gamer.