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> The DUMP!
Addicts Reunited! What a great idea that could be, just like Friends Reunited, of course it could never happen, but it does seem a shame that over the years so many good friends and fellow addicts disappear over the horizon just like the Classic Games that they once used to play.
Of course time and circumstance change. Arcades come and go, hell people even grow up (some of them anyway). Most Classic Gamers of the original generation are now in their 30's or 40's. But way back in the late 70's and early 80's those same married, fat and bald men of today were 'Kings of The Arcades'.
I include myself in that category, the King of The Arcade bit not the fat and bald part. I made many friends on the Classic Games Circuit and this feature is pure indulgence on my behalf as I regress and remember the many mad people I met on that journey. Let me take you back, back in time to the early 80's.
David Brown I guess was the first mate that I played Video Games with. I had played the arcades in Swanage when I was about 11 years old on a field trip, as mentioned in a previous feature (see Early Gaming Memories Part 1) and also had my first encounter with a Space Invaders in a motorway lay-by station near the Severn Bridge. I was fascinated by it, later of course I found myself totally addicted to the snubbed Space Invader cabinet in the site Clubhouse at the west country campsite we used to go to regularly, constantly playing doubles on it with my old mate Mr. D. Brown.
Mow Dave was never a real lover of the arcades, he preferred to dabble in home computing. He was the proud owner of a ZX80, one of the very first home computers. Infact he also had a crap version of ZX Invaders on it that we played very early on. Another favourite that we played against each other was a number shooting game on his Texas Scientific Calculator, oh those were the days. Dave progressed in later years to a Sinclair Spectrum and many nights were spent playing tape loaded games of Atic Atac, Jet-Pac and TransAm. We had no joystick and the sound was poor but back then it was the equivalent of a Playstation or Xbox to the then home-brew brigade.
Andrew Conway was a mate of Dave's and became a mate of mine now too, I believe he is a Policeman now a Superintendent no less, but back in the 80's he was an arcade addict. Conway was the mate who introduced me to 'The Basement Arcade' and then 'Pick-A-Pet'. He was a whizz on Asteroids and a dab hand at Scramble and not bad either at the old Astro Wars. We spent many nights after school at the arcades together. We both cycled around the Ilford and Gants Hill areas in a constant search for Video Games in the chippys or newsagents and record shops.
Conway was mates with a guy called Heath Creasey they were at school togetherl. Now Creasey gets an honorary mention because without doubt he was and still possibly is the best Defender player I have ever seen. During lunch hours we would head off to PopStop the local video shop in Wanstead and play the machines in a small back room connected to back of the shop. Creasey held court there on the Defender cabinet. He could clock it no problem. There was absolutely no point putting a credit in if he was on it because you would never get a game before school started in the afternoon. Sometimes I admit we did bunk off though, if he was getting a really high score, just so we could watch him play as he was a master to behold when in full flow.
PopStop opened another video shop closer to home which enabled gaming after school as well as during lunch-hour. The Gants Hill Popstop had a small room at the back too this time through an archway. The room had been specially enlarged to accommodate as many video games as they could fit in there, the place was heaving! The local school nearby was Valentines High so there were lots of addicts on tap which we became friendly with. Panda was the most notable Valentines addict. He was bespectacled and a bit geeky by all accounts, but he could kill you on about every game in the room. Pengo, Tutankham, Donkey Kong Jnr, and RallyX were amongst his fav's and it was a foolish kid who would challenge him on any of these games. Additionally there was a kid called Darren who it was acknowledged was the number one hunk at Valentines and all the girls fancied him, but his first love was video games and instead of being out on dates pumping whoever he spent most nights in PopStop pumping credits into Robotron, Defender and Donkey Kong instead.
Chris Hubbard hailed from our school but spent his evenings at Gants Hill's PopStop as well. He had frequented 'Pick A Pet' in the earlier years but I had never really spoken with him before. One of the great things about Video Game addicts is that we all speak the same language, and as soon as we spoke about High Scores, lives left and credits we were on the same wave-length. He went on many trips with our little group of growing addicts mainly to Southend-on-Sea to play at the arcades down on the seafront as well as up in London to play the various big arcades of the West End.
On the home-front I had now become mates with the Reeves brothers Steve and Mark. They were mates of Conway's too and lived behind my house so we also inevitably became mates in the world of gaming. The Reeves family had a few bob and were first to have the latest Atari's and other home-brew goodies. They had a 2600 and later an a funky Atari 800. Together with my meager Atari 400 many happy nights were spent playing home console versions of the arcade originals. They also had a mysterious contact down in Kent who worked in one of the then biggest Video Game shops in England. He was able to smuggle out the latest games and make prirate copies onto large floppy disks before they were even in the shops, thus we had one of the largest collections of home Video Games in England.
Owen Jackman, another school friend, fellow addict and boss on Berzerk would join us in the evenings and early hours of the morning too to play Atari until we all couldn't focus anymore.
People on the outside of this expanding group of addicts could not understand what was going on or why we did what we did. But as any addict will tell you, once you commit to the High Altar of Gaming there is no turning back even when you get into your 30's and 40's. Once you have taken a bite out of the apple there is no cure until death do us part.
I sometimes wonder where all these faces and characters are these days. But I comfort myself in the knowledge that wherever they are in the world I bet there is a game somewhere in their household or on their computer at work. Hey some of them might even hit upon this site if they are surfing for retro gaming on the net, if you are, email us, we would love to know if you want a game of doubles.