This is the question I asked myself at the age of 25, I’d finished university, I was in a relationship, just bought my first house and moved out of the parental home, it was time to grow up and stop playing video games, the year was 2000 and I’d just thrown a Commodore Amiga into a skip. Playing is what children do, adults don’t play, they do adult things. This was my mindset, I was happy with my choice.
I own a lawnmower now
With the first house came the ability to look after our nephews on Friday night, so I hooked up a console to help entertain them. The choice was made, a “chipped” PlayStation, and this only got used when my nephews came to stay over. I was having fun being the cool uncle, using the CD burner to backup titles hired from the local video store, we had quite a library. But it wasn’t me playing, it wasn’t played with during the week, oh no, this was kids’ stuff.
The PC was the main use of entertainment, but I was more interested in Napster. This was the early days of arcade emulation too, occasionally I would dabble but not seriously, more for curiosity.
Dipping that toe back in the water
In 2002 I bought the new Xbox, we needed a new DVD player and somehow we decided this was a good move; it was an ornament and got no use until I hooked it up as a media centre years later. Clearly, I’d moved on. There was no more “game on”, this was very much “game off”.
Remember the video game crash of the ‘80s?
— Gamebrush Whisperstonk (@game_whisperer) August 26, 2019
My history of gaming
Until this point, I’d been gaming since a toddler in 1978 when Space Invaders hit the arcades, pubs, shops and cafes. I played games solidly on whatever format was available to me, I was fortunate enough to grow up with computers from Commodore and Sinclair, and later with consoles from Sega and Nintendo. I didn’t feel I missed out on any era. For sure some of the rich kids had a PC engine, but that was a real minority.
So, let’s say that the Xbox purchase was a blip, and the last real gaming was about 1996, and by 2000 it was a distant memory.
I look down on gamers
In 1999 I’d started work full time, and there were quite a few gamers in work. I didn’t question that you could be an adult and be a gamer, I knew these people existed, I simply took the opinion that they were childish and took the higher ground.
The choice to eat alone or play
Turn the clock forward to 2006, and I was asked to join lunchtime LAN gaming with a few work colleagues. At first, I resisted, but it was clear that the people I was going on lunch with were taking up gaming instead. I could go on lunch by myself or play childish games, the choice was that simple. I caved in and Counter Strike was duly installed. Headset was supplied and it was time to play.
What had I done? This was so much fun. Every day I would watch the clock for 12:15 where it was Emails off and CS on. The time flew, food would need to be consumed quickly in-between map loads, cs_office changed everything.
In these weeks and months, I realised that the last 10 years I’d made the wrong call. It was possible to be an adult and enjoy video games. I’d clearly missed out, I needed to put this right, but how?
The realisation of the mistake
In 2006 the Internet was full of information on gaming, it was easy to get information not only from your own country, in my case the UK, but from other big gaming countries like the USA or Japan. It was clearly a very productive time for gaming, and I wasn’t part of it one little bit.
Sega and Atari were no longer manufacturing consoles, PC gaming was very popular, emulation of consoles and arcade games was possible, it was tough to know where to begin, there was so much.
I was absorbing as much information as I could, but I wasn’t gaming, I was reading about the gaming I’d missed out on. Shenmue was not a Japanese raw fish food after all.
I was downloading more games than I could ever play, but they were out there, and I needed to make up for lost time. Collecting ROMS in some way made up for my error.
The Xbox was fired up and the nephew would bring around a GameCube when we babysat. Instead of watching gaming happening, I was in there buying titles and enjoying them.
I’d back up titles to the Xbox, and once again a library was formed with a small budget, and that console got some proper use finally.
Making up for lost time
With a few promotions in work came some disposable income, in 2006 we moved into a bigger house, there was more room to explore what I had missed. I started collecting the consoles that I’d sold when I was a child, or when I moved out of the parental home.
I scoured boot sales, ebay and local ads. I quickly found a NES, SNES, N64, Atari 2600, SMS, Mega Drive, Commodore 64, Spectrum, Amiga. Games were easy to come by; retro collecting was in its infancy and I was back in the game just in time to hoover up these consoles at affordable prices.
This was the start of me becoming a serious collector, fuelled by missing out, and a desire to make up for lost time, the collection quickly grew. It took me a little longer to discover the Sega Dreamcast, and Saturn, for some reason these didn’t appeal, but I caught up with them later along with the Atari Jaguar.
Game playing was now a daily activity and a hobby, you can never replace those lost years, but you can certainly cherry pick the best of the games and try to fill the void.
OMG he’s buying arcade machines now
In 2010 my workplace moved site, two companies merged workforces and I started talking with a new colleague on arcade games. He had an Operation Wolf in his house, an actual arcade machine in his house, I hadn’t realised that was even possible. For the coming months and years, I wanted an arcade machine but was frightened of the technology inside, but I got heavily into MAME instead.
The curiosity on arcade machines never went away. I pictured wires going everywhere, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. At this point, I’d no experience of repairing anything, it either worked or it didn’t. You didn’t find arcade games at boot sales; it was a hunt for sure. You’d see machines on eBay in immaculate condition, and machines that didn’t look quite right. There was certainly an industry of lookalikes and multicades, but I was looking for originality, the machines that stood in real arcades, not these fakes. These original machines often looked broken and in need of fixing, but I didn’t have the skills.
By 2013 I was on arcade forums and searching for my first machine, I bought my first fully working Jamma Cab, in 2014. The monitor broke in the first week, I was into arcade repair whether I liked it or not. I lived on arcade forums, I waited for every new Johns Arcade YouTube video, I was obsessed.
I learned the basics of repair over the coming years, and soon that became as much of an interest as collecting. Not only was I collecting, I was repairing monitors and PCB’s, making some costly errors along the way, however every day is a school day. Gaming became all consuming, costly and needed a lot of equipment, but 10 arcade machines later, “no ragrets”.
Alongside repairing arcade machines I started collecting old computers and consoles in need of repair, some easier than others, and I’ve a lot still to learn, however I’m still enjoying the experience of learning and repairing.
— Gamebrush Whisperstonk (@game_whisperer) August 26, 2019
And your point is? Where is this all going?
The moral of my story, if there is any, is that gaming is not something you grow out of. If you’re reading this article in your 20’s and you’re ready to throw your gaming past away, count to ten, you’ll be back and you’ll wish you had looked after your past a bit better.
I missed out, I’ve tried to patch up 10 years of not gaming, and from a collector point of view, job done. However, I’ll never be able to say I was there, and there’s not a whole lot I can do about that.
There are many areas you can interest yourself in, you can create your own games, repair hardware, socialise and meet new interesting people. Never “grow up” or feel you should, you’ll miss out on fun. There is a community of like-minded people out there at conventions, on social media, forums and your local game store.
Thank you for reading my story, I hope you learned something from my mistakes.
You can catch me and my adventures in gaming mostly on Twitter @game_whisperer , game on!