So this is Christmas…and how many of us still look forward to it, with the same anticipation that we had when we were eight or nine?
How many just look forward to a few days away from work or school, before the celebrations of the New Year are upon us?
Then, without hardly enough time to catch our breath from all the retail craziness, we’re thrown headlong, back into the swirling mire of the New Year antics. No-one has time to consider true meaning of Christmas anymore – well, not the true meaning of a Midlife Gamers Christmas anyway!
There are a handful of dates in everyone’s life, that are burned into the memory of us all. Our first day at school, our first kiss or the day we pass our driving test all spring to mind, but some of my great memories always come round about Christmas time….
My Atari 2600 came with Pac-Man, making my ninth Christmas of 1982, an especially memorable occasion. It was my obsession with Pac-Man that convinced my parents to buy me a black and white portable television for my birthday.A joyous event in my life!
The winter of 1985 was another great year. Playing Rambo on my ZX Spectrum+ with my father has to be one of my fondest memories of the mid eighties. I think they paid £140 for the 48k black plastic machine. It was released for £180 back in ’84, but had come down a bit by the time I got mine. £300 for a PS3 – it suddenly doesn’t seem that expensive!
It would take another two years for my video game love to develop and mature into a fully blossoming relationship. I had already spent much of September and October of 1987 round my friend Paul’s house. His parents had bought him a NES and given him their old television from the living room. The television took ten minutes to come on, when the valves had warmed up and it made a strange high pitched noise, but we didn’t mind. Super Mario Bros. on a massive TV was the greatest gift that had ever been given to mankind. We spent hours everyday perfecting our skills. Reading every magazine to find every last secret the game had to offer. Life just couldn’t get any better, or so we thought.
We had heard, through the pages of the gaming press, and the whispers of the playground, of a game called The Legend of Zelda. It came on a gold cartridge and had battery back up.
“A gold cartridge, it must be bloody brilliant!” Paul mused.
“But £45 for a game? I’m going to have to get another paper round!” I added
How wrong we were!
Paul became the lucky owner of one of the best Christmas presents that a boy could ever ask for.
“You can keep your fancy ten-speed racing bike Mum. I just want Zelda”
Neither of us were prepared for the amount of our lives that we were about to sink into this game. It got hold of us by the throat and wouldn’t let go. For three whole days we played. I’d get up in the morning, wash, grab my board and skate over to Paul’s for more Zelda and turkey sandwiches, before heading home that evening to do the same thing again the next day.
Finding our way around Hyrule, travelling through the Lost Woods, collecting items and destroying bosses had become our reason for living. The only purpose for our existence was to get to Death Mountain and face Ganon head on. Never had a game been so ambitious, so playable and so absolutely charming. Twenty-one years later, and I can still picture Paul, cheering me on, as we traversed that final dungeon.
It was one of those moments that will never leave me. Completing the game, Paul and I were completely ecstatic, and even more so when we realised that you could play through again, but this time the dungeons were in different locations. You just can’t put that kind of joy into words. Like a little slice of heaven in a gold plastic case.
It has been released since, on the Virtual Console for the Wii, but I wouldn’t be able to sleep properly without knowing where my hard copy is. It’s sitting in my NES, in its box, at the bottom of my wardrobe and it will be making another appearance this holiday.
Where is your little slice of Christmas heaven?