Electron Dance
6Sep/11Off

All Your Memories Are Fake

Today, special guest star Badger Commander stands in for HM while he tries not to write anything. Badger Commander is a confirmed console-groupie with little time for the PC. Despite this perversion, he writes about games on his own blog as well as on Arcadian Rhythms as 'AJ'.

In this article, he offers a personal adjunct to Where We Came From.


[screenshot of Arcadians]

This is one of my rare excursions into my time with PC games. I might have to travel back 25 years to do so but hey, we all have our shortcomings.

It may surprise some people that I actually started out as a PC gamer* with my first PC being a BBC Micro computer. The first games I played were things like 'Swoop' – a Galaxians spin-off – and a Christmas-themed compilation that had to be loaded from a tape with torturously long load times.

My first vivid memory of the floppy disk drive my father acquired was of BREAK+SHIFTing my way into 'Yie Ar Kung Fu', a Konami title that has to have inspired the Street Fighter series. The game was copied from a friend of my Dad's. I never questioned where these games came from nor did I comprehend the connotations of these abundant free games.

I was rubbish at 'Yie Ar Kung Fu' but as the years progressed and I got further and further into the game, beating each opponent by slowly learning their routines. The BBC Micro Computer ended up being my main squeeze for over six years. During that tenure I enjoyed classics such as 'Arcadians', 'Mr Ee!', 'Planetoid', 'Snapper' and the masterpiece 'Space Pilot'.

I'll stop right there for a second while you consult Wikipedia for some of the games. Trust me, I did, just to see if they were listed. 'Mr Ee!' doesn't even have a page.

I remember the diving patterns of the titular aliens of 'Arcadians' as far more interesting than anything that Space Invaders had to offer. It is no coincidence that I write for a blog called Arcadian Rhythms; during the chats about the name I voted for something that reminded me of those halcyon days craned over a 50Hz television. Even if 'Arcadians' was a cheap clone of 'Galaxians' (the precursor to 'Galaga').

'Mr. Ee!' was a game I really struggled with when I was younger as it required you to press the 'Z' and 'X' keys to go left and right, the ';' and '.' keys being up and down and the 'Enter' key (known as 'Return') to fire the character's only weapon. But my Dad was pretty good at it and I used to happily watch him play it until he got bored.

One time, I was so completely entranced that I didn't notice that I was backing off a precipice without a guard rail and dropped 15 feet towards a tiled floor. Luckily, I bounced off a bed on the ground floor and walked away with a bruised ego and some stricken parents. This startling moment is curtailed retroactively by the fact that 'Mr. Ee!' was just a shameless rip off of 'Mr. Do!'.

[screenshot of Space Pilot]

Still in my top twenty games of all time is 'Space Pilot', a simple shooter that provided 8-way scrolling in a time when that was unheard of. My heart broke for the first time when I realised that I had used and abused the game disk so much that it longer functioned. I used to pour hours into it trying to get past the UFOs that moved faster than the player and had homing missiles that would tirelessly track you down. I even had mini-narratives for why this was happening.

I am glad the internet didn't exist in a tangible way or else you would be able to find fan fiction by a young Badger Commander about how a Captain 'BC' was flitting through periods of time changing the future by destroying giant blimps and 1940s bombers. I was obsessed. Yet the reality is that it is 'Time Pilot' - the game 'Space Pilot' is based on - that I really love. 'Space Pilot' was merely a mirror held up to the vision of the original designer. Being merely a cash-in on a popular arcade game, there was no real artistry put into it.

And 'Planetoid' was just a re-skinned 'Defender'.

And 'Snapper' was such a carbon copy of 'Pacman' that Acorn Soft was almost sued.

Each one of these games was more soulless and more cynical than any one of the me-too products pushed out in a vain hope of achieving the same popularity as 'Call of Duty' or 'World of Warcraft'.

'Galaxians' means nothing to me, and 'Defender' and 'Mr Do!' are merely retconned names that I place over my fake recollections so that I can talk with any semblance of credibility or recognition from my peers.

Certainly I can argue that 'Snapper' is superior to any version of 'Pacman' ported to home console, but where does that get me? It is like saying Soft Cell's version of 'Tainted Love' is the definitive one. You might be right but you win no prizes for having been oblivious to the real original...

These games affected me deeply and shaped most of my gaming habits in the ensuing 20 odd years. Sure, I can talk fondly of 'Strykers' Run' and 'Citadel' but they did not have the impact of some of the games mentioned above. These are some of my fondest gaming stories and yet, they are lies, every one of them.

[screenshot of Codename Droid]

Epilogue

I revisited Space Pilot vicariously through the game it pillaged. Time Pilot is available on Xbox LIVE Arcade (is it wrong to mention the console toy on this blog?) and the port stands up pretty well when you consider it is from 1984.

*During the editing of this piece, controversy was sparked by the use of the term 'PC' in regards to the BBC Micro Computer. Apparently I should refer to it as a 'Home Computer' instead. I disagree.

Further Reading

If you're interested in more of Badger Commander's writing, then you might try the despairing An Open Letter to Ving Rhames, his Vanquish "faux-review" which slips into gorgeous surreality with a nightclub metaphor or even his celebration of the multiplayer anarchists amongst us, There Is No Potter In Team.

Download my FREE eBook on the collapse of indie game prices an accessible and comprehensive explanation of what has happened to the market.

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Comments (17) Trackbacks (1)
  1. Thanks to Badger Commander for helping out the fatigued writer in the corner here.

    I think it’s interesting that we do this all the time and not just with “shameless rip-offs” but with genres. The first JRPG I played was either The Story of Thor or Soleil/Ragnacenty and I thought they were really cool and awesome. But they were far from the first JRPGs on the planet – yet my memory holds them in high regard as landmark titles.

    I’ve never played any Zelda.

    Still, I’m sure there must be some love in these clones and I doubt they were 100% soul-free. You can’t write a decent clone without investing something of yourself in them. I also have an Arcadians experience in school: it played pretty well as far I recall. (Although Chuckie Egg was the #1 title…)

    As for the PC thing, we will forever disagree on the point. Pistols at dawn, sir! Pistols at dawn!

  2. It really is lovely having Badger Commander help poor ol’ HM and reminding everyone of the utter brilliance of Planetoid; a game I only recently discovered and since then believe it to be the best 8-bit version of Defender.

  3. Welcome back gnome, safe and sound I presume!

  4. Yes, yes, and even thinner!

  5. Someone else who knows these games! Man, everyone in North America is baffled when I mention these things.

  6. I think the closest experience I’ve had to this is hearing a lot of game music in MIDI form first from lots of indie games in the 90s. My computer couldn’t even emulate Super Metroid then… technology is odd.

    I was totally oblivious to the origins of “Tainted Love”. Oops.

  7. Heh, this is reminding me of how much I loved Epic Megagames’ Jazz Jackrabbit and One Must Fall as a kid, never realizing their origins in Sonic the Hedgehog and Street Fighter.

  8. @Badger Commander: Well, not being from North America definitely helps there :)

  9. A fascinating and unexpected piece! I don’t think we’ve ever really talked about games from this era BC, unless we were both drunk enough that I forgot.

    I do recall playing Centipede over and over again on the BBC Micro, though, as it was the only game on the BBC that was at the school where my mum worked. Other than that, well, it’s all the stuff I rambled about in my Why Game? piece earlier in the year… Kroz, Crystal Caves, the Duke Nukem platformers, some shonky sidescrolling fighter jet game on what I assume was a Spectrum or C64 round a ‘mate’s house…

    Obviously I never realised at the time that Centipede was a clone, and it wasn’t until some years later that I learned the Kroz games were a proto-roguelike spoof of the Zork games (or something).

    It’s interesting what you say, though, about how our memory defines what gaming landmarks are (I’ve certainly done this and identified mine) and how we also tend to bring our own memories into line with what the standard is; I suppose a vague equivalent, in today’s internet-saturated times, would be pre-teen gamers arguing about whether Modern Warfare 1 is better than Black Ops or vice versa, as though they were substantively different.

    Eh, I am rambling quite a bit… and also not really sticking to the point, but more veering drunkenly around it. It has been a long day.

  10. What, no mention of the superb Killer Gorilla?
    75m – how high can you try?

  11. I never played Killer Donkey Kong Gorilla, but you have reminded me of the QBASIC games Gorillas and Nibbles. Stone-cold classics!

  12. If we’re going to go down this route, then I’m calling Dropzone.

    It wasn’t really a total clone, more inspired by Defender. But it was motherf**king hardcore giving you the shakes after a few levels. I was absolutely rubbish at it, but it’s execution was flawlessly beautiful.

  13. @Beam – The original was sung my Mrs Marc Bolan no less.
    @Phlebas Killer Gorilla was brutally hard and a bit wonky in contrast to the original, I remember hating it as I couldn’t get past the second level (that awful bouncing thing with that noise that still haunts me), then I played the game and watch version (thinking it was a rip-off) and finding even that was better.

    @Shaun, how is it we have never discussed this? Weird. I wonder if there are homefront fanboys who talk shit about modern warfare?

    @Gnome, I was aware that you weren’t from North America but even so I am impressed that the BBC Micro made an impact. If you have a X360 I would recommend an XBLIG game called ‘Doppelganger’ it is a very interest variation on Defender that can be played two player has a really nice visual style and a couple of extra mechanics in single player too.

  14. @ HM: Dropzone was amazing, just amazing. Probably Archer’s best game if you are not into pool. I’m actually looking for the GameBoy version you know.

    @ Badger: That does sound incredibly interesting, though sadly I don’t have an Xbox 360 just yet. I’m still waiting for its final price drop you see :)

  15. @badger commander: There almost certainly are. If I had the courage and mental fortitude I would troll the GameFAQs forum to try and find them…

  16. Gnome, do you literally know every game in existence?

  17. Unfortunately not my friend. Far from it really, though I do love the 8- and 16-bit micros…


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