by Ben Fitzgerald
You know you’re getting on a bit when things you remember from your sun dappled childhood are considered hip – a bit like the word hip in fact.
When I was creating mix tapes on C60s from my bedroom to impress girls… I was deeply aware that there was something quite tragic about my carefully curated audio journeys through prog music of the early 70s.
But then.. You turn your back and, as if King Midas has gone on a rampant touching spree, suddenly everything has turned from crap to gold. Tapes are uber cool, meandering drum solos are totally back in and everyone’s playing Space Invaders.
Games giants Atari are riding this wave of nostalgia – having recently released their Flashback 7 console – preloaded with 101 blocky games for you to enjoy.. all the way from 40 years ago.
It’s even got a strip of fake wood veneer on the console – classy or what?
But how can this happen? Surely it’s one of the golden rules of technology that things must move forward – it’s almost built into the meaning of the word.
Why would anyone want to play Space Invaders or Centipede when they could immerse themselves in the near-cine realistic world of Grand Theft Auto?
Perhaps we have reached peak game and started to go backwards?
Or maybe the answer is that we have become so enamoured by graphics that we have lost the idea of what an actual game is somewhere along the way.
When you think about football, for instance (the real one, not FIFA18) it’s not trying to pretend to be something else, it’s simply a game featuring a ball that you have to do a thing with – make a goal with your leg or something..
And it’s the same with blocky video games – the objectives are clear… you know how to win.
But Grand Theft Auto V is so.. damn real that you can get caught up anxiously trying to make money and worrying what other people will think about your new double garage.. that’s not a game, that’s a virtual suburbia simulator.
The essence of a good game has got to be simplicity – kill a thing, bat a ball, steer around a track – get this right and you’ve got a game.
If you ever happen to travel to Ashford in Kent, knock on the door of 44 Albert Road and tell the person who answers that Ben sent you. Ask politely to be shown into their cellar. Now look carefully at the steel beam you have just banged your head on – and there carefully painted in white gloss by my late dad Mike are our Space Invaders high scores – the legacy of a hard fought points rivalry during the early 80s. You wouldn’t get that with Horizon: Zero Dawn.
And this is why, deep down, everyone knows that Space Invaders is the only game worth playing. That is all.