Retro Procrastination

Six chapters into the second draft of my novel and I’m doubting my story’s setting so much that my writing has come to an abrupt halt. Not writer’s block exactly, just a mild panic as to my next move.

Do I continue with the current setting and edit everything at the end with a possible 90K+ words to fiddle with or stop and change it now before I go to far?

As I couldn’t decide what to do next I thought I’d go and clean my writing/retro games room instead. The missus has been nagging me to dust for ages as she cleaned the room last time (all the Dr Who stuff is hers) so, sadly, it was now my turn to do it. As the cliche goes, ‘there’s no time like the present’ so I attacked it head-on for over three hours today and boy did it need dusting!

This room has taken several years to complete and several more again to collect all the games, consoles and figurines that adorn the walls and cupboards. We’re still collecting but, as you can see, we’re drastically running out of space to display things properly without piling them on top of each other.

Sarah Andersen’s scribble explains perfectly how we both managed to accumulate such a lovely collection of Retro games:

How I Spend My Money ©sarah andersen
How I Spend My Money
©sarah andersen

So here’s a few pictures of our lovely, neat and tidy (and dust free) writing/games room:

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Sweet Memories

Sweet Shop

The recent ‘shocking’ Toblerone re-sizing scandal (See the NY Times article here) has sparked outrage amongst chocolate fans and has undoubtedly encouraged those people whom constantly whinge at the shrinking size of Christmas chocolate tins to be outraged. When we were kids everything seemed massive and it is natural for things to look much smaller when you’re now at least four foot taller (and wider if you’ve been constantly bingeing on those chocolates) but you cannot ignore the evidence provided. Whether it’s the uncertainty that Brexit or a new US President brings to financial markets and businesses they cannot hide the fact that chocolate and sweets aren’t what they used to be “in the good old days.”qualitystreet_size_change

Trebor Sweets
Trebor Sweets

Incidents such as the Toblerone scandal make me look back at what kids from my era (70s to 80s) loved to eat and drink. Personally I was never a lover of sweets as I think my low-level OCD didn’t like the mess and stickiness, which resulted from stuffing your face with a ‘10p mix’ of sweets in a scrunched-up, grubby paper bag. rowntrees_jelly_totsThere were never any napkins handed out or pocket-hankies in those days so sticky mouths and fingers were wiped on sleeves or cuffs already soiled with dirt and snots (often with that unmistakeable snail trail cascading upwards from your wrist gaining you a clip around the ear when your Dad saw it.) Sweets that weren’t too messy, such as Barratt’s Sherbet Fountain, were the ones that I tended to go for but even then I was still weird with them. img_3928I never liked the Liquorice stick so I’d dip it into the sherbet to help loosen it up and pour the sherbet into my gob until the sherbet was all gone. The Liquorice stick would either be offered to my brother or a friend (un-licked of course, I wasn’t that mean) or simply binned – something I hated doing as I was, and still am, against wasting food. Continue reading

The demise of ‘Jumpman’ leads to the meteoric rise of ‘MAR10’ – Happy #NationalMarioDay

MAR10 – #NationalMarioDay

Today marks the celebration of one of the gaming world’s most iconic legends, MARIO the Italian Plumber.

It's a me... Mario!
It’s a me… Mario!

March the 10th was chosen as the best day to celebrate this legend, as some of you may have already guessed, because of the fact that the abbreviated date, Mar 10, looks like the name Mario.

Personally I have always loved all things Nintendo ever since I first played Super Mario Bros on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and my fascination with the loveable plumber has continued ever since, although he wasn’t always a plumber and originally he wasn’t called Mario, either.

Nintendo Playing Card Company
Nintendo Playing Card Company

Nintendo, a playing card company founded in 1889, moved into the arcade video game arena in 1975 and sought to increase their share of the American market with the launch of the arcade game Radar Scope in 1980. However, although initial market feedback on the arcade cabinets was encouraging, things didn’t go as expected. Due to the logistical error in building the cabinets in Japan, rather than in the US, delays and higher prices due to shipping costs resulted in Radar Scope almost crippling the company. Rivals such as Taito, Namco and SEGA in Japan and Atari, Midway and Williams in the US were cornering the market with their successful and cheaper games. The introduction of horizontal scrolling in Defender (Williams, 1980) aged all other vertical ‘space shooter’ games overnight and for Nintendo of America, a fledgling company with very little clout in the gaming market at the time, it was disastrous.

Radar ScopeNintendo had to ‘send another game to replace the motherboards in each of the 2,000 unsold [Radar Scope] cabinets; that way, they would only have to be redecorated with the colours of the new title’ (Audureau, W., 2014). This saw the start of Nintendo’s ‘Popeye Project’ as the replacement game, designed by Shigeru Miyamoto, was originally based around the characters, Popeye, Olive Oyl and Bluto (as the brute dispatching the barrels at the hapless sailor). Nintendo hoped this new game would tie into the popularity of Popeye after the 1980 release of the film starring the late, great Robin Williams. Unfortunately, due to Nintendo failing to secure the rights to use the Popeye characters, Miyamoto and the team had to re-think the game and design it using their own unique characters. Continue reading

Surviving School

Apart from messing about with Bunsen burners, what else did you play around with at school to annoy your classmates or, if you were brave, the teacher?

Bunsen Burner
Bunsen Burner

Me? Well, I went through comprehensive school in Wales during the 80s, and there was that annoying green slime putty (which you could set ‘time delay’ charges on the ceiling and wait for them to lose their grip and splat onto someone’s head during the lesson), spud guns (if you could nick the potatoes without annoying your Mam too much), IMG_3693cap guns and cap rockets (into which you’d try and squeeze as many caps as possible in order to get the loudest possible ‘explosion’ when you threw it, although probably not in the confines of the classroom!), wet paper balls fired from out of Bic pen cases or pencil toppers launched at people’s heads.

Pencil Toppers
Pencil Toppers

The odd stink bomb strategically placed under the teachers desk or chair leg was guaranteed to clear the classroom and undoubtedly get you detention and/or lines. Whoopee cushions and fart spray, from the joke shop in Porthcawl, were also good for a few laughs but they’d get confiscated if you were caught, and that was just a waste of your pocket money. Continue reading

Wishing You A Very Retro Christmas

Just the other day, after a marathon seven hours listening to classic 70s and 80s Christmas songs as I wrapped up all my Christmas presents, I started to think of my Christmases as a child and the vast array of cool toys that were available in the shops. Although as a child from a not-so-well-off working class family I only dreamt of owning most of them.

Aside from writing stories and making stuff up, one of my favourite passions is collecting the retro games and toys that I, or my parents, could never afford during my childhood in the 70s and 80s, whether they be TV video game systems, games consoles, classic board games, wind-up or mechanical toys, electronic ‘vacuum fluorescent display’ (VFD) table-top and handheld games or awesome toys such as the British version of the American GI Joe action figure known as ‘Action Man’ – “now with gripping hands!”

Action Man
Action Man
Grandstand's Munchman
Grandstand’s Munchman

The last day of school term before Christmas or summer break (or the last week if you were really lucky) meant being allowed to bring games into school to play. This allowed the wealthier kids to show off their vast array of electronic games from manufacturers like TOMY, Grandstand and CGL, to name but a few. As the majority of them were only single player games it was always just the popular kids or the bullies that were allowed to have a go, whilst the rest craned their necks to try and get a glimpse of the VFD action. Continue reading