From reading our game play throughs, you would be forgiven in thinking I spent every single waking hour I wasn’t at school sat in front of a computer in the 80’s.
That wasn’t really the case though, mostly because the paucity of childrens TV meant we actually had a lot of spare time. Kids telly back then ran from about 3:15 until 5:35, starting with stuff for the little kids, and ending up with something like Blue Peter or right at the end of the decade, Rolf’s Cartoon Club and then Neighbours. I was forever missing Rolf’s Cartoon Club because that was invariably when my mum used to dish up dinner and we had to sit at the dining room table and eat. The torture.
Still, they packed a lot in to that time frame on the BBC- Mysterious Cities of Gold, Dogtanian and plenty of other classic cartoons. I remember watching Dangermouse and a few other shows on ITV but we were a pretty strict BBC house. If vintage kids telly is your thing, I even wrote a quiz back in 2011 around it, unfortunately the formatting seems to have gone slightly funny with the switch to WordPress but you can still see it here.
Gaming was decidedly limited on account of it being the 1980’s and there being only one television in the house. It was made by Mitsubishi and like everything else, had woodgrain effect vinyl all over it. It had only recently been tuned to Channel 4, despite the fact it had been on air for four years by 1996 and BBC 2 was always a little snowy as my parents house was situated in a dip. Any sort of gaming needed a good hour of free time to make sure you actually got to play the game in amidst the setting up, loading from tape and packing away. I particularly remember the pain of Paperboy, which was very sensitive to the tone setting, crashing right at the end of loading if you weren’t too careful.
So we had other things to do to fill the long hours outside of school. I was always a Sunday evening homeworker- I used to put the chart show on and listen to Dave “the Kid” Jensen play the top 40, followed by Doctor Fox’s Jukebox, only being interrupted for my mums unique take on Sunday evening tea. For the record, we used to be forced to eat a cold roast meat sandwich, have an incredibly pale cup of tea, and then a slice of malt loaf spread so thickly with butter it was almost as high again as it had been originally.
In the summer I’d be out on my bike after school until tea time and then after tea time until bed time, if the weather was bad or it was winter, I’d like as not be reading a book or playing with my Space LEGO or Action Force figures. Board games were strictly reserved for that dread period directly after lunch on a Sunday, “family time” that worked better in theory than practice (the number of times the first person out at Monopoly would sit in silent tears for hours while everyone else played was harrowing).
1986 is one of those years I distinctly remember what I got for Christmas because I think it was the beginning of the end of Christmas’s being magical. I was 11, due to be 12 in three weeks, and after years of LEGO filled bliss, I really lusted after a big Zoid. Zoids were mechanical dinosaur thingies, you self built them and they were pretty cool or at least they were in the adverts. I’d asked for Gore the Lord Protector, their King Kong clone, for Christmas and was so excited, I woke up at 5am and had to be forced back to bed for a couple of hours. By 10 in the morning, I’d built Gore Lord twice, and was fed up- I’d fallen for the advertising and went back to my LEGO, lesson learnt.
I was also a voracious reader, on the cusp of ditching kids books for the horror and science fiction/fantasy aisle of the local library, I was still reading stuff like the Three Investigators series but had by chance of luck found 30 quid in screwed up notes in the road when I was walking up the town with my dad. I invested a few quid on Dragons of Autumn Twilight, the first of Dragon Lance Chronicles books. It was enormously hard going for an 11 year old but I persevered and here I am 30 years later, still reading (better) fantasy.
So yes, I did all the gaming I could humanly fit in but there wasn’t an enormous opportunity. Everything in moderation, as my dad liked to say…