I run this site in my spare time, for most this would explain a lot about its quality and standard. I have a day job in an office where, without going into too much detail, I deal with a lot of young people’s futures and to be honest I do it quite badly. I’m not at work today, on the 6th of December every year I take the day off, today this is because it’s the 5th anniversary of my dad dying.
I had a good childhood, no horror stories of beatings or poverty. I was raised in a nice town in the South West of the United Kingdom, my mum was a lecturer at a college and my dad a headteacher of a primary school. My earliest gaming memories are all thanks to my dad and my brothers. We started off with a BBC Micro, the posh and some might say snobby home computer. Games were few and far between, or rather ones I could comprehend were, but I remember Elevator Action and the such. My real first gaming experiences came with the Amiga, my brothers had a nice little gig going with some naivety and abuse of poor early piracy laws. As such I was able to try my hand at games like Speedball, Cannon Fodder, Street Fighter II and Lemmings. I enjoyed them all despite being too young to have anything close to reflexes.
Eventually my family picked up a myriad of cartridge consoles like the Megadrive and the SNES. An early memory I have of gaming with my dad was in front of the SNES and him, my sister and I all trying to get the Bazooka light gun thing to work. When we eventually did I remember laughing lots. My dad was a very middle class straight man. He wore a lot of cardigans, rocked a neat trimmed beard and matched a pair of glasses with a huge bald patch. The site of this straight-laced middle-aged guy in smart casual clothes shouldering a giant plastic rocket launcher is something I’ll always remember.
For the years that followed his gaming habits generally revolved around Windows Solitaire and Hearts. That is until many years later when I was about 15 or 16 and he bought me and himself new PCs. We both regressed at that point and started firstly setting up a home network and then proceeding to abuse it with LAN gaming sessions. Him in the study and me in my room we would play PC games like Command and Conquer, Flying Heroes or Age of Empires.
Two of those games lend themselves to someone aged around 55, C&C and Age of Empires were games you could sit and think about for long periods of time. My dad taught me how to play chess at quite an early age, to this day it astounds me that certain people don’t know the rules but I forget that to my dad knowing how to play chess was a rite of passage for manhood. It was this mindset that got him and I playing for 3 or 4 hours at a time together on Age of Empires.
I never did the rebellious teen thing, sure I listened to crap music for a while, but I never got into fights or got drunk. I was, and still am, someone who is quite happy on their own, my own company quite often being the best. As such I never got shouted at growing up, I didn’t get in trouble, but that doesn’t mean my dad and I didn’t drift apart a little. I was just starting to move gaming from a hobby to an obsession and as such was starting to regress even further into my cocoon of a bedroom.
Getting back into gaming with my dad gave us something to connect with, the only other thing we really had been our mutual appreciation for the late night action films on BBC One like Under Siege and the even better Under Siege 2. We used to count the amount of people killed in the films, arguing over whether someone was knocked out or fully shaken loose from their mortal coil. Again I remind you this was a headteacher who was moulding future generation’s brains.
Our gaming sessions went on for a year or two whilst I lived at home with him. Moving to uni our connection dwindled slightly to phone calls once a week with him querying some emo post I put up on Facebook. I never asked my older brothers what kind of connection they had with dad, emotionally or through gaming, we’re not really a family that talks about that kind of thing and all of us are grateful for that. As far as I’m concerned my dad’s gaming before I was around revolved mainly around a slight obsession with Elite on the BBC Micro.
When I returned from uni I had experienced the Xbox 360 for the first time and had fleeting dalliances with the PS3. On returning home I found my retired father now in the possession of a PC that I can only describe as incredibly chavvy and awesome. He had thrown down a chunk of change on a machine that not only ran like an Olympic runner, but also had neon under-lighting and a lighting bar for under the monitor that reacted to bass. It was like he had stolen an 18 year old’s Volkswagen Golf with lights and hydraulics attached.
He was playing Call of Duty and Bioshock on it. At this point he was pushing 60 and was having a complete blast playing first person shooters. He’d phone me up proudly announcing the levels he had passed and how many Nazi’s he had taken out en route. This flirting with FPS’s came from him and I playing Flying Heroes, an arena FPS where you take out the opposing team whilst flying your dragon/carpet/Zeppelin/teapot over to their part of the sky and shelling the crap out of them. Despite being a Walker and having the hand to eye co-ordination that has debilitated this bloodline, he nailed it. I’m used to being beaten in multiplayer games, but not by my dad who was close to claiming a pension.
As I said at the lead of this piece, my dad died a few years ago from a complication that came from a perfectly run of the mill stroke. He had a blood clot develop at the base of his neck that wasn’t spotted by early scans, we were told the realistic outcomes were that he’d either be, a vegetable or die. Thankfully the choice was made for us. Obviously there was more to his and my life than video games. This silly electronic hobby wasn’t the be all and end all of our relationship, he was my father. But that being said it is a good way of chronicling our relationship.
I run PixelBedlam because I love games, and I love talking about them, whether anyone’s listening or not. He helped develop that in me, he asked me questions and sat and watched me play games like Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, he read my dissertation at uni about my fleeting obsession with World of Warcraft, he helped me when aged 10 I was stuck on Monkey Island. I’m not writing this to be profound, this is the same for most people who are as into gaming as we are. This is more here for context, for when I have kids and at aged 15 I’m trying to get them to play Quake over LAN with me, it’s the little things you remember and at the end of the day a rocket launcher on the shoulder is a pretty little thing.
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