I may have touched on this before in a post of yore, but I’m a massive advocate of video games. And by ‘advocate,’ I mean that I love them. Ever since me and my brother got an Amstrad 464 Plus for our birthday (it must’ve been our 10th if I remember rightly), I’ve been hooked. Obviously, gaming has moved on exponentially since then – we had to put cassette tapes into the fucking thing to load the games and then go away for half an hour while a crappy bitmap ‘loading’ screen constructed itself line by line on the screen. And people complain about loading times on consoles today...
Anyway, that Amstrad with its wank graphics (even for the time, they were shite) planted in me the seeds of a computer games geek, and from then on I don’t think there’s ever been a period in my life where I’ve not owned one console or another. Indeed, by the time I left University I had about 12 different consoles in my room – it looked like a suicide bomber had detonated themselves in a branch of Gamestation (well, the queues do get quite bad on a Saturday afternoon). It wasn’t just playing the games that interested me though – it was everything about the subject, which eventually and inevitably led to me become addicted to buying games magazines. You see, back in the early nineties there was no internet, so the only place you could get new info on games and read reviews and get cheats etc was in the magazines, so naturally I had to embrace them as my only source of vital information ‘leaking’ out of such exotic sounding gaming locations as ‘America’ and ‘Japan.’ I say there was no internet – there was, just about, but getting online meant going to the school IT classroom at lunchtime, opening up Netscape Navigator on one of the dogshit slow workstations and waiting 3 days for Alta Vista (remember that?!) to pop up on the screen. No thanks. Not when there was football to be played in the car park.
So magazines were heavily relied on for gaming news, and the one I bought most often? Mean Machines Sega. It was an amazing journal full of lewd jokes and witty articles, and probably the magazine that made me want to ditch the hum drum life of a school kid and become a rich and famous games journo. There were several other mags I used buy at around the same time (CVG, Sega Power and GamesMaster – the former two now defunct, while GamesMaster is on life support) and they all promoted this notion that writing about games for a living was the equivalent of being an international playboy – jetting off to L.A. for a games convention, being wined and dined by publishers trying to sway your opinion on a new game, getting loads of cool free stuff...it just seemed amazing, and I wanted a piece of the action. Sadly, as I grew up I realised that the view I had was slightly askew and then real life got in the way and the dream died (as did the print magazine industry – damned pesky Netscape Navigator!), but I’ll always remember those mags as a key component of my childhood; indeed, the prose within is most likely what led to my sense of humour being what it is today.
Now, I’d been planning to write about this subject for a while and kept putting it off, but last night while randomly web surfing (surfing...navigating...there’s a theme here somewhere) I came across a website that almost made me cry with delight: The Mean Machines Archive! Yes, that’s right – somebody has gone to the trouble of distilling what made Mean Machines such a fantastic magazine and condensed it all into one amazing website! I couldn’t believe it when I found this site: all the memories came flooding back. It gets even weirder though – check this shit out. After looking at that archive for a while, I logged in to Twitter and one of the ‘suggested’ tweeters who popped up in the sidebar was Julian Rignall, a former staff member at Mean Machines! I sent him a message asking if he was the same person from the mag, and he replied that it was...and this sparked a slightly surreal Twitter conversation about the good ol’ days – y’know, how games mags aren’t the same anymore and how the humour has gone from the writing.
It was all very strange – to have been sat on the couch thinking about Mean Machines Sega, finding a website dedicated to it, and then ending up chatting to one of the core journalists from the mag...like I said: strange. He was a very nice bloke and to him and all of the other journalists from that era (Gus Swan, Marcus Hawkins, Ed Lomas, Martin Kitts, Tim Weaver, Jes Bickham, Richard Leadbetter, Jonathan Davies and many, many more (is it sad that I remember all these names?!)), I say thank you. You probably have no idea how inspirational your games-related ramblings really were.