I'm a forty something year old Brit, living in Canada for over 20 years, who loves everything about video games, past, present and future.
Where it all started
Call me crazy, but when I think back to my years in gaming I fondly remember playing Pac-Man on the Atari 2600, but it's not where my mind goes when I think of my 'glory days' of gaming, although it did blow my mind at the time. Dad brought an Atari 2600 VCS home as a surprise one night, back in the very early eighties, I think. Pac-Man on the 2600 was a poor port. The graphics were a dogs breakfast, not even close to the Arcade version, but it did play quite well and my sister was awesome at it.
The Atari wasn't my first foray into video games however, a rip-off version of Pong has that accolade. Dad brought that home too, not sure where it came from, I think he was given to him by a friend who didn't understand it. It was a simple black and white game with long white bars on the sides of the screen that bounced a square back and forth on the screen, controlled by 2 paddles, with a simple score on the top. It was called 'Electronic Tennis' or something like that. I don't think I was that great at it, I was little at the time and I know it didn't grab me.
Pac-Man however on the Atari, is what made me realize right then and there, as I watched my sister play, eagerly waiting my turn, that video games would be something I played for the rest of my life. And I still do to this day.
The Commodore 64 and the Amiga 500
After the 2600, Dad got heavy into computers, and of course so did I. We started with the Atari computers, which were never that popular in the UK, but they were cheap when bought used, and a great cost effective way to get into computers and gaming. We started with an Atari 400 and then the 800xl. It's here I learned to code in Basic. The Atari's started to show their age though and games were hard to come by, so we upgraded to a Commodore 64. The C64 was massive in the UK, and had even more games on it than the Atari, they looked and played better. And you could still use it as a computer for coding and messing around. I absolutely loved the C64, it was also the first time I had ever experienced 'copying' games. Back in the early eighties, pirating wasn't the dark mark on computing that it is these days. I don't even think we knew we were doing anything wrong, and it was so easy to do. C64 games in the UK came on tape cassette, so all you had to do was have a decent tape-tape recording setup and you could copy games till your hearts content. Saying that though we still did buy games, especially those that were AAA.
However, when I think back about my favourite time as a young gamer, I always settle at the same place, the Commodore Amiga. I coveted the Amiga for a long time till we eventually got one, my older Cousin had one and showed it off to us on a visit, and I just knew I had to have one. After some lengthy discussion with my parents we decided to sell my C64, games collection of about 400+ games and my bike, a Grifter, which was pretty much the mountain bike of the late 80's. After selling both I had just about enough to buy a brand spanking new Amiga 500.
The powerhouse of it's time
The Amiga was the powerhouse of it's time, there really wasn't anything this little home computer couldn't do. Games came on 3.5" floppy disks, and many games were on multiple floppies. Eventually a second disk drive was needed so you weren't constantly swiping disks in and out. The pirate scene on the Amiga was immense too, games came with copy protection, but coders easily hacked that, and began to release disks with demo intros, and features for extra lives and cheats on games. The demo scene was just as vibrant as the gaming, and you could go to conventions just to get new demos and trials. Part of the culture of the Amiga was the demo and game swapping, getting the latest demo to copy from your pal to show the power of the Amiga was all part of the fun. I also spent just as much time in Deluxe Paint IV and Shoot-em Up Construction Kit as I did playing the latest games. The only real rival to the Amiga 500 at the time was the Atari ST. It stacked up pretty much head to head with the Amiga, and had an almost as prolific demo scene, and the games were close to on par with it's Amiga counterparts. The rivalry was a passionate one though and not dissimilar to the Nintendo vs Sega console war or the newer Playstation vs Xbox console war that has been raging for the past 3 console generations.
New consoles, new generation
With the advent of a new console generation in 2020, the Playstation 5 and the Xbox Series X/S have proven their power and ability to be on par if not exceed most modern day PC's. They are both giants when it comes to size as well as in power, both pushing out 4k - 60fps, HDR and ray-traced visuals. My console of choice at the start of the console gaming re-revolution, was the Playstation (now known as the PSONE), after that the PS2. After the PS2 I slid into PC gaming for a while and got into FPS shooters, Counter Strike, Vietcong and Unreal Tournament were my flavours of choice. Then came the Xbox 360, and my gaming life was changed once again. The 360 was so easy to use, party chat, Xbox Arcade, easy way to control your friends list, easy to get into online games. The 360 was the full package and one of my favourite consoles ever, but none of these created the same culture or feeling of the Amiga, the Amiga was special somehow, it was before it's time, and could do so much. It had a feeling of community, and you were always looking for that one demo, or game that you didn't have in your collection, or your bud would show you something that you just had to have, and all you needed was that blank disk and he'd copy it for you in 5 mins and you could take it home and then pass it on, it truly was a fun time to be part of the hobby.
Why not bring back the Amiga?
This got me thinking, how could we bring that nostalgia back, the sense of community and game trading but using the power of today's tech. Why not bring back the Amiga, and what would that look like?
The Amiga was known as one of the most powerful, ahead of its time gaming computers back in its day. So a new Amiga should be the same, it would need to exceed expectations and be a step beyond what Sony and Microsoft are offering, although it wouldn't have to be a huge leap in tech, a marginal increase in power would be all it would need as this is what most hardcore gamers lack on.
In part 2 of this article I'll explore what a 'Next Gen' Amiga could be, what features it would have, what games should come back.
© 2020 Steve Ettridge