1987 was the year I discovered video games. Before then there were no video games. Before then video games didn't exist.
Before then it was kicking a football against a garage door. Before then it was going to my friend's dad's caravan and learning swear words. Before then it was finding pornography stuck in a hedge and being truly, viscerally terrified of vaginas.
I was six years old. I lived in Scotland. It was 1987.
Video games arrived in a brown Adidas duffle bag. Video games smelled like shin-pads. Video games were a bundle of cables, a cassette player and a keyboard. Video games had rubber keys.
Video games were cassette tapes. Some encased in fat oversized chunks of plastic and art that was wild, hand-drawn, bizarre, surreal; completely unrepresentative of the game experience. Some in cases with folded, crisp-white cardboard and a biro scribble. Names. Words I only barely knew how to read.
Monty On The Run. Back To Skool. Way Of The Exploding Fist. I didn't know I was about to commit a criminal act. I was blissfully unaware.
Some had no cases at all. No names. Magnetic tape wrapped tight around two spools. C15. TDK.
Video games fit nicely into my cupboards. Video games were rectangular cubes. I could order them, find new ways to make them fit. I would do this. Over and over again.
Video games were black and white. Our colour television lived downstairs, but I wasn't allowed. Video games lived on my Gran's old TV; old enough to have a dial. Once a week I was allowed to play on the big TV downstairs. A brief moment: pure fucking ecstasy. Video games were in colour.
Video games were an instant obsession. Video games were doodles on my jotters, the subject of show and tells. Video games were the stories I wrote, the games I played on the playground.
Video games were the friends I made. We would swap tapes. We had ingenuity. We convinced parents to buy packs of blank tapes. We figured out how to copy one tape onto another with shitty little ghettoblasters. We were filthy little pirates.
Video games made a noise like this:
We didn't really mind. Or know any different. In our own way we'd learn to fetishise it.
Video games would make us confused as fuck. They'd be too difficult because they had elaborate rules and instruction manuals we couldn't read or — worse — didn't own. Video games would be broken in fundamental ways. We'd play them anyway. We'd try so very hard to play them.
We'd forget them. We'd stumble across a screenshot or a video uploaded to YouTube and find ourselves remembering moments that were once lost.
"Howdy pardner what name do you go by?"
The memories would filter back into consciousness and re-order themselves strangely. The smell of dog hair, the taste of milky tea loaded with sugar. Turnip. My grandparents used to make me eat turnip. Holy goddamn shit. My Papa used to hide the remote control and told me that turnip granted me super powers. I'd turn off the television with my mind and I believed that shit wholeheartedly. Video games were little white lies and sources of nutrition.
Video games gave me these memories. My memories are tied to these things.
Once upon a time video games didn't exist, but then they absolutely did. Then video games never really went away.