Sunday, 2 August 2015
On Being The First Chickens, In The Fox Den. Part 2
So, after leaving you hanging at the end of my last post, what was it that we saw?
It was dear reader, the answer to my prayers and the beginning of a life of penury in the shape of a specialist gaming establishment by the name of Games Workshop the first of several dedicated game stores in Sheffield. It was back then, with its amazingly broad range, and enthusiastic, knowledgeable staff and distinct ambience, a place of almost holy reverence for my generation. It was in essence, my place of worship and weekly offerings were to the gods of games in ever-increasing amounts, a pattern that has continued ever since.
These days, game stores seem more obsessed with ‘image’ rather than content, more about form over function if you will. In the ‘golden age’ it was more about the product, the hobby, the fun. It was all about playing games!
In 1982, the concept of providing the gaming public with a single ‘temple of games’ was still quite a novel one. Certainly to the uninitiated, it was unbelievable and what was more, the doors were open.
We walked in, heads twisting, eyes swivelling, like nervous chameleons who, having fallen from their comfortably familiar treetop perch, find themselves on the back of a monitor lizard which is in the process of considering what it will be having for dinner. From all sides our senses were assaulted by literally thousands of striking box covers depicting all kinds of fantasy and science fiction theme imaginable from half naked princesses to gigantic star ships. Although we did not know back then, Sheffield based synth-pop band The Human League took their name from one of the factions in a game titled ‘Starforce: Alpha Centauri’. Just a brief aside, that shows the popularity of this type of game in even the most unexpected places.
In the centre of sales area were wire ‘bins’ containing various special offers coinciding with the opening of the branch. My eye was taken by 4 small boxes, luridly illustrated ‘a la mode’, each containing 10 plastic figures, half a dozen acrylic paints, a terrible brush, 2 six sided dice and a set of rules.
Each of these games presented a mini role-playing experience with all that the lucky purchaser needed. What’s more they were priced at £1.00! I picked up one called ‘The Cleric’s Quest’ and Alan, ‘The Woman Warrior’ - although the name of the other titles escapes me at the time of writing.
Around ten years ago, I saw a set of these games on Ebay go for a three figure sum. Oh how I howled that day I can tell you, both with a sense of loss and recollection of happy times past. But once again I am wandering off at a tangent and you’ve not given me a sound nudge in the ribs.
We had been in there for about ten minutes before being approached by a member of staff. We had been so taken by the sights and odours - yes, smells, of which I will say more later - that we had not noticed a distinct lack of other customers and indeed, staff. The man approached us and said that the shop was not open. We precociously pointed out that it most certainly was, the proof being that we were in said store, having walked through the doors, thank you very much.
How we were not slaughtered on the spot still amazes me to this day. In point of fact, had that been the case, it would have been seen as a mercy killing in years to come as I made the life of the staff in that emporium, one of living hell, with my exuberant enthusiasm. No, seriously... It would!
‘It opens this weekend and it’s going to be great. Do you want that?’ This said with a gesture to the box I was holding and then to Alan’s fistful of goodies.
‘Yes please. I’m sorry I thought you were open what with the door being open.’ I replied, my natural state of being returning, despite my indignant outburst.
Well, we each handed over one pound of the currency of the realm, were politely but firmly shown the door, and I was thereby ejected from that store for the first but alas, not the last time in my life.
Alan forgot all about his record. We had something new and exciting and what was more we had an inside track to the grand opening event for this temple of temptation, this cavern of game related goodness. After all hadn’t the bloke in the shop all but given us a personal invite to attend? Were we not truly gods now, wielding arcane knowledge?
‘Alan, we need to get back here on Saturday and save all our dinner money, no matter what… Right?’ My eyes must have been glowing like coals at that moment.
‘Yeah.’ Was all my fellow traveller in this newfound world could reply He was already tearing open his own purchase.
I, for my part - and completely out of character - was going to wait until I got home, savouring the exquisite torment that it produced in my teenage brain. I was so focussed on ‘being there’ on Saturday that I made sure I was not only home early that night, but, I forwent any more trips that week. A miracle!
On reflection, I think that this was the defining moment at which I stood upon my personal crossroad. It was the point at which I believe to this day, I very consciously gave up on the mundane and truly took my first tentative but deliberate steps into the realms beyond reality, never to return for more than a brief period of rest and recuperation.
Once or twice I was to lose the path, but as sure as eggs are chickens I found my way back, wandering ever deeper into the metaphorical forest that was gaming.
If you have enjoyed the last few posts, then check out my 380 page gamer memoir, 'Real Life's A Bu**er!'
You can find it on Amazon or order it from your favourite bricks and mortar book store.