As we may have mentioned, it’s our birthday. And, boy, are we dragging it out. I’ve been meaning to write this piece for quite a while now, but if I procrastinate too much longer, the anniversary year will be over. (Apologies in advance if any of the following sounds po-faced, serious and self-important!)

I’d like to start by thanking my friend and colleague Stoo for letting me write here. I’ve always wanted to write about games, and I always have done, although my early efforts came in the form of crudely-daubed home-made magazines covering Amstrad games, written in green felt-tipped pen, progressing eventually to equally visually-unappealing AOL websites, written in MS Notepad. Such efforts were produced largely for my own amusement, which was a good job seeing as they were, justifiably, ignored by absolutely everyone.

To have some kind of audience, then, however small, is nice (thanks for reading, by the way). For this, I think we need to acknowledge the abandonware scene, which helped us establish some kind of following in the early days, and remains responsible for sending people our way. You may argue that abandonware isn’t what it once was, and you might be right, but before every man (or woman) and his (or her) dog had a gaming blog dedicated to retro-gaming, those sites were the ones recommending their favourites, preserving the memories, and showing a genuine interest in old games before it was necessarily fashionable.

In trying to think about what might have changed since we started, that’s the one thing that stands out to me. ‘Having a web-site’ was actually a reasonably novel (if nerdy) thing to do, perhaps because it required a modicum of technical expertise in hammering it together. The initial idea was basically ‘Let’s write about some games we really liked that would now be considered fairly old’ which, in today’s world, would seem like a rather pointless pursuit.

Back then, though, it seemed fair enough. Stoo would crank out some impressively-detailed coverage of a complex strategy game, while I would play Speedball 2 for a couple of days and submit a brief review padded out with waffle [No change there then – FFG reader]. My contribution in the early days was pretty limited, to be honest, despite being a university student with an abundance of free time between my two lectures per week. (I’d love to say I was too busy partying, but that would be a lie. In fact, I don’t know what I was doing. Studying? Sleeping?)

We didn’t actually have a lot of content online in the early days, but it didn’t really seem to matter. I think once we’d been going for a little while, we’d identified that while most abandonware sites were great at providing content and demonstrating genuine enthusiasm for the old games they featured, the reviews provided were usually (with some exceptions) both brief and gushingly positive. So in a way, we felt we filled a bit of a niche in the scene, and our more comprehensive reviews were an excuse for our lack of updates.

My main problem is, and has always been, getting through the games themselves rather than finding the motivation to write about them. I wouldn’t exactly say I had a short attention span, but I’ve certainly always acquired a lot of games that I haven’t necessarily devoted much time to before moving on. Staying focused on one game so I’ll be able to write about it in detail sufficient to be useful is always the challenge. In more recent years I’ve been able to contribute more.

There’s no formula for ensuring satisfaction with the end result, although if pressed, I’d say that a few things always help. Firstly, an interest in, and enthusiasm for, the genre of game you’re covering – dragging your way through something that you don’t enjoy and aren’t particularly qualified to talk about is a bit of a waste of everyone’s time. Secondly, finding enough – good or bad – to talk about, particularly little touches or flaws that not everyone might have noticed. And finally, having the feeling that you’re not saying the same thing that 10,000 other people on the internet haven’t said before already.

For that last reason, although we’ve never sought to restrict ourselves to more obscure games, I’ve always been more comfortable writing those reviews than, say, covering Half-Life. Reviewing a game because it’s ‘important’ or lots of other people have said it’s good, without having the motivation to play or write about it yourself, always seems to make for stilted and unimaginative content.

The temptation to delete or go back and fix things that you’re not happy with is ever-present and can certainly drive you to distraction. We’ve actually done both in the past, but in recent years I’ve tried to avoid going down that road, unless it’s to correct spelling or grammar. The old reviews are what they are, a product of when they were written. Looking back, there are plenty of bad jokes and misplaced cultural references, but my only real regret is trying to name-drop ‘current’ games, particularly on console, without actually having a clue what the hell I was talking about.

Perhaps because of our early nostalgia-busting attitude, our obsession with ‘but how does it play today?’ was too pronounced in the early days. So, yes, I did compare Stunts to Gran Turismo 3: [paraphrasing] “Of course, this VGA racer from 1990 isn’t on a par with the latest PS2 racing simulation.” Thanks for that! (The irony is, although I bought and own GT3, I actually find it incredibly boring, and probably had many more hours’ fun with Stunts anyway).

I like to think we’ve dropped that approach now. The main motivation to continue comes from a mixture of having a creative outlet (so that life isn’t just the day job and watching TV) and feeling that someone might be reading and enjoying the end product. I don’t know if we have a particular angle or niche any more (or if we ever did) but it seems to me that being a modern ‘gamer’ requires deep pockets, significant amounts of free time, and the ability to shrug-off disappointment with the latest over-hyped releases.

Before I sound like too much of an old duffer, I should say that there’s no doubting the appeal of that new-game smell (I must buy at least one football game per year), but I think it’s equally legitimate to take some time to have a look at what you might have missed over the years. When other people write about older games, I like to read about them, so perhaps it’s not so unusual for other people to do the same here.

Anyway, that’s enough waffle. Thanks for reading, if I haven’t said that already [You have – FFG reader]. Now, perhaps it’s time to actually go and do something more worthwhile. Like work on a new review, perhaps?