Ah! JetPac... I said to myself as I pressed play on tape and slouched back into my comfy padded chair, waiting for the loading screen to pop up. That familiar terrible high pitched screeching noise of the ZX Spectrum loading process kicks in, which sends warm pangs of nostalgia through me.
Article by Andy Foster
Next to me two lads in their early 20’s giggle at each other’s misfortune with the killer app Micro Machines (that’s what they call them nowadays, isn’t it?) running on Sega’s masterpiece hardware the Megadrive.
He says to his mate whilst pointing at me scouring the Jet Pac instructions “Look…. have you ever loaded a game from tape?”… I smile at him quite content in waiting for it to compile its data, sticking my Quickshot joystick to the table with its under-saddled suckers.
I’m here, in ‘Game Over’ in Portsmouth. Website: http://gameover.cafe
Game over is situated in a basement of an old town house and I’m thinking “why hasn’t someone done this before?!” because this is something that is perfectly different from the standard cafes springing up all over the place.
This is a specifically created retro gaming café and with an elegant curved ceiling with a huge timeline of video gaming history. Back in the day you would expect this space to be filled with beer kegs, but now it’s gorgeously decorated in its entirety in tiled pixel art. Its entrance is very modest with a small sign above its door which gives it an exclusive vibe making you feel you are part of a secret club... at least that’s how I felt.
After paying my very reasonable £5 for 2 hours (of unlimited free roam of the machines and their games) I spoke to Steve Lowe, the Owner, and introduced myself as having had a lot of these machines in my lifetime.
This is Steve's own collection and his original plan was to open some kind of museum but he changed his mind to give the machines usage and to give people the chance to experience them.
So, here’s the geeky bit…. We’re talking Megadrive, Playstation, Intellivision, Phillips Videopac G7000, Amstrad GX4000, Atari 2600, Toshiba MSX HX-10, Nintendo, an Arcade stick multi choice cabinet pod with Sega classics, Master System, ZX Spectum, Xbox, MegaCD, and so much more!
The games can be changed at your own free will by taking them back to the shelf and simply choosing your next one.
It’s a fantastic lesson in trust, freedom and exploration that I hope stays a staple of the place and doesn’t get destroyed over time with idiots, as these concepts sometimes do.
I was worried about people not treating them with respect but his answer was that gamepads will fall on the floor and can be replaced, he’d rather people experienced them than have people looking over their shoulders all the time.
I generally loved the practise of finding games I hadn’t played before, machines I’d never played and to actually change the cartridge and pick up the pad for play is so much better than emulation.
The most important thing I can say about it, (other than the obvious pull for retroheads), is the vibe.
In the 80’s and early 90’s I remember going to Sega World and the arcades down my local bowling alley. In these places you would meet other like-minded kids who were also full of wide-eyed wonder waiting to put Mum’s or Dad’s money into a massive After Burner cabinet or their hard earned pocket money into the polygon world of Virtua Racing.
Even though it’s a small room with small TV’s next to each other, the place by default promotes interaction. Interaction with the machines, the old cartridges, CD’s, and each other and felt a little like those old times for me.
I spoke to Dad’s around my age showing their kids 1942 for the first time, kids playing the Grandstand VFD game Munchman and a girl playing Sonic 2 over and over again!
It has the potential to become a place of discovery of old computing and the evolution of gaming itself for many young people. For people like me, it gives us a chance to revisit that childlike discovery and to maybe play some of those systems we used to hear about but never saw. The tea is cheap, the soundtrack is 80’s synth hits, and it has a small chill room and toilet facilities. What more could you ask for?!
If I was 14 I’d just take up camp there... as it is, I’ll just visit it every now and then… otherwise Steve the owner will just think I’m a bit weird!!
Article by Andrew Foster - Musician and Songwriter - Endorsed by Adam Black Guitars and G7th Capos Tel: 07463 768043