Commodore 64 Wonder Boy

They have computers, and they may also have other weapons of mass destruction – Janet Reno

“Where have you been?” My Dad asks as I walk through the door.

“In the café with Graham and Arwyn.” I reply.

These days every home has an X Box, Wii, Playstation or Personal Computer of one description or another. My Sister has two kids and bought a third X Box the other day just because she couldn’t handle anymore arguing between her husband and her two kids over who was going to play what on the X Box? Now they have one each!

You are not even restricted to the house anymore either. Virtually everyone has some type of personal mobile type device that you can play games on. I was in Les Croupiers in Cardiff the other night and there is a regular player who goes by the name “The Doctor”. I grin fondly every time I see him because he is the absolute spitting imagine of my own Grandad. My Grandad is 78 and I guess The Doctor is not much younger. Even The Doctor plays with his I Phone in between hands!

“What were you doing in the café?” Asks my Dad.

“Yeah what were you doing?” My Mum re-emphasises.

“Just messing about on the machines.” I reply.

When I was younger people’s priorities were different. Parents bought food with their wages and went down the pub with what was left. Games upwards of £200 were things of fantasy. Our parents couldn’t even say,

“Maybe if we win the lottery!”

We didn’t have one.

One Christmas my Mum and Dad asked me to write out my Christmas list as usual and this time I was a little bit more adventurous. All of my friends had either a Commodore 64 or a ZX Spectrum. I asked Santa for a Commodore 64. As time got closer my mate Graham and I started to hunt for our Christmas presents. We started in his house and it didn’t take long before we found a black bag underneath the stairs. Graham had the inspired idea to open them all and re-wrap them afterwards. He was pleased as punch when we found a Commodore 64. Next we raided my Mum and Dads bedroom to search for presents. This mission had to be carried out quite delicately. After all I didn’t want Graham to find my Mum and Dads secret stash of porn accessories. We quickly found the presents and to my horror I realised that my Mum and Dad had bought me the wrong computer, instead of a Commodore 64 they had bought the cheaper version. The version poor kids got battered for owning. The Commodore 16+4.!

“Nooooo! Look at this Graham.” I said.

“Look at this!” Said Graham holding a big white dildo in his hand.

When we were in Primary School Graham Dillon went by the nickname Dildo. One day the teachers pulled us all into the classroom and told us that we were not allowed to call Graham Dillon “Dildo” anymore. None of us could understand why? Life is not without a sense of irony.

“Where did you get the money from?” My Dad asked.

“Yeah where did you get the money from?” It was like an echo. It was my Mum.

The biggest addiction that year was the introduction of the Sega game “Wonder Boy”. Wonder Boy was an arcade game where you played the role of a Caveman trying to find his girlfriend who had been captured by a monster. Each and every day we could come home from school and pile into Sterlini’s Café to play this mesmerising game. I used to dream about it. All I wanted to do was get my initials onto that Leaderboard (LMD). There were ten slots on that leaderboard and they all had the same initials (AJT) – Arwyn John Thomas.

Arwyn was a Wonderboy magician and there were times we would just stand around in awe. He was much older than the rest of us and had a job. He was also the biggest and hardest bloke in the Valley and it wasn’t easy to get him off the game. Luckily he had always taken a shine to me and I always managed to get my turn in between moments of Arwyn magic.

Not only did Arwyn teach me how to be a better video game player he also taught me about how fragile life can be when he tragically died of a heart attack in his mid twenties.

That game was so consuming that I didn’t eat school dinners for months. Each and every penny went into that machine. My bankroll management skills back then were quite similar to those I possess today – utter crap. I started to steal money to play Wonderboy.

My Dad used to come home from work and get undressed in his bedroom before getting into the bath. In true Mission Impossible style I would wait until I heard him get into the bath and I would go into his bedroom and steal a few quid from the loose change in his jeans. My Wonderboy money!

“I used my dinner money.” I told my Mum and Dad.

“Don’t lie to me!” Shouted my Dad.

“Don’t lie to your Dad!” Shouted my Mum.

It appears that my Dad had been planning his own Mission Impossible style covert operations for some time now. He knew money was going missing from his pockets. Like I said money was tight back then and used for food, beer and fags. A few quid for Wonderboy was a packet of fags or two pints. But he had four kids. Which one was the culprit? How could he be sure who it was?

He decided to count the money that was in his pocket and then wait until one of us was upstairs on our own and when we came down he would check his trousers to see if any was missing.

Simplistic but effective

I take my son to swimming lessons every Sunday. It is always a royal pain in the arse getting him into the car. His first complaint is always that he is the only boy in the class. Little does he know he will be on his hands and knees praying to be the only boy in a swimming class full of girls when he is a few years older? His second complaint is that he has to shift his arse away from the Playstation for 45 minutes.

I watch from the balcony above the pool. I walked in and had to ask a little girl, aged no more than 9, to move so I could get a seat. She was playing on her Nintendo DS and barely recognised I was barging passed her. She did not flinch. Her gaze remained firmly on the screen.

As I sat there I looked across the balcony and saw four more kids. All sat next to their parents or guardians. The only difference between the four was the different colours of the Nintendo DS they held in the palm of their hands. There was no dialogue, no interaction no relationship. Each time a parent or guardian spoke they were met with silence.

The writer Aldous Huxley wrote about this in his novel “Brave New World” in 1932.

Science Fiction = Science Fact.

As I read that an eight year old from India has amassed $500k whilst playing online poker I wonder to myself. Are children more suited to winning online poker competitions than us regular folk? Isn’t it just another form of video game addiction? I see kids as young as six sat in pubs next to their parents clicking away at their videogames. Videogames far more advanced that anything I can remember playing on. Games that need children to think outside of the box and solve mathematical and societal problems. Longevity isn’t a problem. I cannot peel my son away from “Fallout 3” after 12 hours of solid play, an absolute pre-requisite for an online grinder.

If we spent the time to explain the rules and allowed them to play, play, play would they be more successful?

Would they?

“Video games? Are you crazy?” Shouted my Dad

“Are you crazy?” Shouted my Mum

“But I can’t help myself. I think I am addicted?” I cried.

“Addicted? Addicted to a video game? That is your excuse for stealing from me. Get upstairs.” Shouted my Dad.

I flew up the stairs crying my eyes out. As I flew I heard my Mum say to my Dad.

“Alan we need to sort this boy out? Stealing money to play video games? He’ll be gambling next! And you can take that Commodore 64 back to the shop he aint having anything for Christmas!”

Every cloud!