It was 1997. It was an interesting and event-filled year for the UK: We had the Brit-Pop explosion which breathed new life into our music industry, Tony Blair and Labour won the general election by a landslide, ending 18 years of Conservative rule. Tragically, we also lost Princess Diana one terrible night in Paris.A quantum leap was taking place in the gaming industry. Cartridges were old news. Now our games came on CDs. They had graphics like nothing we had ever seen before, they had real music, even full motion video. The games themselves were huge, their stories deep and engaging.It was an exciting time for all gamers everywhere. Games like Doom, Quake, Resident Evil and Final Fantasy 7 were setting the world alight with their exciting game-play, atmospheric sound and graphics and – in the case of Final Fantasy 7 – a story worthy of a good anime movie.As had become the tradition in gaming, there were two factions competing for dominance over the scene. On one side, there was the PC, which – thanks to the advent of sound and video cards – had evolved into an all singing, all dancing games machine. On the other side was the Sony Playstation, the first console ever to have its games only available on CD.Both had their good and bad points. Top-end PCs with the best graphics cards had better graphics and game-play than the Playstation, also the games tended to be cheaper. However, with the Playstation there were none of the compatibility issues arising from the multitude of different configurations of processors and sound and video cards on the PC; you didn’t have the problem of having to patch games because they were released before they were ready, and some of the games were better than those available on the PC.I think the PC’s main advantage was that it was more than just a games machine. It had word processors, spreadsheets and a plethora of other applications designed to make our lives easier and more interesting. It could be upgraded, improved by faster processors, added memory and better sound and graphics cards. On the gaming side, it had such classic strategy games as Total Annihilation, Command and Conquer, and Sim City.The PC was a better class of gaming machine. It was for those who liked to use their brains and not just their trigger fingers, its games were more cranial, and it had better graphics than the Playstation. The PC was a gourmet meal, while the Playstation was a bag of fish and chips. The old class-distinction of the C64 and Spectrum days was back, but this time the divide was much wider. This time it was like a High Court judge and Vicky Pollard from Little Britain. After all, we office folk used PCs at work, and we could play games in our lunch hour. We could also access the internet with our PCs. Yes, it was slow back then with its dial-up connections, but it was better than the Playstation could do.As a self-confessed gaming snob and a fan of strategy games I bought a PC and put a high-end Soundblaster sound card in it, as well as a top of the range Voodoo graphics card. It was a monster of a machine for its time, and it repaid my investment with hours of fantastic, addictive game-play. Once more, I had become a gaming junkie, spending huge chunks of my life playing games like Command and Conquer, Tomb Raider, and that crack cocaine of PC games, Championship Manager.Oh, these were good days, and they just got better when MAME (Multi Arcade Machine Emulator) was released, and we PC gamers could play all those old arcade games on our PC exactly as they were back in their heyday.As usual, there were arguments between the two gaming factions about which format was the best. But this time it was different. This time there was an unspoken feeling that each side was missing out on something that the other side had. Each gaming machine fulfilled different needs. One was the cheeseburger, and the other was a large Coke. But we couldn’t have both, could we? That would be like cheating on our wives or girlfriends.In the PC, we had Kristen Scott-Thomas – a combination of beauty and class that you would be proud to take home to meet your mother. But sometimes we wanted something dirtier, more risqué. Sometimes we wanted Jordan, and that was the Playstation.My cousin had a Playstation, and oh did I want it! I would sit there, watching him play games like Tekken and Gran Turismo, and it was like being at a strip club while my girlfriend was waiting at home. I was overwhelmingly tempted, and this filled me with guilt. Was I willing to cross that line? Was I ready to commit gaming bigamy?Of course I was! I’m weak and undisciplined. As a gamer I was a spoilt brat who wanted it all and wanted it now. I was ready to commit bigamy, polygamy, I was ready to put together a harem of gaming machines to get what I wanted.I went out and bought myself a Playstation. I felt so guilty that I almost asked the sales guy to put it in a brown paper bag. It was like when your girlfriend puts you on a diet because you’re developing a spare tyre and man boobs, then you sneak downstairs in the middle of the night and sneak that piece of chocolate cake that’s been calling to you from the fridge all evening. It felt great, but it felt so naughty.Before I knew it I was beating up men with funny hair and men with a leopard’s head. I was racing sports cars around tracks to win money to buy faster ones. I had it all. I had my cake and ate it. It was the gaming equivalent of free love, and best of all, I discovered I wasn’t the only one doing it; there were many of us; an entire community of bigamists, and it was brilliant!Surely it couldn’t possibly get any better than this…could it?Absolutely…
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Shane Clarke serves as London Correspondent for The Seoul Times. He has been involved in humanitarian work for numerous years. He’s also a freelance management consultant. Having completed an honors degree in Law at Wolverhampton University, he then moved on to an MBA at Warwick Business School. He’s heavily involved in the fight against international parental child abduction to Japan.
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