#52: 10 Print RIP

Sir Clive Sinclair, pioneer of British home computing, died yesterday morning after a long illness. He was, perfectly, 81 years old. His influence on the story and shape of the UK game industry cannot be overstated, but I am not sufficiently equipped to do it justice.

You read Hit Points, I think or hope at least, for the insight I provide: I do not just tell you what’s going on out there, but add something to it based on my knowledge and experience. Today though, I have nothing, really. How could I? I was, I think, six years old when Sinclair came into my life. Everything was new and beguiling and perfect at the time, and today it is all fractured and fuzzy. 

Sinclair invented the first computer I ever laid eyes or hands on, a ZX81 that appeared one day at the back of my infant-school classroom. He devised the rubber-keyed Spectrum 48K, the first computer we ever had at home. I remember watching my dad setting it up on the dining table — because where the hell else were you going to put a computer in 1984, I suppose — then typing in the code for a rudimentary skiing game. 

Reading the tributes yesterday I saw a lot of people saying how their formative Spectrum experiences made them fall in love with coding, and led to a career doing it. I never had the patience for that side of it. I’d type up a POKE from a book and I’d get bored and inevitably make a mistake somewhere so it didn’t work. I just wanted to play games.

And I did! The memories came flooding back yesterday. A classically soggy UK summer holiday, endured with Ghosts ‘n Goblins. Finally laying eyes on the widely praised Head Over Heels at a friend’s house. Countless broken Quickshot joysticks, sacrificed at the altar of Daley Thompson’s Decathlon. Ghostbusters, and the crudely digitised ‘he slimed me’ sample that sounded so awful and otherworldly it gave me nightmares. Barbarian, the tabloid scourge. Target Renegade. Batty! There were no bad games back then, even though I suspect they were all in fact quite terrible. They were all brilliant, all my favourite, because I had no compass for that stuff. The Spectrum gave me a sort of map, at least.

There was a little gang of us in the neighbourhood with Spectrums. Some of them moved on to get C64s, STs and Amigas. My brother got a Master System one year, I wangled an NES a little while after, and that was me done. My gaming life thereafter was about arcades and consoles. I didn’t build my first gaming PC until 2013.

But gosh, what a road it sent me down — and not just in terms of the games themselves. Dad brought home a copy of Your Sinclair magazine one day and I fell in love. I got a subscription for my seventh birthday. From the very beginning, games and game magazines were inextricably linked. I think we know where that took me. Sinclair may not have got me into coding, but he laid the foundations for my career, without a doubt.

Happy trails, Sir Clive, and thanks for the memories. We all owe you a debt. 


MORE!

  • Mobile analytics firm App Annie has been fined $10 million, and its CEO $300,000, by the SEC for employing “misleading practices” in its handling of confidential data. I’m not really smart enough to understand all this; luckily Joost van Dreunen is

  • Former Bungie audio director Marty O’Donnell has been found in contempt of court and ordered to pay his former employer $100,000. It stems from O’Donnell’s acrimonious 2014 firing, and a resulting court ruling that insisted he hand over all trace of his work at the studio — which he rather publicly flouted by uploading his Destiny score to YouTube and Bandcamp.

  • Amazon’s new Montreal game studio will be led by Alexandre Parizeau, former MD of Ubisoft Toronto. I met him briefly on a trip to Ubi Montreal a few years back and he seems a good egg. 

  • EA’s decision to delay Battlefield 2042 by a month caused its share price to fall by some 7%. Worse may be to come: in 2018, a similar delay to Battlefield V prompted a hedge-fund exodus over the following months, causing stock in the publisher to fall 30%.

  • Yuji Naka has ‘gone indie’. He says he’s figuring out Unity and making a mobile game following the disappointing response to Balan Wonderworld. I continue to think that was harsh — it’s not a good game, sure, but it’s sure as hell no Yaiba either. The big publishers tend to hit a reasonable minimum standard these days; when something falls short of that I suppose a dunking is inevitable. Ho hum.


That’s it for today, and for a week that has been tremendously busy and very rewarding, but which I am thoroughly glad to see the back of. I am bloody knackered. Have an excellent weekend, and I’ll see you on the flip.

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