As realistic as graphics are these days, it doesn’t seem unreasonable for games to bleed into our realities. I totally catch myself thinking “Wasn’t this stripper in GTA V?” all the time. (Not really. They didn’t have male strippers in GTA V.) But, even back in the 8-bit days of yore, I found games could make the trip from TV screen to waking life fairly easily. It isn’t the quality of the graphics, but the quality of the experience that triggers this effect. Games can be so completely immersive that their atmospheres (and their terrors) become inescapable. – Marie
In the mid-late 90s I lived with some friends in a converted bowling alley in Wellington, New Zealand. The building was about four floors high. We lived on the third floor. To get there, you could either take this rickety old freight elevator, that eventually broke down, or several flights of concrete stairs, usually half in the dark, because the lights didn’t always work.
Around that time I used to trade software and games with a few guys I knew, who were also into graphic design, 3D, making beeps and blips, gaming and internet stuff. In 1995 while I was still studying computer engineering, I started a zine up with a friend. We’d play Doom 2 over the LAN we built in my loft until our eyes bled.
It got to the point that I’d be playing so much that I started hallucinating Doom demons hiding from the corners of the stairwell when I walked down at night. At the bottom of the staircase was a large empty space and an entrance door to a auto body workshop – that one was always guaranteed to contain some hideous boss monster.
Interesting that even such a lo-fi game could have such a powerful effect on the mind. Mind you, I did also get addicted to Alley Cat on my dad’s IBM XT in the mid 80s while I was supposed to be studying for school exams… and before that, Gauntlet, and before that, Galaxian, and before that, Pong on Atari VCS…
Mike Hambleton is a designer and creative director living in San Francisco, where he works for a large international creative agency.
Mike moved to the US in 2013 after 15 years in Amsterdam and Paris. He followed his now wife Meg from his home town of Wellington, New Zealand, to Europe in 1998.
He grew up in rural areas until the age of 13, and for a time lived in an area with strong Maori cultural history, where he first learnt about the taniwha and other creatures that go bump in the night.
The first computer game he remembers playing was something with a light gun that no one else seems to remember on an Atari console, on the same black and white TV he watched Daktari. These days he’s mainly a casual Call of Duty player, working on improving his best killstreak to date of 11.
illustration by Rex Kare.