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As an 80s kid I was obsessed with gaming. But university, stress and life relegated my hobby to the backseat. After years in the wilderness, I'm back into video games. I don't just want to play games that remind of a happy youth though. I'm just as excited about games that take things forward, experiences that re-ignite that curiosity and fascination I had years ago.
I wasn't a total social recluse back in the day though. I was very active actually. I had fun in the sun with friends before partying hard into the night. I was your average London lad, except that I had a near-dangerous fascination with video games.
All my school report cards said ever said was: "bright, but off in the clouds." Little did they know, I wasn't off in the clouds but zipping at sonic speed through Green Hill Zone, or pulling a barrel roll during a fierce space battle, or contemplating my next bargain transfer signing for Halifax Town.
If I zoned out, even for a second, I was lost to a mind filled with pixels. Even when I knew I absolutely had to revise for an exam, I would find a way to play games while doing it. I remember studying up on biology with one eye on the textbook and the other on my PC running Champ Man 97/98.
I can trace it back further than that though. At primary school, I used to draw Sonic the Hedgehog levels for my friends to play through. I'd lay out the map and then scrawl a moving line indicating Sonic. They'd shout out "Jump!" or "Roll!" and I would draw Sonic doing it. I remember playing pretend with a boy called Oliver, and we were always Mario and Luigi investigating a haunted house. We'd jump on invisible goombas and run away from scary ghosts.
Gaming captured my imagination so early in my life. I saw it not just as a portal to another world, but something unique to me. Something I got better than adults ever could, or even other friends. I built connections with my video games, understanding their facets implicitly. It was almost like I was in a relationship with gaming. It felt exclusive and joyous.
I'm still not sure why I stopped gaming at university. I chose a course that I thought would follow in my parents' footsteps. In hindsight it's clearer to see I was making a mistake, but at the time I thought it was the right move.
The course demanded an absolute level of commitment, months of never-ending hard work. I tried to fit gaming in, sometimes plugging the few respites that came with a game or two, but eventually there just wasn't time. I had to put gaming to one side to ensure it didn't hinder my studies, and what was a childhood love quickly became an idle hobby and then a fading memory. I never truly forsook gaming, but for years it was barely a part of my life. I thought I had moved on.
Just as I was completing my time at university, I unfortunately grew very ill. I was forced to take years out to deal with my condition, and it was a testing period of my life. I spent many days lying in bed, miserable.
I slowly came to a realization that I had no interest in my chosen field. The one thing that got me through was gaming. It was what kept me happy. I decided I wanted it to be as big a part of my life as it was when I was a kid. One way to do that was to write about them.
Although your story won't be exactly like mine, I'm sure there is plenty of familiarity here. Or maybe, you are just like me, and felt forced to shun gaming during long and stressful parts of your life, but have come back with renewed vigour as it has burst its way into a part of mainstream life.
Here, I'm picking up on work started by Hedley Cook. Like he did previously, I'll be reviewing games as a Returning Gamer, but with my own particular spin on things. I'll be speaking to not only to those who've come back to gaming recently, but to gamers who remember being so passionate about it when they were younger and who want to claim back some part of that passion. I too want to resurrect those feelings, to play games that get me "lost in the clouds" all over again.
Here are my game reviews.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: