Just because I'm a bit posh doesn't mean I haven't known hardship. I might have gone to a school that had burrowed right up itself for the best part of 500 years, but that doesn't mean I haven't got scars. Technological mistakes know no class boundary. They haunt every family.
It's 1987 and we're standing in front of the three shelves of Betamax videos in Visions Rentals in Bedford. "Papa?" I ask. "Why must we choose from these, when others in the shop have so much more?" Father replies that that's simply the way it is, and that I must make the best of it. He pulls me tightly into his tweed jacket. Later I watch Lady and the Tramp for the second time.
It's 1992, it's evening and we're waiting for supper. "Father?" I ask. "May I have an Amiga or a console like the other children? It is time that our ailing BBC Master Compact were put out to pasture." Father replies that I may not. The BBC can only be replaced by whatever I use at school - to help with prep. "But what of games?" I'm simply told to make the best of it.
It was a familiar feeling then in the years that followed, when I would stand next to the solitary Acorn press shelf in WH Smiths reading their regulation four pages of games coverage each month. It would hurt me to hear other children with their Amiga Powers, CVGs and SEGA Powers frolicking around and saying unfamiliar, coarse words.
If you made the most of it, however, and believe me I did, an Acorn A3000 was a good machine to have. We got the very best of other platforms ported over, as well as some excellent homegrown stuff - the best of which made the leap the other way. To my memory the A3000 never helped me with my prep (which means 'homework' when translated from posh, by the way), but it did aid me in smuggling dirty pictures of Jo Guest into the school computer room - for which I was worshipped like a God.
Following on from my love of the BBC Micro, this then is the second chapter of the origin story that set me up as an Acorn acolyte. Wolverine's climactically ends with a battle on a cooling tower on Three Mile Island, but my own reaches its zenith at the 1994 Acorn User Show at Wembley. (And if you've seen that film, you'll know who had the better time.)
As we enter the Archimedes hall of fame, our attention should first be drawn by Zarch - a game written by Elite co-pilot David Braben, the future head Kinectimal tamer at Frontier. Every Acorn gamer knew Zarch because its demo, strangely called Lander, was packaged with most machines - and the wider world would later know it as Virus as it was ported up and off into the ether. It was a mercilessly hard game in which you attempted to control a notably Elite-looking green spaceship through the full remit of no less than three dimensions with (wait for it!) your mouse.
If you'll forgive the phrasing, the ship was bottom-propulsed, and you'd thrust your way over a limited patchwork view of the land below attempting to destroy the invaders turning your precious fields a nasty shade of red, taking out the occasional marquee-shaped structure on the ground for good measure.
Or at least you'd vaguely try. In truth, this being a game in which an involuntary hand-twitch could destroy your craft while it was still on the launch pad, I never really played the game properly. I was content to simply plummet through the sky and blow myself up in spectacular ways. Still though, Zarch was a true marvel of the times.
Another early Arch game, that I'm partially mentioning here because it rhymes, was Starch. You don't get many competitive/co-op laundry games these days (more's the pity), but Starch saw two peanut-headed manual workers, Harry and Dave, on a frantic clothes-cleaning night shift. Surrounded by levers, pulleys, timed washes, chutes and slidey bits, it was down to a pair of players to either help each other get their quotas, or deliberately jump ahead in the sequence of floor buttons being tapped or ropes being pulled to steal clean underwear from beneath the nose of the rival employee.
Every furious bout of washing and clothesline-pulling would end the same way though, with the worried pair of washers standing in front of the boss, and an evil rival with his hand on a trapdoor lever. What happened next? Well, let's just say that two decades later Eurogamer can exclusively reveal that Alan Sugar is nothing but a copycat fraudster.
Gosh, where next? Well, as noted earlier, the Archimedes was well serviced by ports from other systems. We got Cannon Fodder, Wolfenstein, Lemmings, Magic Pockets, James Pond, Sensi, Zool, Gods, Speedball 2, Populous, Flashback and the forgotten gem that is Manchester United in Europe - and secretly I feel that because our choice was so limited we probably ended up appreciating them all the more.
On the Archimedes, if there was a game you played it and you played it relentlessly. It simply didn't matter what the subject matter was. As such I became an expert at Jahangir Khan Squash, slammed my head on a slow-motion steering wheel repeatedly in Saloon Cars Deluxe, earned a fair few tricks in Omar Sharif's Bridge and learned to fly enough planes in MIG 29 and Chocks Away to forever curse me with an inverted mouse affliction.
Stunt Racer 2000 was where it was at though, a driving game that provided jollies almost on a par with the almighty Carmageddon, which would appear around five years later on the PC - the system to which I would later defect.
Stunt Racer had mountainous tracks that managed to go above and beyond even what TrackMania has produced in recent times; some would even undulate back and forth creating moments of freefall terror you could actively feel from gut-to-groin. Even better was its split-screen mode, which didn't so much let my brother and I merrily perform death-defying stunts together as allow us to choreograph the most ridiculous and spectacular deaths we could manage. It was our first exposure to in-game camera replays, and our tiny minds were blown every time we played.
From the same stable in 1994 came Star Fighter 3000, a game that saw a green spaceship blast away at the varied scenery of 3D worlds and asteroid belts. Like Stunt Racer before it, vertical scale was what made it magical - allowing you to blast higher and higher into the stratosphere until the sky turned black and the only noise was your engines and the lasers streaming past of enemies trying to keep up.
The feeling of diving back down again, knocking out a target building and watching the resultant explosion kicking off sequences of destruction in the structures around it really was pretty magical. You might have played the sloppy Acclaim ports on the PlayStation and Saturn, but I can assure you that these are rubbish in comparison. If folklore is to be believed then the 3DO version is the greatest, but the venerable Acorn isn't far behind.
Yes, the Acorn was a gaming backwater. I'm not going to deny it. Like most tepid shallow pools though, there was a ton of interesting stuff growing in it and occasionally some great stuff floating in from elsewhere if the wind was in the right direction. My Acorn gaming habit was in a gated community, but I'm oddly proud of my hectic spanner-chucks in Mad Professor Mariarti, spherical space platforming in Fervour and mushroom tree destruction in Apocalypse. God bless the Archimedes. For the middle classes shall not see her like again. Amen.
You can all start calling me a posh nob for owning an Archimedes now.
Images and video courtesy of Vanpeebles' Acorn Games Video Archive.