I live in Nottingham. Ten years ago, that would have felt like a pointless confession. A statement that I'm neither rugged, sexy and friendly enough to be a Northerner, nor repulsive and pampered enough to be a cosseted, soggy Southerner. Just Nottingham: the bit of the Midlands that isn't defined by its accent. Until recently, it's never really felt defined by anything else, either. Nottingham. I mean, what even is it?
But there's been a strange reaction to Nottingham's absolute absence of a reputation - an urgently-marketed surge of council-funded feel-good, so stubbornly pushed that it feels like it's actually taking root. Ambivalent indifference, once the uniform attitude of locals and tourists alike, is having to share the bed with a mantra of local pride. Shops have appeared, selling mugs that say "Ayup, me duck". Anyone heard saying "Th'art a mard-arsed kid - e'll gie thee socks!" is presented with an EU grant for preserving local dialect. And after 10 years of GameCity cultivating a deserved reputation as the friendliest celebration of gaming culture, they've built the National Videogame Arcade.
One of the opening exhibitions is A History Of Videogames in 100 Objects. Now, I've written lists of a hundred things before, and I know how it goes - from 20 to 80, you're essentially putting anything in, just to make the numbers go up. But fair play to the curators. There are literally dozens, scores even, of interesting objects in the show. The problem is, they're not numbered. This severely limits the visitor's ability to say "I can't believe they put the Jet Set Willy DRM sheet at 22, and the Philips Videopac G7000 at 54. This list of a hundred things is completely biased and unscientific bulls***." Being angry at a list of a hundred things is what lists of a hundred things are about, you idiots.
Needless to say, I was furious at some of the items that weren't in the list. So, in my continuing mission to fix every aspect of the games industry by lobbing brilliant ideas at it unsolicited from the sidelines, here are some of the most important artefacts that the National Videogames Arcade is missing. I've even written up some little plaques, like you get in a proper museum. Please add them immediately, Nottingham, and forward me my standard consultancy fee of a big red rupee.
THIS HAND-DRAWN MAP I MADE OF THE FIRST LEVEL OF DUNGEON MASTER
This seminal work embodies the limitless human desire to understand the world, and how that works in tension with the constraints binding us by virtue of our profoundly finite amount of talent. It says "the brain abhors a mystery and yearns for order," just as loudly as it screams "oh my God, this is more work than I initially thought it was going to be - can I really be arsed?" Cartographers have been instrumental in making this vast planet comprehensible: but their diligent efforts will always struggle - and end, entirely - when there is a pizza downstairs.
THIS MIDI PORT
In deciding to own an Atari ST, I put myself on the wrong side of history. This MIDI port was all I had: a defiant last-ditch attempt to convince my Amiga-owning superiors that I had something of value that they lacked. "Ah," I would say. "But many of the bands in the modern pop parade use the Atari ST to make their catchy song music." No one replied, and without the internet, I could only continue bellowing out of my window. "Look, I've tricked my grandmother into thinking I can play The Entertainer on this electronic piano," I bellowed. "I didn't make the wrong choice. I am a savvy consumer."
THE POSTER THAT CAME WITH BARBARIAN
Barbarian: Ultimate Warrior was most notable for its controversial decapitations. No-one knew how watching a pixel-thick stream of arterial spray erupt from a neck stump would affect our children, and 30 years on it's quite possible we're still measuring the cost in lives. On a more personal level, Palace Software gave me a poster of Michael van Wijk - Wolf from Gladiator - and Page 3 girl, Maria Whittaker. This happened at a time when the puberty gun was just beginning to fire its hairy bullets into my bloodstream. This poster was a fork in the road for every boy my age: was I going to go gay for Wolf, and by extension, other UK Gladiators, such as Hunter and Rhino? Or was I going to sell my mother down the river, and become complicit in the sexist institution that is Page 3? Those were, and remain, the only two choices in male sexuality. Sucks to be straight, you monsters.
A HUNDRED PLAYABLE COPIES OF P***FLAPS
At any given moment, a thousand encrypted images of sex organs are sliding, unnoticed, through your body. Your most intimate areas are constantly chock-a-block with zeroes and ones that, if your body had the ability to decode them, would drive it mad with permanent arousal. The Sub-Humans In Turkey were channelling this future when they created P***flaps, a game where you increase the animation speed of a short porn loop by rapidly moving your joystick from left to right. This would finally cause people to mentally connect the concept of "joystick" and "penis", ensuring that no joystick round-up in any magazine in the 90s would not feature a photo-shoot of a woman dressed as a nun, looking shocked at a Kempston Competition Pro.
WANTED: MONTY MOLE
Ah, remember when games were free of politics? When you could just play a game without any concepts in that game relating implicitly or explicitly to the outside world? Monty Mole was just a fun platformer - one that made absolutely no reference to the hardships caused to working-class families by the pitiless anti-union, anti-community actions of the Tory government. No, politics in games is entirely modern, because it suits people to believe that everything important happened in their own period of sentience. I guess it's a bit like me thinking that climate change will probably make the world a terrible place to live at just about the same time as I'm about to die, so... you know, f**k it. I mean, I'm not having kids.
A GAME YOU LIKED IN THE PAST THAT DOESN'T BEAR UP TO MODERN SCRUTINY
It's not very good, is it? But my God, that game. You loved it at a time before you developed critical thinking. Games were magical to you back then. When you didn't know words like "hitbox", words that turned that magic into mechanics. You were negotiating a new world without the poisonous vocabulary you know today. So you play the game, your face fresh with optimism - but you've learned too much. The deep rut of your muscle memory is not ready to accept the archaic control scheme. You don't like the game, any more than you like what you've become.
There you go, Nottingham. Another slice of the world improved beyond recognition. I almost can't believe I've solved so many problems facing the games industry, and I still haven't been offered a job. I'm beginning to think I'm wasting my time.