This bizarre little window into my tiny eight-year-old mind must have been a task set by Mr Geraghty for the whole class, because there’s no way I’d have written about something as boring as my own life if I didn’t have to. But he asks us to write about a time when we were happiest, and my answer’s quite revealing in terms of what actually made me tick. What’s immediately noticeable is that I don’t actually talk about a time when I was happy. If I were to think back to my childhood now, I can think of lots of things I did then that made me very happy - I loved watching Doctor Who and playing outside with my friends. I liked staying with my Gran at weekends and going on holiday with her to Blackpool every August Bank Holiday. I loved eating sweets and ice cream, reading comics and books, riding my bike and, naturally, I loved writing, drawing and coming up with really stupid ideas. But for some reason, I’ve decided to say the time I was happiest was when I got a crappy little hand-held electronic game by Mattel Electronics called Battlestar Galactica Space Alert. Not the time I went to Clarke Hall or the time a whole class full of kids helped me make a huge powder painting of Captain Starlight. Not the time I went to see Superman the Movie with Louise Harrison or the time Wayne Townend played me Grobschnitt. No, it was the time my Mum and Dad bought me this crappy little black box with little red LED blips on it that let you collide little red LED blips with other little red LED blips. Twenty times and it was finished. It’s all very sad. It’s all so acquisitive. One thing I’ve noticed about this little version of me, looking back on him, is that there were so many pressures piling on me from all sides, continually, to buy things, and I caved in to all of them. My parents didn’t have much money so that wasn’t often possible, which is why I made my own fun. But I must have been a constant pain in the arse, pestering and pleading and manipulating my family into spending money on books, toys, comics, sweets, crisps, drinks, chocolate, Star Wars bedspreads, Airfix models, football boots, digital watches and now suddenly hand-held electronic games. It’s all about getting things, more and more things. And I’d love to let myself off the hook by just blaming the advertisers, but come on. I liked stuff. If you’d asked me not about when I was happiest in the past but when I expected to be happiest in the future, I’d probably have said it would be when I had the most stuff. It’s not even really about the time I got it, or who got it for me. Mum and Dad bought me the game for the Christmas just gone, which I wrote about in quite some detail back in January. But this isn’t about that time, or how grateful I should have been to my parents. This is about me describing, in relatively minute detail for an eight-year-old, what this box looks like and how it works. It doesn’t sound like I’m particularly happy about it either. It’s just some boy droning on about a crappy little machine. Are you convinced I was happiest when I got this game? Because I’m not. Then again - this thing I was talking about wasn’t just a thing. It was an activity, and a pretty new activity at that. I already had quite a few mechanical hand-held games like Pocketeers (which I genuinely have much fonder memories of), but this Space Alert game was something new. It was much closer to the Space Invaders machines I was able to play in the arcades in Blackpool. The graphics weren’t as good - if you could call the tiny red lines graphics - but this was basically, in some small way, like having your very own Space Invaders machine in the palm of your hand. And looked at like that, it’s not just an activity but a portal - a window into a new pastime which, over the course of the next few decades, was going to overtake music, films and TV as the entertainment medium of choice for whole new generations of people all across the world. This is the beginning of video games. And not just any video games but ones you can play at home, or wherever you feel like playing them. It took me quite a while to realise I was a gamer. Lack of money and time and resources all conspired to keep me away from video games for many, many years, but it wasn’t until the late 1990s, when my wife Katy tried to coax me out of a depression by buying me a second hand PlayStation and a copy of Tomb Raider 2, that I fell in love with them. I’ve had the same Xbox gamertag since 2006. My current Gamerscore is 62,122, which isn’t insane after 16 years - I don’t play games completely to the detriment of my health - but I have been known to lose months of my life to these things on occasion. I’m looking at you, Red Dead Redemption 2. (And at the time of writing this, Elden Ring is giving it a serious run for its money.) What I’m saying should be clear. I like video games. A lot. And they’ve been known to lift me out of depression. So it shouldn’t really be a surprise when I look back at my English book from 1980 and see a little essay about why my first ever hand-held video game made me happier than anything else I’d ever known. But look again. This isn’t really about how great the game is after all. This isn’t about me being happy playing the game in April 1980 or at any time since I got the game four months prior. This is about how happy I was when I actually got hold of it. It was the thrill of receiving the game, of finally having it in my hands after what might have been months of prayer and anticipation, that made me happiest. I’d wanted the game since I saw it in my friend’s Argos catalogue after all. I’d even gone as far as making a mock-up of the game from paper and Sellotape, like some kind of voodoo effigy that might cajole the gods into bringing me the real thing. And when I got it in my sweaty mitts, it must have been amazing. All that effort finally paying off. So in the end, it’s quite a sad piece, this. Not only do I turn out to be completely hollow, soulless, ungrateful, acquisitive and greedy, I’m also prone to magical thinking and I’m not so much interested in the things I want as I am in the dopamine rush when I get them. If I was happiest in December, I’ve obviously been less happy for four months, which doesn’t bode well if I want to avoid a life of endless thrill-seeking, chasing bigger and bigger highs as I fall headfirst into a bottomless pit of alcohol, gambling, porn and drugs. And to cap it all, I can’t even spell ‘theirselves’ or ‘swith’. No wonder Mr Geraghty made me randomly re-spell them thrice each, for the first time ever! I clearly needed extra punishment after such a display of carelessness and avarice. In the end? I don’t think the Mattel game made me happiest at all. I had much more fun with the Micronauts Battle Cruiser I got the same Christmas, and 1979 wasn’t even the best Christmas. I think I was just obsessed with Space Alert that particular week, so I had it at school with me, and when Mr Geraghty gave us the assignment, writing about it - and, to a greater extent, drawing it - was the perfect excuse to get it out and start playing it in class. And there you go. Not particularly happy or sad, just any excuse to turn a decent day’s work into a massive round of slacking off. Some things never change…
When I Was Happiest
Ceremonies For Sale School Rules Football The Micronauts: The Return of Supersilver Apeth (frum Ota Sbees) Exploring the Underworld When I Was Happiest Plant Description The Money Shop: Part 1 The Money Shop: Part 2 Moses and the Pharaoh Ideas for Sports The Money Shop: Part 3 Watch: Cocoa The Horrible Black Friday Waen Shepherd’s Run I Do Not Like… My Wellington Boots I Am John McEnroe Police Horses My Name is Alice Captain Kremmen: The Cat Soldiers Andrew’s Body Area Star Wars: Revenge of the Jedi Summer Scaredy Cat Goes to the Dentist’s Judge Dredd: The Shape Changers Apeth Returns The Phantom Strikes Again Grate Rubbing Starkiller Captain Shepherd The Origin of Tomato Man Copy Writing & Exercises
HELP ME KEEP THIS WEBSITE ALIVE
Happy Easter! A home made Easter card I made for my Mum and Dad
Grobschnitt’s Page Meet Grobschnitt, the dome-headed Harbinger of Mischief
Apeth (from Ota Sbees) Ritern ov thu perpal geriller
TERM 3 1980 continues with the embassy siege and The Empire Strikes Back
Puzzlemaster Help Puzzlemaster escape the clutches of the Martian spacelords!
Captain Starlight Know your Starlight superheroes with this amazing fact file!
The Yellyog Gang Meet my latest hideous bunch of nutty nightmare fuellers
Christmas 1979 Can Waen last the night without opening his presents?
Great Space Battles Three mighty empires take their first steps into outer space
Waen Shepherd 2 Waen’s heroic antics in the far-flung future of 2007 AD!
Ward’s 7 John Ward and his band of rebels fight the evil Federation
Superman the Movie Souvenir programme from when I went to the pictures with Louise
The Fugitive A man runs - but who is he? And what is he running from?
The Flame in the Desert An evil fire threatens the safety of the world
Tedosaurus Prehistoric fun with a teddy bear the size of a dinosaur!
Apeth Badly-spelt high-jinks with a purple gorilla from outer space!
Captain Carnivore Gary Shepherd is hunted down by a deadly flying meteor
Super Jesus A special pin-up of your favourite Nazarene webslinger
Giant Karza! Arch-enemy of the Micronauts grows to super size!
When I Was
Happiest
This bizarre little window into my tiny eight-year-old mind must have been a task set by Mr Geraghty for the whole class, because there’s no way I’d have written about something as boring as my own life if I didn’t have to. But he asks us to write about a time when we were happiest, and my answer’s quite revealing in terms of what actually made me tick. What’s immediately noticeable is that I don’t actually talk about a time when I was happy. If I were to think back to my childhood now, I can think of lots of things I did then that made me very happy - I loved watching Doctor Who and playing outside with my friends. I liked staying with my Gran at weekends and going on holiday with her to Blackpool every August Bank Holiday. I loved eating sweets and ice cream, reading comics and books, riding my bike and, naturally, I loved writing, drawing and coming up with really stupid ideas. But for some reason, I’ve decided to say the time I was happiest was when I got a crappy little hand- held electronic game by Mattel Electronics called Battlestar Galactica Space Alert. Not the time I went to Clarke Hall or the time a whole class full of kids helped me make a huge powder painting of Captain Starlight. Not the time I went to see Superman the Movie with Louise Harrison or the time Wayne Townend played me Grobschnitt. No, it was the time my Mum and Dad bought me this crappy little black box with little red LED blips on it that let you collide little red LED blips with other little red LED blips. Twenty times and it was finished. It’s all very sad. It’s all so acquisitive. One thing I’ve noticed about this little version of me, looking back on him, is that there were so many pressures piling on me from all sides, continually, to buy things, and I caved in to all of them. My parents didn’t have much money so that wasn’t often possible, which is why I made my own fun. But I must have been a constant pain in the arse, pestering and pleading and manipulating my family into spending money on books, toys, comics, sweets, crisps, drinks, chocolate, Star Wars bedspreads, Airfix models, football boots, digital watches and now suddenly hand-held electronic games. It’s all about getting things, more and more things. And I’d love to let myself off the hook by just blaming the advertisers, but come on. I liked stuff. If you’d asked me not about when I was happiest in the past but when I expected to be happiest in the future, I’d probably have said it would be when I had the most stuff. It’s not even really about the time I got it, or who got it for me. Mum and Dad bought me the game for the Christmas just gone, which I wrote about in quite some detail back in January. But this isn’t about that time, or how grateful I should have been to my parents. This is about me describing, in relatively minute detail for an eight-year-old, what this box looks like and how it works. It doesn’t sound like I’m particularly happy about it either. It’s just some boy droning on about a crappy little machine. Are you convinced I was happiest when I got this game? Because I’m not. Then again - this thing I was talking about wasn’t just a thing. It was an activity, and a pretty new activity at that. I already had quite a few mechanical hand-held games like Pocketeers (which I genuinely have much fonder memories of), but this Space Alert game was something new. It was much closer to the Space Invaders machines I was able to play in the arcades in Blackpool. The graphics weren’t as good - if you could call the tiny red lines graphics - but this was basically, in some small way, like having your very own Space Invaders machine in the palm of your hand. And looked at like that, it’s not just an activity but a portal - a window into a new pastime which, over the course of the next few decades, was going to overtake music, films and TV as the entertainment medium of choice for whole new generations of people all across the world. This is the beginning of video games. And not just any video games but ones you can play at home, or wherever you feel like playing them. It took me quite a while to realise I was a gamer. Lack of money and time and resources all conspired to keep me away from video games for many, many years, but it wasn’t until the late 1990s, when my wife Katy tried to coax me out of a depression by buying me a second hand PlayStation and a copy of Tomb Raider 2, that I fell in love with them. I’ve had the same Xbox gamertag since 2006. My current Gamerscore is 62,122, which isn’t insane after 16 years - I don’t play games completely to the detriment of my health - but I have been known to lose months of my life to these things on occasion. I’m looking at you, Red Dead Redemption 2. (And at the time of writing this, Elden Ring is giving it a serious run for its money.) What I’m saying should be clear. I like video games. A lot. And they’ve been known to lift me out of depression. So it shouldn’t really be a surprise when I look back at my English book from 1980 and see a little essay about why my first ever hand-held video game made me happier than anything else I’d ever known. But look again. This isn’t really about how great the game is after all. This isn’t about me being happy playing the game in April 1980 or at any time since I got the game four months prior. This is about how happy I was when I actually got hold of it. It was the thrill of receiving the game, of finally having it in my hands after what might have been months of prayer and anticipation, that made me happiest. I’d wanted the game since I saw it in my friend’s Argos catalogue after all. I’d even gone as far as making a mock-up of the game from paper and Sellotape, like some kind of voodoo effigy that might cajole the gods into bringing me the real thing. And when I got it in my sweaty mitts, it must have been amazing. All that effort finally paying off. So in the end, it’s quite a sad piece, this. Not only do I turn out to be completely hollow, soulless, ungrateful, acquisitive and greedy, I’m also prone to magical thinking and I’m not so much interested in the things I want as I am in the dopamine rush when I get them. If I was happiest in December, I’ve obviously been less happy for four months, which doesn’t bode well if I want to avoid a life of endless thrill-seeking, chasing bigger and bigger highs as I fall headfirst into a bottomless pit of alcohol, gambling, porn and drugs. And to cap it all, I can’t even spell ‘theirselves’ or ‘swith’. No wonder Mr Geraghty made me randomly re-spell them thrice each, for the first time ever! I clearly needed extra punishment after such a display of carelessness and avarice. In the end? I don’t think the Mattel game made me happiest at all. I had much more fun with the Micronauts Battle Cruiser I got the same Christmas, and 1979 wasn’t even the best Christmas. I think I was just obsessed with Space Alert that particular week, so I had it at school with me, and when Mr Geraghty gave us the assignment, writing about it - and, to a greater extent, drawing it - was the perfect excuse to get it out and start playing it in class. And there you go. Not particularly happy or sad, just any excuse to turn a decent day’s work into a massive round of slacking off. Some things never change…
Bonfire Night Waen’s first time at the annual village fireworks display
Captain Carnivore Gary Shepherd is hunted down by a deadly flying meteor
Super Jesus A special pin-up of your favourite Nazarene webslinger
HELP ME KEEP THIS WEBSITE ALIVE
Grobschnitt’s Page Meet Grobschnitt, the dome-headed Harbinger of Mischief
Apeth (from Ota Sbees) Ritern ov thu perpal geriller
TERM 3 1980 continues with the embassy siege and The Empire Strikes Back
Puzzlemaster Help Puzzlemaster escape the clutches of the Martian spacelords!
Captain Starlight Know your Starlight superheroes with this amazing fact file!
The Yellyog Gang Meet my latest hideous bunch of nutty nightmare fuellers