When we were school kids, my brother and I were co-owners of a new Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48K, with four-bit colour, tinny sound through a little speaker, and a little rubber keyboard.
Many summer's days were spent in the living room with the curtains drawn, the windows open, and the spectrum plugged into the TV. A year or two too young for the birds and the bees, we played games like the one where you steered a bee from flower to flower, dodging birds, getting heavier and less manoeuvrable the more nectar you collected. We played Manic Miner and Jet Set Willy. We played AtticAtac, Knightlore, Sabre Wulf and Alien-8 in lurid colour. We played Stonkers and Pentetrator, The Way of the Exploding Fist, Chuckie Egg and Airwolf, The Hobbit and The Lords of Midnight, and Harrier Flight Simulator.
This all came about via a trading network at school. When someone got a new game, as they came on audio cassette, he would make copies and trade them. This being an analogue system, the generation of the copies was important, since copies too far removed from the original would not work. Aside from hoarders who refused to trade on equal terms, and the occasional scuffles and "my computer's better than your computer" arguments with the commodore VIC-20-owning crowd, we spectrum kids were doing all right.
For the game Jetpac, we worked out that there was no penalty and lots of benefit to your little spaceman firing continuously, so we ended up weighting down that key with a paperweight balanced on a rhombus-shaped ashtray. That little grey plastic key was never the same again.
One afternoon we got hold of the latest game, the much-anticipated Daley Thompson's Decathlon. Oh the hours of fun that we were going to have! However, within a few minutes we realised that the gameplay consisted of this, and this only: how many times could you press a particular key in a given period of time. Delicate steering, split-second timing, puzzle-solving, figuring out a route to avoid all the deathtraps on the screen, working out how to stop Thorin sitting down and singing about gold? Forget it, all this game wanted to know is how fast you could make like a frantic wanker, jerking your arm up and down like an onanist in convulsions.
Take away the fancy picture of a man trundling along the screen, his legs flapping and his body immobile, and I could almost have coded it back then. Despite not having paid money for the game, we still felt cheated. It was total crap, and very soon discarded.