Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Thursday 30/10/2003It's a bit like going to Brighton on a bank holiday and finding the beach festooned with mods and rockers. Reports arrive that "New Hampshire, USA, gaming superstar Donald Haynes" has just broken the world Dig-Dug record, taking four hours forty minutes to rack up a score of 4,388,520 points.

Thursday 30/10/2003
It's a bit like going to Brighton on a bank holiday and finding the beach festooned with mods and rockers. Reports arrive that "New Hampshire, USA, gaming superstar Donald Haynes" has just broken the world Dig-Dug record, taking four hours forty minutes to rack up a score of 4,388,520 points. The previous record of 4,211,920 points was held for three years by "Canadian gaming superstar Dwayne Richard, who achieved notoriety for becoming the first player to pass the four-million point barrier on this arcade classic." You can read a painfully detailed commentary on the whole thrilling event at the Twin Galaxies gaming board  which also tells an awestruck world that Haynes now holds five videogaming records simultaneously, only the second person so to do.

Twenty years ago -- when Dig-Dug came out -- we knew that it was all a bit, well, spoddy. But it was all we had, we children of the new pixel: we shuddered at the thought that previous generations had to make do with fruit machines and pool, ping-pong contests in draughty church halls and bracing walks. But since then, clever people have invented better and prettier games. We chased eight by eight dot matrix monsters across sixteen colour screens to the sound of constipated robots playing the xylophone because we had to: two decades of engineering and invention have liberated us. So what possesses these ardent youngsters?

This eight-bit nostalgia is getting out of hand. There are bands touring the US playing Nintendo Game Boys, Atari consoles and Commodore 64s -- check out Treewave -- and not just backstage neither. Thousands of people attend retro gaming conventions, and the emulator scene chews through gigabytes of bandwidth. It would be harmless enough -- hell, even I've been known to brush up my AY-3-8910 programming skills to torture the sound chips in ancient computers -- except that in the distance, a tinny, sawtooth-waved bell is tolling for the whole scene.

Malcolm McLaren, that one-man strip-miner of subcultural seams, has stirred in his far-off cave and set forth, scenting fresh blood and homing in on the merchants of plink. Expect an album -- indecently suspended in the slaverings of a novelty-starved media like a Hirstian pickled cow -- next spring. If you still have a Spectrum in your front room, do the right thing and hide it away until a  bearable obscurity has once again settled over the whole sorry business.

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