Memoirs of Memoirs of a Spectrum Addict (@SpectrumAddict)

Memoirs of a Spectrum Addict is a full-length documentary by Andy Remic, chronicling the life of the humble ZX Spectrum through the eyes of its designer, journalists, games, developers and fans. After a successful Kickstarter in 2015, two years of filming and editing, the digital version is now available to purchase and download, with the physical release to follow.

The film’s chapters are introduced by a neat Spectrum LOADing SCREEN$ display of the title – which sounds clichéd but works quite well. What doesn’t work so well is the 80s intermissions, or “dramatic re-enactments” such as swapping games in school or going to bed thinking about the Spectrum. I can see the attempt to set the scene better than a voice-over, but they end up being very distracting and somewhat more like am-dramatic re-enactments unfortunately.

Each chapter contains a nicely edited sequence of interviews from the main protagonists. There are plenty of familiar and knowledgeable faces – including the eccentric and ever-green Oliver Twins (who I believe are still linked via serial cable), the restrained Simon Butler, football star Kevin Toms, the statesmanlike Roger Kean (alongside Oli Frey whose amazing artwork adorns the film), and the effervescent Jim Bagley. What does ensure that the same Speccy paths aren’t retrodden is the introduction of other contributors that are somewhat unique on screen: The velvet Mevlut Dinc, forthright Mark Jones, cheeky chap Richard Stevenson, Clive “Pint of Bitter” Townsend and the clever use of fans such as Mark “Lord Arse!” Howlett.

There are few niggles though:

The technical information voice-over at the start is so very dry. I’m not sure it’s needed, or adds anything. Maybe a more flowery introduction would have been better suited and the technical jargon kept for the booklet to accompany the physical release?

Secondly, the contextual display of games and other information is very sporadic. Random characters walk the screen and you occasionally see the games in discussion (but why the sound effects are kept to beep over voices is strange) but in other places these aide-mémoire are missing altogether. The biggest example of this is when Rick Dickenson discusses the design elements of the machine, each nuance, curve, and reason for its shape and construction – and we never see the computer at all.

Thirdly, the chronology of the film seems to have slipped from the structure offered in the Kickstarter. This was something that From Bedrooms to Billions did brilliantly – plotting the timeline, the rise and the fall and the rise (ish) of the British industry. From discussing piracy (a nice chapter) and the magazines, Memoirs jumps back to the start and asks how each of the talking heads actually got into the industry. The main runners and riders, and the twists and turns of the machine are never really discussed. Imagine? Ultimate? Gremlin? Ocean? US Gold? The Amstrad purchase? The decline? All missing.

Finally, there’s one major issue. The games. Where are they? That’s really what the Spectrum was all about, and the main focus for all these chapters throughout the film. It was fundamentally a games machine and it’s why we loved it, why it was such a huge success and why it retains such a fondness and following. I really wanted to see and hear more about those titles that we played, swapped, pirated and coveted.

All in all though, I really enjoyed the film. There’s a distinct variation in picture and audio quality, and I have my gripes but we must remember that this is a fan production at the end of the day. Andy and team have poured a lot of their persona and soul into the making of it and there’s some lovely touches; the out-takes, for example, and the wonderful Steve Turner playing an acoustic rendition of the Dragontorc theme tune.

There’s also the promised additional material to look forward to, hopefully with some edited-out contributors (more of Simon Butler too please) and more of the “Making Of” content. But, with the standard film at just over 2 hours long it’s well worth the money.

Oh, and I want to meet the Oliver Twins elder brother and find out what happened to Ocean’s unreleased Batman: The Adventure!


Memoirs of a Spectrum Addict is available to buy now from Remic Films.

Follow Andy Remic on Twitter via @AndyRemic, and the film @SpectrumAddict.

If you need convincing further, then a 12 minute taster is also available here.

The Cream Crackers

22 Carver Street, Sheffield was the address of Just Micro, an independent computer game shop remembered for being much more than a retailer of games. It was a youth club, a community centre and a games space. It was a place where teenagers would hang out for the entire day, playing games, talking games and discussing how to program games.

This ethos wasn’t a mistake and it didn’t happen by accident. It was the environment that founders Ian Stewart and Kevin Norburn fostered, and made Just Micro an iconic location and the “go to” computer game shop in Sheffield.

The Demoscene

One of the products of the shop’s ecosystem was a group of young programmers who called themselves “The Cream Crackers”. They didn’t make games, but instead created standalone demonstration programs for the Commodore 64 computer showcasing their programming, artistic and musical skills.

The “Crackers” were Berni Hill, Paul Gregory, Scott Guest, Mike Lister and Vincent Paggiossi, respectively known as Berni, Greggs, Mule, The Claw and Pag. A fifth member, Peter Lawless was also part of the team.

[Above: Mega Jive, one of the demos created by The Cream Crackers with a very long scrolling message that contains a shout-out to Sheffield’s Just Micro.]

Tony Casson was one of Just Micro’s first “Saturday lads” recalls the Just Micro atmosphere and the demo groups: “As for them coming in, there was a group of us that use to go in after school, and if honest sometimes when we should have been at school. There was a group of about ten or so regulars. Some young ones but I think Pag was probably the oldest. There was another older lad, I think his name was Lennie – he was the grand master at Boulderdash. At first, it was almost a game swap location where we would all swap and copy games off each other.

Even when I worked there, the same gang would come in after school and even after some had started working, this was pretty much daily for many. At times, it was more like a youth club, with selling some games on the side. Saying that, it gave Just Micro a great atmosphere, there was always some of them in the shop. Many would just offer advice to other customers.”

The Employables

Berni, Mike, Paul and Scott graduated from the demoscene into working for Gremlin Graphics – Berni Hill and Paul Gregory as artists and Mike Lister and Scott Guest as a programmers. They worked together on several Gremlin titles in the late 80s and early 90s including Zool, Dark Fusion and Footballer of the Year 2.

[Above: Dark Fusion, Scott “Mule” Guest’s first game for Gremlin aided by fabulous artwork from Berni “Berni” Hill]

Tony remembers the Cream Crackers’ transition upstairs from the Just Micro shop floor, to the offices of Gremlin: “Bernie got his chance at Gremlin, and Greggs worked in the shop with me. I remember him doing some work for one of the demos and I think he managed to get a trial at Gremlin on the back of it. Scott was very similar, and he got a trial through another demo. If I remember correctly he was always a star on the coding front and I swear he mentioned ‘catching a raster’ every other sentence.”

 

 

 

 

British Summer Time and Circle with Disney (@meetcircle)

One word of note if you have imported a fantastic Circle with Disney device to help manage your children’s internet consumption at home – you’ll need to adjust any time settings that you have made for British Summer Time.

The time servers that Circle uses must be US based and not take into account BST. So, make sure you allow for the time differentials in setting weekend, bedtimes, etc.

A Gremlin in the Twerks

No, not the Yorkshire version of A Gremlin in the Works, but a Twitter guide to contributors and other persons of interest who resides on the soapbox social media platform.

Gremlins

Ian Stewart (@IanStewart10)
Jenny Richards (@wigjceo)
Peter Harrap (@montymoleharrap)
Tony Crowther (@Ratt2007)
Carl Cavers (@TurboCarlos)
Richard Stevenson (@rs6060)
Dave Kirk (@DesktopGamer)
Steve Lycett (@S0LSUM0)
Graeme Ing (@GraemeIng)
Ritchie Brannan (@Icabod66)
Neil Goodman (@sefless)
Marc Silk (@marcsilk)
Rob Toone (@VoodooChief)
Tim Heaton (@TimAtCA)
Kevin Crossley (@KevfCrossley)
Phil Wright (@PhilWright62)
Damian Hibbard (@titaniumHog)
Andy Ritson (@GremlinAndy)
Ian Richardson (@vectorboro)
Jacob Habgood (@jacobmph)
Darren Mills (@d2mls)
Travis Ryan (@travisxuryan)
Alan Coltman (@coltmaninov)
Joe Chetcuti (@joechetcuti)
Steve McKevitt (@StevenMcKevitt)
Andrew Fox (@_andyfox_)
Kim Blake (@LynxKim)
Simon Phipps (@simorph)
James Sutherland (@jamessutherland)
Philip Bak (@niinegames)
Jeremy Heath-Smith (@Jezzahs)
Paul Beech (@guru)
Ruth Bartles (@Auntyruth)
Jason Perkins (@PerkyUK)
Chris Shrigley (@Chigley)
Jamie Woodhouse (@mrqwak)
Paul Porter (@SumoDBoy)
Mark Sample (@marksample)

Alligata Software

Ross Goodley (@EinionYrth)

Micro Projects Limited

Anthony Clarke (@anthonyjclarke)
Phil Harrison (@MrPhilHarrison)

Magnetic Fields

Andrew Morris (@Mowian)

Krisalis Sofware

Roger Womack (@rwomack)
Simeon Pashley (@simeonpashley)

The Warp Factory

Ed Campbell (@SuminellStudios)

221b

Dave Vout (@DaveVout)

Imagitec Design

Lance Abson (@iphonegamesapps)
Barry Leitch (@BarryLeitch)

DMA Design

Dave Jones (@MrLemmings)
Gary Penn (@GaryPenn)
Brian Baglow (@flackboy)
Steve Hammond (@snap2grid)
Mike Dailly (@mdf200)

US Gold

Tim Chaney (@timchaney09)

Novotrade Software

Antal Zolnai (@tonizolnai)

Micro Power / Program Power

Christopher Payne (@effortfreelife)

Boys without Brains (@bwbgames)

Alternative Software (@AlternSoftware)

Roger Hulley (@RogerDHulley)

NAPS Team (@NapsTeam)

Infogrames

Lee Kirton (@Leearigold)
Bruno Bonnell (@BrunoBonnellOff)
Sean Millard (@PoonyHooman)

The Designers Republic

Ian Anderson (@ianTDR)

Peter Andrew Jones Art Studio (@pajartstudio)

Others

Mark Green (@markwearsgreen)
David Rowe (@DJRowe)
Roger Kean (@Gallienus85)
Violet Berlin (@VioletBerlin)
Gremlin Presents (@GremlinPresents)
Andy Payne (@PercyBlakeney63)
Gary Bracey (@gbracey)
Chris Mann (@mann_music)
Lizi Attwood (@LiziAttwood)
Glyn Williams (@Carniphage)

 

 

A Gremlin in the Works – Expansion Disk Contributors (July 2017)

“A Gremlin in the Works”, published by Bitmap Books has what I believe to be the most comprehensive list of contributors to the Gremlin Graphics story than ever before.

The list includes many key personalities that have never been interviewed before or talked Gremlin before, including Kevin Norburn, Chris Kerry, Jenny Richards and Bruno Bonnell.

After publication of the hardback, I have continued to collect resources and to interview more former employees of the great company when the opportunity arose. These interviews are being collected in The Expansion Disk – an electronic addendum, free to all of those who purchased the original hardback.

The Expansion Disk

Steve Marsden (Gremlin Lincoln)
David Martin (Licensing Director)
Mark Gallagher (The Warp Factory)
Ed Campbell (The Warp Factory)
Stuart Cook (Twilight Software)
Andy Payne OBE (Mastertronic, The Producers)
Alex Syrichas (Programmer)
Glyn Williams (Particle Systems)
David Bracher (Artist)
Graeme Ing (Programmer)
David Palmer (Alligata, Alternative, Hi-Tec)
Peter Frith (Alligata)
Fabio Capone (NAPS Team)
Domenico Barba
(NAPS Team)

Along with the contributors to the print version:

The founding fathers

Kevin Norburn
Ian Stewart

Monty Moles

Antony Crowther
Peter Harrap
Shaun Hollingworth
Chris Kerry

The Gremlins

George Allan
Ashley Bennett
Sarah Bennett
Neil Biggin
Paul Blythe
Steve Camber
Adrian Carless
Tony Casson
Carl Cavers
Joe Chetcuti
Richard Costello
Ben Daglish
Colin “Fungus T. Bogeyman” Dooley
Andrew Findlay
Andrew Fox
Stuart Gregg
Jacob Habgood
Jeremy Heath-Smith
Tim Heaton
Damian Hibbard
Paul Hiley
Greg Holmes
Tony Kavanagh
David Kirk
Wayne Laybourn
Steve Lycett
Ricki Martin
James North-Hearn
Jason Perkins
Pat Phelan
Simon Phipps
Phil Plunkett
Jenny Richards
Ian Richardson
Mark Rogers
Christian Shrigley
Les Spink
Richard Stevenson
Patrick Strassen
Tony Wills
Phil Wright

Micro Projects

Anthony Clarke

Magnetic Fields

Andrew Morris
Shaun Southern

Dollarsoft

Philip Durbidge

Camel Advertising

Richard Bridgwater

Wizard Development

Malcolm Gillott

Alligata

Peter Frith

Krisalis Software

Matthew Furniss

U.S. Gold

Geoff Brown
Tim Chaney

Micro Power

Christopher Payne

Quicksilva

Rod Cousens CBE
David Rowe

DMA Design

Mike Dailly
Steve Hammond
Gary Penn
Chris Stamp

Imagitec

Barry Leitch

Astros Productions

George Karboulonis

Boys Without Brains

Mario van Zeist

Novotrade

Antal Zolnai

Newsfield Publications

Roger Kean

Infogrames

Bruno Bonnell
Sean Millard

Others

Lizi Attwood
Peter Andrew Jones
Violet Berlin
Chris Box
Matthew Clark
Will Frost
Simon Hallam
Ian Harling
Patrick Titley
Andy Turner
Glyn Williams

With thanks

Chris Ash
Jonathan Beales
Andy Brown
Martyn Carroll
Anthony and Nicola Caulfield
Charles Cecil MBE
John Darnell
Mat Dolphin
Sam Dyer
Frank Gasking
Mark Green
Ric Lumb
Simon Marston
Dave Moore
Jason Moore
Paul Morrison
Jonathan Needle
Andy Payne OBE
Gordon Sinclair
Gerard Sweeney

“Germans of future generations will honour Herr Hitler as a genius” -Mahatma Gandhi

Some intriguing excepts from Blood, Tears and Folly authored by Len Deighton that I am currently reading. The book delivers thought-provoking opinions laying the appeasement blame on French officer Gamelin instead of British PM Chamberlain and is highly critical of the BEF’s actions on the continent.

For the excepts, read as follows, lain as German troops swept westward across Europe:

“… in the Indian newspaper Harijan on 22 June, Mahatma Gandhi wrote ‘Germans of future generations will honour Herr Hitler as a genius, as a brave man, a matchless organiser and much more.”

“The democratically elected government of Denmark, which the Germans had kept in place, allowed gratitude to overcome its respect for democracy and announced: ‘The great German victories, which have caused astonishment and admiration all over the world, have brought a new era in Europe, which will result in a new order in a political and economic sense, under the Leadership of Germany.'”

“The Aga Khan cast aside his feelings about alcohol and promised to drink a bottle of champagne ‘when the Fuhrer sleeps in Windsor Castle.'”

More time with Circle with Disney (@meetcircle)

It’s been around two weeks since I installed a Circle with Disney device at home and so far it has been a flawless experience.]

Filtering

I’ve done a few more tests of the kids filtering, and have made use of the pause button as a bargaining chip with two unruly daughters!

img_9977

Of course, no filtering is 100% perfect, but so far, so good with Circle. All of the terms I tried under pornography, drugs and violence were blocked. As you can see from the above device test, a filter page appears when accessing a restricted website. The filter restrictions are in conjunction with the Circle working well to enforce Google Safe Searching at all times. Great stuff.

Technical Support

I’ve contacted technical support a couple of times via Twitter and e-mail and have received prompt replies both times. At the moment I’m awaiting a more in-depth look at how the filtering works on the device and what lists/algorithms the device pulls from. I’ll post that once I get a reply.

In the meantime, more information on the filter levels can be found here, and how to set custom filtering on websites and mobile apps here. You can gradually adjust and tweak the filters as you see fit.

EDIT (24/12/2016) I received an update from Circle about their filtering databases: “‘We work with third parties for part of our filtering database, and we modify what we have for our own purposed on a case-by-case basis. This is especially true for the platform filtering.’“.

Feature Requests

There area  few things I’d like to see implemented.

  1. Warnings 1: Though I accessed a restricted website on one device I couldn’t find a warning to the main Circle hub that I’d done so? Perhaps enabling push notifications, a red warning icon on the profile avatar on the home page, or perhaps at least a red highlight on the “insights” history page. (NB Filtered pages are shown in a useful “filtered” view on the history page).
  2. Warnings 2: Perhaps even move the “filtered” pages to become a separate option on its own under insights. I’m sure this would be very useful for parents to analyse what has been going on? If Circle can further categorise each website it would make for a more clearer, concise and simple way of browsing links – rather than the website URL or IP.
  3. Insights per device as well as per profile: Very useful to attain which device is which on a network, and what guests are up to with the devices they bring. It may also be useful in spotting rogue devices on the network.
  4. Filter screen: It would be useful to tell whoever triggered the filter to why they have been filtered.

 

Circle with Disney (@meetcircle) – Initial thoughts

Circle is a hardware device that helps parents filter content and manage screen time. It started life as a failed Kickstarter, but undeterred, Memory, the creator company, continued with their vision and eventually interested global giant Disney who have helped bring it to market.

I’ve bought one because of the abject failure of manufacturers Apple and Google to add effective parental controls to their devices – even after all this time. I’ve also had constant problems with software controls and their flakey and complex VPN set-ups and high subscription costs. Thankfully Circle, though starting life on a subscription model is a one-off payment. No doubt the hardware makes a profit, but somewhere or other they’ll also be sustained by feeding dollars into Uncle Walt’s empire.

I purchased the device from Amazon.com – the only place that I could find that would ship to the UK. Amazon.com added a reasonable shipping rate and automatically calculating import/custom fees – which was welcome to avoid the annoyance of having to pay to the courier. Even with the “brexit” pound, it worked out around the £90 mark – so probably two year’s subscription to a software model.

Unboxing

It’s a beautifully package, with the square (!) Circle device, US power adapter, micro-usb cable and super-short (obviously designed to be close to your router) ethernet cable. Having swapped the US plug for a UK model it was plugged in and powered up.

Setup

All of the steps to setup the device are simply documented here:

http://support.meetcircle.com/13577-general-help/setting-up-circle

It was a case of downloading the iOS app, and using it to pair the Circle to my phone (using an SMS text message access code) and router. It was a very simple process, even recognising the country of residence thus to get the mobile phone text number correctly.

I then setup the management profile using the simple and concise interface, adding which device belonged to the profile and which level of filtering to use. You could assign multiple devices to one profile, so if you have a laptop, phone and tablet for example.

The only caveat with this stage of the setup was the device list. It hadn’t recognised all of the devices in the house but the app noted that it would take time to do this. One way to speed up the process was to either power-cycle all devices or toggle airplane mode if available to disconnect and re-connect them with the household router.

Even after this I had a few generically named devices, ie “Apple Device” or “Liteon Device”. Using the app and device list I noted the MAC address of each and was able to identify which was which. Of course, for a novice user this may be a little daunting.

One useful feature to note on the “device list” was the ability to instantly “pause” the internet on that MAC address. Great if you need to barter with an unruly child (or adult)!

Profiles

So, so far so good.

Its got a default “home” profile that you can assign to a restricted filter. So, my kids are around the same age, and thus I’ve no need really to create a profile for each of them unless I want to receive “insights” – reports that give me a look at their screen and app time. Every unassigned device by default connects to the “Home” profile. If you have a party or your children’s friends come round and ask for the wi-fi password you are safe in the knowledge that they are automatically assigned this default filter and control level.

What I like about the filtering is that you have granular control over apps and content categories as well as forcing YouTube restrictions and Google Safe Search by default. Any other search engines are blocked. The kid filter “filters out Social Media, Explicit Content, Mature Content, Gambling, Dating and Malicious Content by Default”. Excellent.

img_9950

Conclusions

I’m really impressed so far. No problems straight out of the box, quick and easy to setup. I’ll keep an eye on internet speeds – though it is connected via ethernet to my router the device only has a 10/100 NIC. Hopefully it won’t slow things down too much.

I’ll start to play around with limiting screen time, app time and applying a bedtime and some of the other things the package has over the next few days.

 

Gremlin Graphics game collection

Alongside writing the book I started buying various Gremlin Graphics games.Initially it was so I could scan the inlays and begin the painstaking process of recreating the artwork for spreads in the book at a later date.

Of course the collecting a “few”, became “some” and eventually “a lot” and from there it spiralled into an attempt at collecting as many games as possible developed, or published by the Sheffield giant.

So, I’ve now collected 153 of 223 (that’s 67% percentage fans) titles released so far. I’m not overly interested in compilations, more just single individual game releases, but here is what is left to collect:

C16 Classics I & II
West Bank
Zone X
4 Crash Smashes I & II
Bounder on the Rebound
C16 Star Games
Magicians Curse
Planet Search
Alien Evolution
Basil the Great Mouse Detective
Bulldog
Games Compendium
Omnibus I & II
Plus 3 Pack
Re-Bounder
Star Games I and II
Take 4 Games
10 Great Games 1, 2 & 3
10 Mega Games Vol 1
3-D Galax
MASK III: VENOM Strikes Back
Space Ace
The Duct
Tube Runner
Action ST I & II
Artura
Emilio Butragueño 2
The House Mix
The Paranoia Complex
16-Bit Hit Machine
10 Pack: Ten Great Games
Hero Quest: Return of the Witch Lord
Super Cars II
Switchblade II
The Shoe People
Toyota Celica GT Rally
4 Wheel Drive
Chart Attack
Jeep Jamboree: Off Road Adventure
Margot’s Magic Colouring Book
Space Crusade
Utopia: The New Worlds
Muhammed Ali Heavyweight Boxing
Premier Manager 2
Space Crusade: The Voyage Beyond
Hero Quest 2: Legacy of Sorasil
Lotus Trilogy
Newman/Haas IndyCar
Top Gear 3000
Premier Manager 97
VR Soccer 96
Actua Soccer 2
Premier Manager 98
Sandwarriors
Actua Ice Hockey
Monopoly
Actua Golf 3
Actua Pool
Actua Tennis
Premier Manager 99
Tanktics
Michelin Rally Masters: Race of Champsions
PGA European Tour
Premier Manager 2000
Soulbringer
UEFA Challenge
Micro Machines
Slam Tennis
Dirty Racing
Brainbender

Five indirectly educational games on the ZX Spectrum #GamesAreAGimmick

So, Minecraft has been labelled a “gimmick”. That could be true. It’s retail incarnation isn’t sold as an “educational” game and probably doesn’t deliver the strict learnings “outcomes” that seem to preoccupy many of the teaching profession today. At its very heart though, Minecraft, delivers a level of creativity, engagement, and freedom of expression in children that has rarely been seen since the days of the BBC Micro and home computers. That should be welcomed and encouraged.

Like so many people I truly believe that games deliver good (including educational content) on so many levels. You can find something even in the most obscure title … write me a paragraph on why the Angry Birds are so angry?

In the meantime, let’s fight back and prove games aren’t a gimmick. Here are the most non-educational educational ZX Spectrum games I can think of:

Sherlock
(see also: The Big Sleaze, Bored of the Rings, The Hobbit, Bulbo and the Lizard King)

sherlock

I covered my love of Sherlock in this other post. You can bundle every single text adventure into this entry, but for me, Sherlock probably offered the zenith of the genre on 8-bit computers: As Steven Poole commented, we shouldn’t be worried about what children are reading, just encourage and support them in what they choose to read. I wasn’t put off playing the game because I had to read (a lot), I embraced it, and the challenging puzzles not only coerced my mind into solving them, it also pushed the expansion of my vocabulary in order to match the game’s text and dictionary.

As a by-product, Sherlock spurned a wider interest in the sleuth and the ingenious addition of “feelies” (physical items that aided your adventure) in the box spanned that digital/physical world – one that Infocom would soon become synonymous with.

Skills: Reading. Writing. Vocabulary. Imagination. Puzzle-solving.

Minder
(see: Software Star, Millionaire, Mugsy, 1984, The Biz, Dallas, Oligopoly)

minder

There were plenty of games that promoted the understanding of how businesses operated. Minder had a very simple dynamic; you bought something for a price, and then you tried to sell it on at a higher price – but it underpinned that basic business principle of making a profit.

On a tangent, I once approached the BBC with an idea for an Only Fools & Horses game that I’d “borrowed” from Minder. Imagine swapping The Winchester Club for The Nag’s Head or Sid’s Cafe and you have the idea.

Skills: Mathematics. Economics. Decision and consequence. Short and long term planning.

Rebelstar
(see also: Lords of Midnight, Sentinel, Football Manager, Theatre Europe, Austerlitz, Falklands War)

rebelstar

The Spectrum had some beautifully balanced turn-based strategy games. Julian Gollop refined his original Rebelstar Raiders adding a larger playing area and single player option. The single-player option pitted you against a cunning computer opponent and elevated the challenge of the game to another level. Chess Grand Masters are revered for their cerebral thinking and I guarantee that anyone mastering Rebelstar or one of its compatriots have the same qualities and glean the same benefit from play.

Rebelstar was based in a science-fictional world, but many turn-based games delivered a big dollop of historical content, often set during key conflicts and moments in time. From these I’m sure the player couldn’t help subliminally standing in the shoes of General Chelmsford, Napoleon, or Churchill.

Skills: History. Geography. Politics. Reading. Planning and foresight. Problem solving. Concentration. Attention to detail.

Elite

elite

I can’t make a list of games on any subject without including Elite.It came boxed with a beautifully written novella (that has spawned many pieces of fan-fiction) by Robert Holdstock that set the scene and allowed a fervent teenage imagination to fill the voids left by the game’s sparse graphics.

Along with combat, trading underpinned the DNA of the Elite universe. You had to understand and learn the nature of trading between different systems, buying what was cheap on one world and selling it on another where the price was high.

It dangled, for possibly the first time ever in a game, a huge carrot of morality: Sure, you could get rich quick and afford those beam lasers, but to do it you had to break the law and trade in a selection of rather unsavoury items. Narcotics (I’d never heard of the word before), firearms and slaves could all be added to your ship’s cargo hold, but they were considered illegal. Trade in these and your legal status would be affected. Eventually you’d be targeted by the galactic equivalent of the boys-in-blue who wanted to hand out a particularly deadly form of justice – The GalCop Police Force.

Skills: Mathematics. Economics. Decision and consequence. Politics. Imagination. Dexterity. Morality.

Ant Attack
(see also: Saboteur II, Athena, Vixen, Gauntlet, Everyone’s A Wally, Where Time Stood Still)

ant

Sandy White’s isometric masterpiece delivers a 21st century lesson from the moment it loads: You have the choice to play as a girl or a boy.

It seems such a big deal now, but I can honestly say I never gave it a second thought back in 1983. Many other games of the time featured the opportunity to play as a female character and it just seemed completely normal.

Skills: Ethics. Citizenship. Gender equality.