This article originally appeared in issue 78 of The Escapist.
Football is the world's greatest sport. It just took Sensible Soccer to make me realize it.
When my dad heard my mom was pregnant, he went out and bought his future child a present. It was a large, colorful book explaining how you played football, full of annotated diagrams showing the best way to head the ball, get perfect dribbling technique and all the other basics his child would need to become Stafford's answer to Pele. He didn't know anything about the kid other than it existed, but pretty much his first thought was to try and pass his love of football onto it.
When I was old enough to read it, I loved it. Of course, I took the wrong message. My dad gives me a book about football? It means Dad wants me to read books.
You have to understand, I've never hated football. I just didn't understand football.
Oh, obviously in a mechanical way, I understood football. I knew how it worked. I knew the names of the famous players. I could explain the offside rules to foreigners. I knew what an Old Firm derby was and why they could be so messy. I'd watch a few games on the box, especially the big ones, and kind of liked them.
But I fundamentally didn't get it.
It took the dawn of the '90s for anything to change; collusion between three influences in my life: The Amiga, Amiga Power and Sensible Software.
Despite being a Californian import, the Amiga is especially definitive in the U.K. Only the first PlayStation rivaled the Amiga, and since the PS1 conquered the rest of the world, it kind of undermines why the machine was specifically interesting in a British context in the mid-'90s.
The Amiga was a true Home Computer; a hobbyist machine, which you were meant to do literally everything on. It was primarily used through a TV, had standardized hardware and lots of chips which were primarily of use for lobbing a mass of sprites around the screen. Even better, it had one processor called Fat Agnus, which gave it a little quirky charm. This chimerical nature continued into what you actually did with the machine. In terms of its games, it straddled the gap between what the PCs and consoles were up to. It couldn't do the action games as well as the Mega Drive or the SNES. And it couldn't do more heavyweight topics as well as the fledgling PC - specifically, it struggled with 3-D, even early vector 3-D, let alone when people started lobbing texture maps around. But since it could manage some simulacra of both, you had a climate where both sorts of games were accepted, hybridized and a middle-ground between the two explored.
Yes, you can play a decent game of Pro Evo or OutRun 2 on a PC now. But you couldn't then, and the attitude - that, somehow, you don't play action games on the PC (unless they're first person and/or online and/or enormously macho) - has fossilized into dogma. That simply wasn't true on the Amiga, which means that any time I hear a modern gamer say, "That's not my sort of thing," I end up sighing. Back then, it was all our sort of things. True gaming sluts, we were up for anything.
This attitude was personified by Amiga Power, unarguably the greatest magazine about videogames ever written. No, really. For half a dozen reasons, but here's a relevant one: They marked the hardest anyone's ever dared. Sub 10-percent was absolutely commonplace, even for relatively big games. By the time it closed, there was a considerable list of publishers who'd just refuse to send the magazine their games. Because they were ... well, to use AP's own words, whining, childish hatemongers.