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Never underestimate the power of PlayStation

Inspired by our PlayStation special podcast, Ben Cartlidge of One Credit Classics remembers the profound effect it had on his gaming life.

I had a fairly linear route with computers and consoles.

Most of them had one thing in common though, save for the trusty Master System I pooled funds of a birthday and odd jobs for, none of them were really mine. That didn’t stop me playing them though, quite the opposite.

In 1995 I remember watching an episode of GamesMaster where they previewed this mighty new machine called the PlayStation. I remember watching the video and being promised arcade perfect graphics amongst other things. The piece finished with a shot of Ridge Racer, and it was there my sense of incredulity hit the roof. They announced this was the home console port. I’d never played the arcade version that much so didn’t get the nuances, but to my 15 year old memory, these two versions were identical.

I knew things were changing but being too young to buy one, get a job or realistically ask a stretched family for a £300 machine, I quickly realised this wasn’t to be just yet.

Christmas of 1995 saw a good friend of mine get a PS1 and we all flocked round a few weeks later to play Toshinden, Tekken and Ridge Racer. I was blown away. I knew there had to be a way to get my hands on a PS1, but I didn’t really have any idea where to begin.

That summer I left school and, before I started College, I started applying for jobs to get myself some cash. I got a phone call one sunny afternoon to walk across the street to the local Kwik Save for an interview, where the manager basically asked me my name, and when I could start.

Your first job is such a personal milestone and I’ll never forget how eager I was to get there and get in as many hours as humanly possible to raise funds. It was £2.18 an hour and I toiled relentlessly over that summer, to get myself the money together for a PlayStation.

That was my goal, I could see it.

The summer ended and I didn’t quite have enough, but one evening I spoke to my supervisor who passed me his newspaper as he strolled back in from having a smoke. I saw an advert on the back for a Toys R Us sale, God bless them, who had a PS1 4 game bundle for £249. My mind was made up, this was within my grasp.

I told my mum who simply said “I’d have just bought you that, now you’ve got a job you could have just paid me back.” – Incredible. That was details however, and as I went off to work the next morning, I’d cut out the advert for her and my dad to take with them and given them the cash, as they were going out for the day.

I got home that evening after a savage 10 hour shift, which I’m sure was illegal for someone 16, to a package waiting on my bed. It was here. I had it. I set the machine up and the second that intro synth hit, I knew I probably wasn’t going to be doing anything else for a very long time.

‘Double life’ PlayStation advert TBWA GGT Simons Palmer / 1999

The games in question were Doom, Zero Divide, Worms and True Pinball. A nice selection if truth be told that kept me going for quite a while. The next step was obvious for me, spurred on by my mum’s promise of lending money against my new employment, I secured a 21 inch Daewoo TV and an RGB Scart cable with Stereo AV leads that plugged into the Aux Out on my Stereo system.

The next time I turned my PlayStation on the resulting sound shook me to my very foundations. I couldn’t move, transfixed with what I’d created. It felt like an arcade, and it was all mine.

I worked so many hours that summer and carried on doing long weekend shifts when I went to college but I really didn’t mind. Every single hour spent stacking shelves, getting illegal health and safety advice, and blundering past the crass advances of bored housewives, was worth every penny.

The PlayStation was here, and every month for years on end there was something. There was a game coming out that I was excited about. From Tekken 2 to FFVII to Time Crisis to Vandal Hearts to Street Fighter Alpha to Ridge Racer Revolution to Soul Blade and back, it never seemed to end.

The college years of any UK male are fairly exploratory times for so many different reasons, but it all seemed to come back to my PlayStation and the library of games I accumulated.

Every drunken evening started with PlayStation and liquor at my parent’s house, the nerve of these millennial types thinking they invented pre-drinking, every meeting with friends was based around whatever game we’d got to play as a group, real friends, friends who I still speak to every single day.

My PlayStation mattered.

The SNES was the console that made me fall in love with gaming, but the PlayStation was the console that made me realise that I’d be doing this for as long as I had breath in my body.

On a final note a lot of people ask me about gaming achievement runs in the light of the One Credit Classics channel and what I do, I always tell them the same thing.

“What’s the first achievement run you ever did?”

“1998 – Tekken 3 – I won 367 consecutive games with Heihachi on Survival mode. You couldn’t pause it so it had gone dark while I was setting this score. It took 4 hours, I was still in my work clothes and I had to eat my tea around playing.”

We’re all a part of these stories, these memories.

I’m just lucky to have grown up at the right time to experience when gaming went truly cross cultural, and the world seemed to be in the palm of my hand.

Never underestimate the power of PlayStation. I promise I never will.

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