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A Life of Gaming

Several years ago I setup up Microsoft's Xbox Studio in London. It was a pivotal point in my career. I was 35 and the youngest studio director of a AAA studio in the UK.

Shortly after building this new studio, I wrote an article for reflecting on my life in gaming. I thought I'd dig it out and share it here.


A Life of Gaming - Mike Rouse - Lift London

A Life of Gaming by Mike Rouse - Studio Director at Lift London - Microsoft

1982, the first CD is sold in Japan, the first colour pictures of Venus are sent back from Vanera 13 and Time Magazine name THE COMPUTER as the man of the year. Gadgets and gizmos are starting to become commonplace, VHS players, Walkman, IBM PC, tape recorders, big CRT color TVs and the video gaming revolution is in full flow. My dad has quit his job at IBM in the UK as a programmer and has moved to South Africa to work for Anglo-America. He’s in his late 20’s and is the original gadget collector. He’s also a casual gamer, playing ASCII pinball on his IBM and an old console that had a PING PONG (Magnavox Odyssey).  I’m five and although I play on both the IBM and Odyssey from time to time I’m not really into games, I live in a warm country so I’m out and about on my BMX and playing with my younger brother and my friends. But its 1982, the year EA, Ultimate Play the Game (Rare) and MicroProse are formed. This is the year when Shigeru Miyamoto’s Donkey Kong Jr. is released, Q*Bert, Ms. Pac-Man, Dig Dug, Utopia (the first sim game), Joust, Robotron: 2084, Tron Arcade (released before the film), Pole Position, Zaxxon, Xevious and the fabled E.T the Extra-Terrestrial (one of the biggest failures in the history of video games) are released to gaming audiences at home and in the arcades. It’s also the year when one of the biggest film licenses in the world has its first game release, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back on the Intellivision and Atari 2600.

This was a must-have game for my dad, so not long after the games release my dad brought home a brand new Intellivision and a copy of Star Wars. This console and game changed everything for me. The graphics were amazing and so was the sound, the console was so easy and convenient to use and it was cartridge-based. Over the next five years our game collection grew, and I played as often as I was allowed to. I loved playing B-17 Bomber with the Intellivoice, Night Stalker and Lock ‘N Chase as well as a host of other games. The Intellivision formed the majority of my gaming experiences, until sometime in 1987 when our local shopping store got in 2 arcade machines. One I think was Pac-Man the other was Double Dragon. I can remember going every day after school to the store to play Double Dragon. I was hooked, consoles no longer held any appeal, I started to hang-out at the arcades and spent all my pocket money on arcade machines. I played a ton of games in the arcades and have so many favorites, allot from the 90s. One that kept me in the arcade for hours was Street Fighter II it was also the game that brought me back to consoles.

I moved back to the UK when I was 12 in 1989, still getting the majority of my gaming from the arcades. I had the NES and Master System by this point, both had great games but there was still nothing like what I could get in the arcades. Then in early 1994, I got a copy of Street Fighter II: Champion Edition for my Megadrive. Here was a game that was able to replicate my arcade experiences with the added convenience of it being in my house. I had fallen in love with consoles again. As I started to replace visits to the arcades with more hours on consoles I began looking for new and better experiences across multiple platforms and this was the beginning of my games collection.

I have a modest collection which could have been quite a lot bigger if I did not sell a large portion of it in 1999 to pay for food and maybe a little drink while at University. I always kick myself as I think back to the games and consoles I sold during that period. Snatcher, Suikoden, Panasonic 3DO and all the games, original Game Boy, 100+ boxed SNES games and the list goes on. It used to be that trying to buy back these lost treasures was restricted to eBay and a very few online retailers, but there seems to be a renaissance in classic and retro gaming. Similar to vinyl records that have seen their highest sales this year since 1997, the popularity and the distribution channels for classic and retro gaming are growing. A small number of boutique stores have sprung up and dedicated online specialists have started to appear. I love browsing through a store’s inventory of old SNES games and online specialists offer the choice and subject expertise that eBay can’t. The revival of these bricks & mortar and online specialists have become a great source for my gaming collection.

My collection currently consists of 784 complete boxed games, 310 digital games on PSN, Live, and Steam, iOS, Nintendo eShop, and Windows. I have a custom-built MAME cab with coin-op, custom artwork, Sanwa Bat top sticks, Ultralux lit buttons, 2.1 speakers and custom lit marquee. There’s probably a couple of thousand games on there, allot them obscure Japanese beat ‘em ups. I also have 44 consoles, everything from a 2600 to a Vectrex to a Mega CD mk1 (my favorite console) and nearly every major console released from 1990 to the very latest next-gen. I have a ton of peripherals and special edition peripherals like the JogCon which came with the Ridge Racer Type 4. And I have a lot of gaming paraphernalia and merchandise. The collection is steadily growing, every week I get something new. Just this week I bought Rings of Power for the Megadrive. This game was Naughty Dogs' first console game. My passion for gaming goes beyond my collection and my hobby, it is also my job. I’ve been creating games for 14 years now starting off as a junior 3D artist and now as a studio director. I’ve worked for both Sony and Microsoft. Working in the games industry has allowed me to build a truly unique game collection.

My collection does have the same games as most other game collections, some rarer than others but I also have truly unique games and paraphernalia. Working in games has allowed me to meet and work with my heroes. I’ve had the opportunity to meet and demo my game to

Shigeru Miyamoto who has signed my 1st run copy of The Legend of Zelda for the NES. I’ve worked with and discussed the finer points of games design with Keiji Inafune co-creator of Rockman (Megaman in the west). Inafune-san was also kind enough to sign a custom piece of artwork from one of his games. I have a ton of signed games from colleagues that have worked on some classic games. Friends have donated games that were never released, some are sequels or spin-offs from some of the biggest franchises in gaming history. There are the games I’ve made, TIF, The Getaway, Black Monday, Singstar, Dancestar, Wonderbook all signed by the teams and a ton of promotional and unique merchandise to go along with them. There are gold and platinum plaques for those that sold millions of copies. I co-created PlayStation Home and on the launch of the social gaming service, we commissioned a special artwork plaque created by Michael Place. Michael is one of my favorite artists, I became a fan after seeing his artwork in the original WipEout on PlayStation. There are limited edition press packs, toys, and figures that will never be released. I’ve not only collected but have been part of gaming history. In 2007 at E3 Sony hosted for the first time ever their conference in a virtual world, PlayStation Home. I was behind the stage with 9 massive PS3 dev kits controlling and directing the virtual show live. It was also fantastic seeing the PlayStation trophy system go live on every PS3 in the world, having created the high-level direction. And now my studio is about to make gaming history again, with an original and new universe of characters and stories.

There are people I know that don’t share and don’t understand my love for games. These people won’t know the great nostalgic feeling you get from playing classic and retro games, the complete immersion of new worlds and stories games give us. Our game collections contain some of the most compelling stories ever written, the most emotional music ever composed, the most thought-provoking artwork ever created and amazing universes for us to visit and play in.  As we study our anthropology there is no doubt in my mind that gaming is now a part of this. It is ingrained in popular modern culture and as it grows in popularity so will those that want to capture its past.

A Guest Blog Review by Mike Rouse Studio Director - Lift London

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