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Game on: The History and Culture of Videogames


I had something of a flashback during a recent visit to my mum's house in sunny old Bradford; I was whisked some 13 years into the dim and distant past and reminded of a rather bizarre and brief encounter I once had with an important but largely unknown member of the Spectrum adventure scene.

Jason Nicholls was, to all intents and purposes, Elven Adventurers. Bash the name into the World of Spectrum archive and you will find it is inexorably linked with the five titles the software house released.

Emerging towards the dirty dog end of the Spectrum's golden era, barely a couple of years before YS finally folded, Elven Adventurers was inevitably a home grown affair. I seem to remember that the games it produced came without inlays or instructions. Just a black tape in a clear case. But what adventure games there were.

I recall loading Dreamare for the first time. In a matter of minutes I was whisked from a mundane reality into an exciting new world of endless possibilities, making due allowances for those words and phrases not understood by the Professional Adventure Writer (PAW), which had been used to write the game.

The interface was intelligent and responsive, the descriptions were detailed and conjured up some vivid images, and the graphics were carefully drawn. Well, I mention graphics but according to the WoS archive, Dreamare is a text only adventure. However, a quick download and some fiddling with my emulator confirms there are occasional ilustrations, and very good ones at that.

But getting back to my point, Dreamare completely and utterly captured my imagination. It had some nice little flashes of humour and at the time I reckoned it to be one of the most absorbing adventures I had ever played. In my book it was on par with a Compass or Zenobi release, and that was really saying something. Having played it again in 2005, I remain firm in my praise for this game, although I did find it pretty easy this time around.

Being actively involved in the Spectrum adventure scene back in the 1990s, at some point I must have got in touch with Jason, who it transpired lived just a few miles down the road from me. We obviously swapped some words via letter and then, one cold and dark winter's night sometime in either early or later 1992, he paid me a visit.

I was about 15 and he was perhaps in his mid or early 20s. I remember him being a tall bloke but the most striking thing about him was his black eye. He had the most fantastic red, black, purple and blue shiner, which it turned out was given to him unfairly in some now long-gone Bradford nightclub the previous weekend.



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