The Sinclair
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What makes a classic?

By Paul Howard

In this short discursive essay, I aim to identify exactly what it is that makes a game a classic. Soon, you will be able to pick up an old game cassette at a car boot sale, try it out at home and nod sagely to other Spectrum users, saying “It’s a classic all right”, and they won’t dare contradict you! However, first you must read this!

Quality and playability:

The key contribution to classic status is clearly the enduring quality of a game; it doesn’t have to be a graphical marvel (although this may help), but it must be an enjoyable game even today. Just because a game is rare doesn’t mean it is a classic; it might only be rare because it was crap and nobody bought it.

This is where ‘classic’ and ‘collectable’ differ. Naturally, any game which is both classic and collectable is always well worth having. Automata’s Deus Ex Machina springs to mind. On the other hand, Psion’s ‘Scrabble’ is as far away as possible from being a rare item; anyone who has ever owned a Spectrum is sure to have at least six copies.

Age and obsolescence:

Consider, if you will, ‘Tomb Raider’ for the Playstation and PC. Revolutionary graphics, good playability and nice sound - but not a classic - yet. The expert knows that a game and, preferably, the software house which released it, must be dead and buried in the commercial sense before it can become a classic.

In practise, console games tend not to attain classic status anyway, since console owners generally dump any game (or console) after a few months. Certain PC games may well become classics in the future, but who actually buys software for the PC when you can get it for free from anyone? (Erm, this statement does not reflect the views of the magazine. Or the author. Honest).

Original packaging:

This may seem trite or irrelevant, but just ask yourself which of these is the classic: ELITE in original box with manuals and dodgy Lenslock, or ELITE re-released on a magazine covertape? Yeah, we all hate the Lenslok but it never fails to impress, tucked into the box in pristine condition.Of course, you’ll never be able to get into the bloody game whether you have the Lenslock or not, but that’s beside the point.

Well, that would seem to cover just about everything. Now you know how to spot a classic every time - but when browsing at car boot sales, remember to take your own Speccy, tape deck and remote power source so as to perform a playability check on every game you come across!!! (I’m sure that some boffin could build a power supply which ran off a car cigarette lighter! - ED).

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