MAD about Mastertronic – Collecting The 80s Classics

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One of my main passions has always been video games. While most today will cite the PS4, XBox One, Switch or PC as their systems of choice, for me it has to be retro gaming. More accurately, games released by the innovative 8-bit publisher Mastertronic…

In The Beginning

Gaming started for me in the mid 70s. My parents bought me a colour Pong clone from little-known manufacturer Soundic and I was astounded by it. Seeing something on screen that was under my direct control in colour, no less, was nothing short of remarkable. By today’s standards the games were incredibly primitive but at the time they were the most advanced we could have ever imagined. From then I moved on to a few handheld and tabletop units including the seminal Astro Wars before finally getting a Commodore Vic 20 for Christmas one year.

The Early Days

Having the power of a real computer with a real keyboard was something pretty special back then. We may take them for granted these days, and even later on in the mid-80s but at the start of the decade it was still something special to own your own computer. It was still considered to be a “special occasion” getting to use a computer at school (for those lucky enough to have them). Anyway, at the time of getting the Vic 20 I was limited in terms of what I had to play. Games weren’t added to my collection very often and with cartridge games costing £20-£25 each and cassettes costing £6 typically I couldn’t afford many myself with my pocket money. Usually I had to rely on pester power with my parents which seldom worked!

So you can imagine my delight (and that of most kids my age back then) when Mastertronic burst onto the scene in 1984 and released their first games. The idea that we could go out and buy full games for £1.99 was an incredible prospect and put video games into the reach of everyone, including schoolkids who were forced to play games on a budget. It gave me an incredible sense of liberation, knowing that I didn’t have to run to my parents every time I wanted a game anymore. There was no let up either as there was a steady flow of Mastertronic games to keep me occupied, before other publishers followed suit bringing low-cost gaming to the masses.

Game Changer

It’s safe to say that Mastertronic (and those who followed them) changed the shape of the games industry and certainly my whole outlook as a player. Mastertronic and other budget publishers made up the majority of my Vic 20 games collection, and when I moved on to the Commodore 64 a few years later, while I was able to spend more on games I’d already developed a soft spot for the budget publisher and was immediately drawn to their vast C64 library as well. It’s no surprise that I ended up with a huge collection of their games once more. But as with all things, times moved on and I eventually sold my Commodore 64 and my entire software collection when I moved on to the Amiga and that – I thought – was the end of my time with Mastertronic…

Continues…

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