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This Gaming Life
I didn’t become a bond fide Gamer until I was 11 years old. For the preceding decade, I think it’s fair to say I loved games. With hindsight the clues were always there. If I think back about the stuff I loved as a boy, it reads like a Big Bang Theory brainstorm. I think it all began with Mr Corbett.
My mum did some cleaning at a big house just outside our village in the 70s. Very occasionally me or my sister would have to tag along, I guess because of teacher training days, or sickness or some such thing. Mr Corbett’s house appeared as a mansion to me, but I was only about four feet high in my plimsolls so everything looked big. On one occasion he was in the house as my mum worked. I had been installed at his writing desk and armed with coloured pencils and letter paper. I was quite happy doodling away. I’m pretty certain I would have been doing my favourite thing; drawing war.
My drawings were always done to a plan, and it never changed. I took a sheet of A4, and turned it landscape style. I liked a black biro if I could get one. I started half way up the left edge of the paper and drew a crazy curved line all across the paper to the mid point of the right hand edge. It looked like one of those games of skill where you had to guide a loop down an electrified wire without setting the buzzer off. No loops, but otherwise it could be pretty elaborate. This line was my horizon. Above the line, sky. Below the line, ground. I then filled the page with tiny pill boxes, tanks, planes, and of course dozens of little stick soldiers. I would try to cover every square inch with materiel.
These pictures were hyper detailed (for a 7 year old) and really just a chaotic battlefield that anyone else would have done with plastic soldiers. But I didn’t stop there. I then pressed the ‘start’ button. I drew lines of fire from the machine gun nests. I strung columns of bombs from the planes. I put tracer fire in from the fighters. Each and every soldier fired with a dashed line of biro ammo.
And every target was neatly crossed out as ‘dead’.
I was probably half way through another thrilling military operation when Mr Corbett reared up behind my shoulder for a look at what I was doing. “He’s full of imagination isn’t he?” he said. This sounded to me like a good thing, a very good thing. In fact, my heart swelled with pride. I felt like I’d just been given permission to have a special talent, a gift. From that moment onwards I always thought of myself as having a great imagination. I still do, and when I’m asked to describe my qualities at work or in a review, it’s a word I use with pride.
So, thank you Mr Corbett. You were just being nice to a mother and her son, who you probably didn’t want cluttering up your desk really. Your kind word sparked something in me that still exists today. When I look at my son, 5 years old yesterday, and I see his crazy, intricate little drawings of sea life, robots and aliens, I see myself, and I tell him “Dan, you’ve got a great imagination”.