It’s 7am, some cold morning in 1984. I’ve just tumbled out of bed to go and grab some breakfast and get ready for school. Of course, school is only round the corner and I don’t have to set off until 8:30 and there’s no way breakfast and getting changed will take that long, no way at all. No, I’m awake because I want to sneak onto the computer before anyone else wakes up. I can get the cornflakes out, have them eaten and be dressed in 5 minutes flat. That’ll give me about an hour before anyone wakes up. That’s plenty of time to play computer games by my reckoning.
As I’m heading down the stairs, the plan is clear. I’ve done this loads of times. Sure, sometimes I get shouted at because I haven’t quite managed to get my shoes on or I’ve I’M NOT DEAD YET’ed across the room when I’m told it’s time to leave but still, it’s a sound plan. It’s a plan that works.
I head off into the living room and sure enough, my dad’s been up earlier and off to work. Empty cup on the table, everything’s normal. The computer is in the dining room so the bleeping sounds don’t overpower the television. I have to pass through the dining room to get to the kitchen. I’ll turn the computer on on the way to get breakfast, start a game loading on the way back. Except I don’t have to. The computer is already on. It’s 7am and my mum’s on the computer. It’s 7am and my mum’s been on the computer since 10 o’clock the night previous.
It’s 7am and my mum is playing Lords Of Midnight.
I discover that my plan is a plan that works except when your mum is playing Lords Of Midnight. It’s a plan that fails to work for weeks following too. It’s a plan that failed to work again when the follow up, Doomdark’s Revenge, came out. Midnight and my mum, forever inseparable things in my memory. Funny how things like that stick in the mind.
I remember not believing her when being told that the guy who wrote this taught at a school down the road not that long before. Someone writing videogames who’s a teacher at a school I could end up in? Hah, come on. Pull the other one. People who write videogames aren’t real people when you’re 9.
And the maps! She drew the most elegant maps of Midnight. Fan art from a 40 year old woman long before the internet gave fan art a name. I wish I still had them but years pass and so much gets lost to time. I’ve lost many things to time, y’know? At least I still have the memory of her sitting at the dining room table, pens and paper everywhere, drawing as I’d try to get another game to load and fail, drawing things from the same passion I had.
I know with the recent passing of Mike Singleton, author of Lords Of Midnight, we’ve lost someone who pushed the craziest of things out there considering the hardware they ran on. Midnight is insanely ambitious in scope straddling RPG and wargame as it does and if there’s one word that would define some of his later output too, ambitious would fit the bill perfectly. And that’s amazing and he’ll be sorely missed – the world of computers was better for his work.
But for me, Mike Singleton is the guy who kept my mum up all night playing videogames. No-one else managed that, at least not until I hit my teens and would get so drunk as to not be able to work the volume switch correctly but that’s another story. Mike Singleton is the guy who’s responsible for me not ever, not once, getting funny looks from my parents because I played videogames because they understood. They knew. I’m kinda thankful for that.