What a great pleasure and honour it is to join Steve Erickson’s most delightful conversation with one of the gaming industry’s finest: Simon Butler, weaver of pixels and tales from 8- to 16-bit and beyond.
When I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens on December 16th, 2015 I was perfectly oblivious to any advance publicity. It had all started in late October 2012, when news broke that Walt Disney Studios had taken over Lucasfilm and its many assets. Kathleen Kennedy was appointed chief officer of the once Lucas-helmed enterprise and quickly proceeded to start pre-production of the seventh Star Wars installment (whilst prepping the spin-off film Rogue One in secret) . This course of surprising events made me abandon, unfollow and ignore dozens of film-related websites and social media accounts. Old habits were instantly dropped and I started distancing myself inevitably from one of my favourite hobbies, the film industry. It is therefore that I had not seen a single second, millimeter or anything of the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens, whose midnight premiere I attended on said December 16th, 2015. I went in totally blank, here is how I received a film whose marketing machinery I had ignored with monkish patience.
Illuminated in a mesmerising green hue of ethereal beauty and presence, a home computer of old comes to life, leaps off a page in Sam Dyer’s latest masterpiece in the exceedingly rewarding “Visual Compendium“-series. Opening the impressive volume emulates perfectly that moment a computer is switched on, with every page impersonating the starkly coloured screen display of the titular ZX Spectrum. Sam Dyer’s “ZX Spectrum: A Visual Compendium” is a special experience of layered significance.
Oh how seductive the eternal evolution of technology! Oh what boredom lies in volumetric dust clouds of uncountable pixels, their toilsome birth betrayed only by the high-pitched struggle of a graphic card labouring inside a run-of-the-mill desktop computer. The mind slackens into a tupor of robotic keyboard spasms. Disbelief no longer needs suspension: with the visual display quite a spitting image of nature, the brain only needs to soften the roughest of edges. Oh what glory then the memories of old bestow on the stalwart art of retrography, the magic of 8-bit computing, beautifully preserved in Lucasfilm Games’Rescue on Fractalus. And yet the most crucial ally in its creative success, the oft-forgotten and sadly underestimated manual of words crafted bold and true on sheets of paper rested inside boxes colourful and bold.
The circle is now complete: from The Empire Strikes Back by Parker Brothers to the LEGO Star Wars series, the Retro Asylum podcast saga on Star Wars retrogaming is (almost) the next best thing to finally welcoming back Luke, Han and Leia in The Force Awakens. Switch off your targeting computer and let retro flow through you…