GamesYouLoved is one of the most popular retro gaming social media accounts in the UK at present, with almost 100,000 followers on Twitter and 50,000 on Facebook. Amazingly, it's still largely the work of just one man, founder Chris Hill. Hill is also Head of Marketing at Numskull Designs and Numskull Games, which makes his ongoing success with the GamesYouLoved project all the more remarkable.
We were lucky enough to sit down with Hill for a little chat about the project, his love of retro and the future of retro gaming in general. Enjoy!
Time Extension: What's your earliest video gaming memory?
Chris Hill: My earliest memories of video games feel quite far in the distance now! But I think back to about 1980, it was in Southend. There was a Waxworks there next to the Golden Hind (see pic), and this is where it gets hazy...
I kind of remember there was an arcade next to it or even underneath it. It was definitely near the Southend Pier entrance. I was a kid of about 7 and my older brother who was 11 was the driving force behind gaming at that time in my family. He had magazines on the subject, mainly basic computing, but it was definitely starting to build as a major hobby for our circle of friends.
I went in with him – just a couple of kids we were. Looking about the place it was mainly young adults in there –16-19 year-olds smoking and drinking beer – and it was dark. Not pitch black, but it had that feeling of being close, like in a cave. I do remember the grungy feeling of the place even to this day.
Of course, I loved it! Because aside from the atmosphere there were these amazing cabs, humming and whirring and whizzing out sounds that you couldn’t get anywhere in the world. Sure, at home, you had your Pong clones and TV games with a lightgun – they all pretty much operated the same. I didn’t have an Atari 2600 to play games with any complex gaming mechanics. So this was mind-blowing. The arcade games like Asteroids and Space Invaders lead the field back then. Everything was simple colours, but mainly black and white on the screen. You also had plenty of mechanical games around the place too with a decent scattering of pinball machines.
I remember being asked to come out plenty of times by my parents before we finally both left. And the weird thing was I hardly played many of the games, partly down to the lack of 10-pence pieces I had, but also because I was transfixed by the place. Mesmerised, I’d describe it as now. That’s when I really fell in love with video games.
What was the first gaming system you owned?
It was the not-so-famous Prinztronic Videosport. I still own it today! It was our family console for many, many years, partly because at the time (this was the 1970s), we didn’t have the money as kids to go out and buy things like game consoles or get presents and things outside of birthdays. So this was for everyone in the family – and extended family, too. It comes complete with the light gun to play target games, which was probably where I spent the most time as a kid, being James Bond against the screen. It had a silencer on the end too! The other games were football and squash and simple one and two-player tennis, too. These were pretty much versions of Pong.
I believe UK electronic business Dixons sold these during the '70s and early '80s, and like many other sub-brands this company came up with for gaming and electrics, Prinztronic was another way of targeting the gamer back then. This was more of a family console as the games were easy to pick up and play and it was for anyone – Granny and Grandad as well as little kids. When I boot it up even to this day, it conjures up great memories for me of playing after school without a care in the world, to birthdays and Christmas time with family. It’s one of the items in my collection I would never part with because of that.
What's your favourite video game of all time, if you can pick one?
It has to be OutRun. And if you follow us on GamesYouLoved, you might know that already! There are plenty of ‘runners-up’ to OutRun, as you can imagine – but this is more than just a game (well for me, anyway). It’s a state of mind; a moment in time locked in a period where everything for me was golden and full of sun and colour. Yes, I have rose-tinted spectacles when I think of the past!
I think in the late 1980s as a teenager (I was 13 when OutRun came out) everything just started to happen in the arcades. 1986 was a tremendous year for gaming – the arcade was heading into the glory period and SEGA was a world leader in games design, music and gameplay – and the innovation of the cabinets themselves was amazing.
If you lived at that time you truly experienced it – and don’t believe what you might read now because Nintendo was not anywhere near SEGA when it came to the arcades and from 1986 into the early '90s; SEGA had so many smash arcade hits. Nintendo was still huge though, but more in the USA with the NES; until the Game Boy, it wasn’t in the mainstream at all in the UK. If you did have a NES, you were the few rather than the many. In the '80s, the UK home microcomputers ruled the roost, 8-bit then 16-bit. But the experience at home was about to be smashed. OutRun gave me that; we are talking about the Deluxe Sit-Down version, of course.
One of the biggest challenges to myself to this day is to complete it on the sit-down version – I can get to stage five at a push, but never finish it. Weirdly, I have done it standing up twice (oo-er!) and on the SEGA Saturn version too (on easy mode, I should add) but I need to get that one deluxe cab completion down before I leave this world!
What's the gaming system you'd pick over all others, and why?
I’d say the arcades, as I see that as a gaming “system” in its own right – but if you are talking consoles, then the Mega Drive. Mainly because it was the Japanese Mega Drive that I had the experience of playing first
You've built up an impressive following on social media; was this a conscious effort, or has it evolved over time?
The idea behind GamesYouLoved from the very beginning was about building a community, and I have stuck to it since. It’s not about me. Yes, I have a retro gaming collection and do gameplays occasionally, the odd unboxing, and so on, but it’s really about people all around the UK and beyond, as our followers are worldwide too. It's about the community and sharing their love for retrogaming, whether it be game reviews, pick-up videos and photos, details on events, books, merch… whatever is going on is what interests me and others out there. The other part is to be there for everyone; to be shared and enjoyed without any judgement. And that’s an important point... to have a laugh and have fun. And with GamesYouLoved, not take things too seriously.
We have over 200,000 followers across all our channels and its very humbling. A lot of these folks have been with us from the very beginning, and we are very much grateful for their contributions and loyalty over the years. It doesn't go unnoticed.