If you've attended a retro event in the UK, then chances are you'll be familiar with Trista Bytes. Following her success on YouTube, Twitch and social media, she's become a mainstay at live events such as Play Expo, often appearing on-stage to fulfil presenting duties.
Trista – who describes herself as a "full-time geeky presenter, interviewer & improv comedian" – has encountered a meteoric rise in the world of UK retro gaming, so we naturally jumped at the chance to sit down for a quick chat.
Time Extension: What's your earliest video gaming memory?
That’s always a difficult one because I started gaming really young, and it was on home computers around family and friends' houses. I wasn’t remotely bothered by what the games or even systems were called – I was just enthralled by the idea you could make the pixels on a monitor move! I remember putting in the tapes and watching them load up, trying to understand how they worked and eager to see what they did. My earliest gaming experiences were things like the C64, Spectrum and Amiga home computers – however, we didn’t own anything ourselves until much later.
What was the first gaming system you owned?
The first games console in the house wasn’t mine, but I played on it a lot! That was the Sega Master System Mk II with Alex Kidd in Miracle World built in and the Phaser lightgun. I loved it! It set me on a path of Sega fandom, which resulted in the first console I owned myself being the Mega Drive Mk II. I saved up every penny of my birthday, Xmas and pocket money to buy it, and it’s probably the only reason my mum could ever stop worrying about my ability to budget, as before I set my heart on the Mega Drive, every penny was instantly converted to chocolate bars! Sonic 2 was my pack-in game and I’ve still got that machine boxed, complete and in use, even today.
What's your favourite video game of all time, if you can pick one?
I’m one of those people who immediately says: ‘Which age? Which genre? Which machine?’ So you'll get a couple of answers here! For story, I fell in love with the Phantasy Star series, with Phantasy Star III taking over my life for months on end. For a game I was obsessed with, well, I played Tempest 2000 so much on the Atari Jaguar that I used to dream about it. But overall hours spent in-game… Quake III Arena. I’ve still got my steel-box edition and it’s gone rusty, which somehow adds to its charm. More recently, I’ve finally played and fallen in love with Chrono Trigger and rediscovered my adoration for the original Tomb Raider games, which I’ve been replaying.
What's the gaming system you'd pick over all others, and why?
It’s got to be the Mega Drive. Not just for the nostalgia, although that’s a big factor too. But also as so many 16-bit games have aged well. Streets of Rage, Golden Axe, the Sonic games (I even love Mean Bean Machine & Sonic Spinball!) and so many more. My second choice would be the Dreamcast – those games were incredible and near arcade perfect; Crazy Taxi, Jet Set Radio, Resident Evil Code Veronica, Power Stone, Soul Calibur, Chu Chu Rocket... it’s an incredible system with a huge amount of gems in its library.
Your following across social media channels is remarkable; how have you worked at growing your audience?
It’s a combination; I made my social media accounts to promote the YouTube channel and then Twitch streams. I wouldn’t be on social media at all if I wasn’t doing presenting work and content creation, so in that way, absolutely. However, it’s also about sharing a passion for something and just the amount of years I’ve been on there at this point! I’m working in the areas I am because I love them, so it’s definitely a mix of both.
How involved do you get with retro gaming events around the UK?
I’m at a lot of events hosting on stage, holding panels and gameshows or running about filming content. I honestly don’t get to play as many games as I used to at them, but I still love every minute and sneak in a round of Tempest, DDR or Time Crisis whenever I can. There’s a great community in the retro scene and the events are a lot of fun! I’m always blown away by how welcoming they are in person and online. I do a lot of retro-themed charity streams on Twitch and the amount of support from the community is phenomenal.
You've been involved with presenting duties at recent retro events; how did that come about, and what's it like taking the stage at these events?
Presenting at events is one of the things I’ve always wanted to do. I started by doing lots of interviews on YouTube showcasing retro and indie games as well as indie comics, so hosting panels at events was a natural addition to that. I volunteered to start with and eventually got confident enough and had enough experience to start applying for hosting jobs. I honestly never thought it would happen, but I’ve hosted on the main stage of quite a few events now, and that is pretty exciting. It’s brilliant fun up on stage and I love it. I’m hoping there’s more in my future and more even shows let me loose with the mic!
What's the most controversial retro gaming opinion you hold?
Where do you think the retro gaming community will be in 10 years from now?
Hmmm, probably lamenting that current-gen games are now retro and that we feel old? I don’t think retro gaming will ever go away; who stops listening to old music or stops watching their favourite film because newer things are out? Will the boom in collecting fade? Maybe. But the core community won’t. Games are fun and hanging out with people playing games doubly so; the scene isn’t going away anytime soon.