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My undying love for the painfully uncool Amiga
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My undying love for the painfully uncool Amiga

I have told my wife that I want a Mini Amiga for Christmas. I know it’s only April, but I do this with things I want in the hope that when it suddenly appears in the house next week, my wife will think she bought it for me. I have slipped the purchase of seven games machines, a stuffed tarantula and an air fryer under the radar this way. In an inconsistent world, I like the way this institution of marriage works.

I read the reviews and was surprised at the appearance of two words I never associated with the original Amiga: cool, and love. It might seem strange to say the Amiga wasn’t loved, because a lot of people bought and used one. But people use things every day that they don’t love: electric shavers, patience, door handles, the train.

People loved the ZX Spectrum. They loved the Mega Drive. If you talk to an owner of any Nintendo machine, from a Game Boy to a Switch OLED they sound like Romeo talking about Juliet, Meredith Grey talking about Derek Shepherd, or Elon Musk talking about himself.

As someone who was actually there for the 80s and 90s, the Amiga just didn’t enjoy that kind of love. Why? Because it looked uncool. The Game Boy looked like an alien artefact from a trendy 70s sci-fi show; the PlayStation was what you’d get if a high-end record turntable had mated with the sexiest sandwich maker imaginable. The curved lines of the Xbox 360 were the definition of allure. It was one of those rare machines that looked as good lying down as it did standing up. Today I still run my fingers along its curves if I see one in the wild.

The Amiga looked like something you’d see a bank teller use. And not for the cool bank stuff, like foiling a robbery.

The Amiga 500. So stately! So boring! So… gray!View image in fullscreen

I know the Amiga was a computer rather than a console, but so was the ZX Spectrum, and that looked good enough to eat. The Atari ST was no great looker either, but at least they angled the top row of function buttons to make it look like they considered its aesthetics.

They should have at least chopped a corner off the Amiga. That would have helped. It worked for the Game Boy. (Actually it worked for the Fender Stratocaster first.)

Personally? I really did love the Amiga. I had more glorious evenings with it than any other machine, in terms of hours played and the quality of those hours. It provided the best party game ever in Sensible Soccer, the best futuristic (and best looking) sports game in Speedball 2 and the best time-swallower with Championship Manager, just edging out Sim City. And I am not sure there has ever been a more mathematically precise sports game than Jimmy White’s Whirlwind Snooker.

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Sensible Soccer.View image in fullscreen

The Amiga provided the most originality and humour with Lemmings and Worms. In IK+ it gave you a three-player fighting game. In the early 90s you could be burned inside a giant wicker man just for whispering of such things. I never read the Dune books, so whilst watching the Dune movies I was taken back to my first introduction to that world: the astonishing Dune 2 Amiga game.

It gave us the best adventure game in Secret of Monkey Island, which may be the funniest game ever as well. Cannon Fodder was also funny, but simultaneously poignant and sad. Has there been a better games developer than Sensible Software? It made game development seem funny and cool, not words I would have associated with games developers before.

The Amiga was solid. It was dependable. Before you even played a game, slipping a floppy disk into its slot felt good. That satisfying thunk sound. The way it seemed to grip the last few millimetres of the disk and pull it in. So reassuring and trustworthy.

Phwoar … vintage 80s Commodore Amiga 500 PC and games console.View image in fullscreen

I don’t remember anything ever breaking with my Amiga. I don’t remember a game that didn’t load. Even the peripherals were solid. My delicate little Cheetah Bug joystick took such a beating on Sensible Soccer alone, it beggars belief that it survived. All I have to do to break the R1 button on an Xbox controller is look at it in a disapproving manner.

Like the Spectrum before it, the Amiga allowed people who couldn’t afford a PC to play games on a computer. Then the PC killed it: microchips got cheaper, Amiga didn’t move fast enough, and it seemed to die really quickly.

We didn’t love the Amiga enough. We were like Andy putting Woody in the cupboard after he got Buzz Lightyear. Alas, Pixar hasn’t featured the Amiga in a single movie scene: instead Toy Story featured the Speak and Spell. Ever tried playing Zool on that?

Source: theguardian.com