If there's a more ubiquitous cliché about PlayStation's impact on the gaming landscape than they-put-Wipeout-in-clubs-and-made-games-cool, then I've temporarily forgotten it. A couple of things about that cliché, though. One: it's a cliché for a reason, because it really was a moment. Not the PR stunt, but the game itself, a sharp-as-tacks racer with serious technological chops elevated to the next level by its hypnotic electronic soundtrack. If it hadn't been done to death already, it's the most truthful pick I could make for a nostalgic article like this one: obsessively time-trialling, dipping the long nose of my anti-grav ship over the crest of that big dipper on Altima VII, almost physically sensing the moment of weightlessness and the stomach-flipping lurch before the descent, then the mounting engine roar over the intensifying beats of P.E.T.R.O.L. or Afro Ride as I hurtled down into the tunnel and... well, you can only answer this cliché with another one: games never looked the same again.
The second thing to note is that in this story, "club culture" and "cool" are at least 50 per cent euphemism. What we are really talking about is drugs: that wonderful, terrible hour in the mid-90s when gaming's first generations hit late adolescence and student bedsits and discovered the unhealthily compelling synergy of playing video games and getting off their heads on psychoactives. The PlayStation was gaming's Woodstock moment. We were sat on cheap sofas in cardigans riddled with blim holes, juggling joypads and precariously balanced ashtrays in our laps, but we might as well have been dancing naked in a field, covered in mud.
Video games, by nature, always had a strong leaning towards surrealism and occasional psychedelic outbursts. But the PlayStation was positively awash with trippy games and 'music experiences' underscored by jackhammer drum machines that seemed custom-designed to experience when high on cannabis, ecstasy or mushrooms. Wipeout was one. Another personal favourite was Tempest X3, a port of the Atari Jaguar's astonishing Tempest 2000: the one moment in history when hippy coder Jeff Minter and the popular zeitgiest have been in sync, and a game best played in a kind of fugue state where the brain does not even try to parse the engulfing kaleidoscopic smears on the screen and just lets the eyes and the hands get on with it. Superzapper Recharge.
Read more…