Why The Gaming Zebra?

“When you hear hoof beats, think horses, not zebras.”

I’ve always been pretty healthy but in my early 30s I started getting some mild symptoms that slowly got worse. Eventually, at 34, I was diagnosed with a rare illness called Cushing’s Disease. The above quote is what is taught in medical schools to teach doctors not to look for the unlikely diagnosis. Well I am indeed a rare medical zebra and I love gaming!

Blue and yellow are the colours of Cushing’s.

Gaming history

I always thought I’d gotten into gaming fairly late in my childhood but looking back it’s always been there. My parents had a Spectrum ZX from just before I was born with the usual excuse of it being good to do budgets on. That never happened. Instead, every few months, I’d get the urge to set it up and would have a few weeks obsessed with “Demolition”, “Mazerunner” or “Magicland Dizzy”. We had a couple more games but it wasn’t really something we bought.

Around the age of 8 or 9 my best friend got an Amiga 1200 and I fell in love with “Trolls”. So that was my next present. “Globdule” quickly became my favourite game (and still holds a place in my top 5) along with “Zool 2” and “Nigel Mansell’s F1”. Like the Spectrum however it was only set up every so often, used for a few weeks then put away again.

At 16 we got a ‘real’ PC, a cast off from someone Dad worked with, with Windows 3.5 on it and no games other than Solitaire and Minesweeper. It was really because I was heading into A Levels and going to do ICT but it just didn’t cut the mustard. Plus the Internet was starting to be heard of so we headed off to Tiny Computers (long since bankrupt) and got ourselves a deal that came with a large number of very random games. And this is where my true love of games began. I became obsessed with “Dogz 3” and learnt HTML simply to create a couple of websites around the game. The first game I bought was “Severance: Blade of Darkness”, a very different game to Dogz and this led to me discovering online communities around gaming, some of whom I’m still in touch with today. This continuing passion led to me creating the first and, for a long time, most popular English fansite for the ARPG “Sacred”. Sadly I couldn’t afford to keep it running although it is still hosted for me over at pctalk.info although looking back it’s quite shameful how much didn’t get finished.

I did well with my ICT A Level but unfortunately the university course I chose wasn’t for me and I dropped out after 2 years. Luckily a new GAME shop was opening nearby so I quickly applied. I’d been working in retail since I was 14 and had always grown up in shops before that so this was ideal. I got the job and spent 7 years working in different branches and moving up to be a Keyholder/Senior Sales Assistant. I loved this job. I got exclusive info on new games coming out from the reps that came in, could chat to other people who loved games and could recommend games to others. There was nothing more satisfying than having a customer return to say how much they’d enjoyed the game I’d been raving to them about and it was great to find new games I enjoyed that they told me about.

Through working at GAME I got into consoles and over the years I’ve had a PS2, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Gameboy Advance SP, DS, DS Lite, 3DS, Wii and Switch. I have of course also given in to mobile gaming. PC remains my main love though and I like to build my own from scratch these days so I can get the best performance for my money. Right now I’m very happy to have one that can run Red Dead Redemption 2 on max graphics and it looks incredible.

Thanks to my dedication to my Sacred fansite and all the time I spent on their forums I was honoured by the company that made the game, Ascaron, numerous times. I was asked to be an official moderator, a job I enjoyed as it meant I got to chat with those who loved the game like me and help them out, while keeping the peace as well. Not always an easy task. I have my name in the credit booklet for this (Pevil) and also have my own in-game gravestone in “Sacred 2”. I was also incredibly lucky to be asked to beta test both the expansion and sequel. This was before the days of “pre-order now to get into beta” and consisted of signing NDAs, having phone calls with their office in Germany and very strict, rigorous testing searching for bugs and reporting in great detail on their internal database to aid the developers. Many people think beta testing is just getting to have fun on the game all day and see things before everyone else but this is not true, it’s very hard work! I enjoy the thrill of trying new things and finding bugs though so I sign up for plenty of tests now to try and help ensure they get a polished product.

I’ve also always enjoyed training people; at one point I wanted to be a teacher and still do a lot of training in my current job. As such I also enjoy helping people in-game or writing guides for games, particularly ideas for character builds. Since becoming ill my attitude to games has been forced to change, probably for the good, and I’m now more relaxed and play them for me rather than to unknowingly compete against others.