Life As A Retro Gamer: Daren Jones
Whether it’s the high score tables, challenges or just forming friendships, Antstream Arcade is all about community and bringing gamers both young and old together. With our carefully-curated selection of retro classics as the starting point, there’s a whole new virtual neighbourhood at the heart of what we do. For our latest gamer profile, we present Daren Jones, known as DazzaJ73 on Antstream Arcade. Daren is a Speccy fan with Dragon 32 roots – why not friend him up, and throw an challenge his way – just watch out for his 8-bit roar!
Name: Daren Jones
Antstream Arcade Handle: DazzaJ73
Occupation: Security Officer
First Gaming Love: Dragon 32
Favourite Games on Antstream: Bubble Bobble, Ghostly Grange, Gunbird, Xybots and Manic Miner
Favourite Challenge on Antstream: Snack Dragon, Bubble Bobble
Daren Of Spring Dawning
Growing up in the seaside resort of Canvey Island, Essex, meant just one thing to this young man in the early Eighties. “Canvey had a seafront with a number of arcades, full of the latest machines,” recalls Daren fondly. “One place, Parkin’s Palace, had all the latest machines for only 10p a go – a pound would go a long way if you were good enough!” With Southend-on-Sea a short train ride away, Daren was spoilt for choice during his prime gaming years. “Then, when we got older we would visit the Trocadero in London and Sega World in Romford. I got to play nearly every machine that existed including the hydraulic ones. Fond memories.”
Enter The Dragon
While Daren’s initial experience of home gaming was – inevitably – a Grandstand Pong console, it was 1983 when he received his first home computer, a Dragon 32. “My parents never seemed to understand computers, but they humoured my love for it,” he remembers, and as his first computer, he is understandably nostalgic for the Welsh marvel. “I remember being totally surprised when my brother and I opened it – I’d never seen a Dragon 32 before, only a Spectrum. My parents must have seen how much my eyes lit up when they saw me playing my friend’s Speccy and knew I would probably love it.” But as it always was and always will be, it was all about the games back in 1983. “There were actually some good games for the Dragon 32 like The King and Manic Miner. It also opened my eyes to text adventures and I started to type pretty fast on that amazing keyboard.” Daren also dabbled in amateur coding, typing in lengthy lists of code from magazines in order to create his own simple games.
The Day Of The Dragon
The Dragon 32 computer was swiftly relegated in the wake of the incredible popularity of the ZX Spectrum, but that didn’t stop the computer continuing to entertain Daren. “We had a good collection of games – favourites were The King, Jet Set Willy and Vultures. But my absolute favourite was a game called Champions.” In the wake of the extraordinary success of Kevin Toms’ Football Manager, the football management simulation genre had become extremely popular. Champions was Peaksoft’s attempt to emulate the sensation on the Dragon 32. Says Daren, “I found it before Christmas and had little secret plays before having to look surprised when I received it on Christmas Day. One of my best days ever was winning the European Cup with Canvey Island beating Real Madrid 4-2. I screamed thewhole house down!”
Unsurprisingly, the 8-bit era remains Daren’s favourite time for gaming. “I love the simplicity but
fantastic playability of the games,” he explains. “Also, programming type-in listings, listening to the
sounds of games loading and reading Crash magazine.” This brings us to Daren’s second computer love, a Sinclair Spectrum 128k +2, and when it came to reading about the latest games, there was only one choice. “Crash was my favourite, and I bought it religiously with my paper round money. The Oli Frey artwork was always outstanding, the humour seemed to suit me and I found their reviews to be similar to my taste in games.”
While Daren missed out on the Antstream Arcade Kickstarter, he’s become a huge fan of the service since. “I love it – being able to set scores for other people to beat makes me feel like I’m back in the arcades of my youth again.” Having become frustrated with the difficulty in acquiring modern consoles, Antstream Arcade has instigated a fresh appreciation for retrogaming in Daren. “After playing Antstream, I decided to go back to retro and have since acquired a Spectrum 128k +2 and Dragon 32. My spark for gaming has been reignited and I’ve never been happier.” Now that’s a tale that warms our hearts at Antstream Arcade HQ.
An Antstream Arcade Daren
One of the delights of Antstream Arcade is discovering new games on familiar platforms. “There are lots of Speccy games I never played I am discovering now, which is great,” says Daren. “Ghostly Grange is a favourite now and Marauder is a great vehicle shoot-‘em-up. Plus there’s Mystical, another great shooter with a walking wizard defeating waves of enemies with spells. More Speccy games please!” Along with old faves such as Manic Miner and Target Renegade, Daren is busy recapturing his youth on Antstream Arcade.
Antstream Arcade Roar
Finally, we ask Daren if there are any improvements or additions we could make. We’re already
expecting the nature of his reply. “More Dragon 32 games please! And Atari ST games. Plus, get Jetpac and Jet Set Willy!”
We shall work on it! Our thanks to Daren for his time – stay tuned for another retro gamer profile soon!