Life as a Retro Gamer: Meet Mark
Updated: Mar 27, 2020
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 the starting point, there’s a whole new virtual neighbourhood at the heart of what we do.
For our third gamer profile we present Mark Howlett, known as Lord Arse on Antstream Arcade and beyond. Why not friend him up, and throw a challenge his way – if you dare!
Name: Mark Howlett
Antstream Arcade Handle: Lord Arse
Occupation: Company Director
First Gaming Love: Atari 2600
Favourite Games on Antstream Arcade: ALL the Metal Slugs, the brilliant Exolon and the Monty games.
Favourite Challenge: ‘Limited Steering’ on Horace Goes Skiing. “I can’t get close, but I’ll crack it eventually!”
“The Atari VCS was a real turning point for me, and after the basic delights of the Grandstand 4600, it felt that the space age had arrived,” begins this month’s Antstream Arcade hive member, the venerable Lord Arse, and a popular figure on social media, YouTube and Twitch. Like so many, Mark was quickly beguiled by the Atari console, its simple and blocky graphics belying a vast array of wonderful games. “Combat was the first game that I played on my VCS,” he continues, “and even today, all these years later, it’s still such fun to send an opponent spinning across the screen.” It wasn’t long before Mark was falling in love with some of the system’s famous arcade conversions, including Space Invaders, Missile Command and – erm – Pac-Man? “Yep!” he grins. “I’m one of the very few who actually likes the VCS version!” The poor Grandstand 4600, already a relic of an earlier era, was soon gathering dust at the Howlett residence, despite Mark’s love of the console. “It was a Pong-type machine with a few primitive sports games built-in, but with the added benefit of a rifle so you could shoot moving targets. I was already fascinated by the ability to interact with the screen via Teletext, so to be able to fully interact with the screen blew my tiny mind!”
As was common for the time, Mark’s parents were not gamers; fortunately, they noticed how enthused their son was about video games, buying him his first computer in the early Eighties. “It was a ZX81,” he recalls fondly, “And I was just ten years old. But I’d spend hours and hours writing games and programming it.” Mark’s efforts in coding on the early Sinclair micro even resulted in a playable game. “I called it ‘ZX Target’, and the player controlled a racing car, attempting to navigate a randomly curving track. It was programmed in 1K and took ages to load from cassette! Those were the days.” Indeed they were Mark, days that, on the Antstream Arcade, are being recreated right now.
One of the most common questions Mark is asked is how his online identity, Lord Arse, came about. “Unfortunately, the answer is rather long and boring!” he laughs. “To be honest, I’m not really sure, but I can say that back in the day I used the name ‘Lord of Ra’ in various RPG and dungeon crawling games. I think there’s a possibility that at some point this got warped in my weird mind into the Lord Arse persona you know today.” Whatever its origins, Mark has built up an impressive following on Twitter in particular over the years, and has recently taken to streaming, in addition to a YouTube channel and other various gaming-related activities.
Lord Of All He Surveys
Like many keen gamers, Mark has an impressive collection of games and consoles, most of which were bought from new, upon release. Alas, for many years, a lack of space dictated that his collection remained hidden. “Then, a couple of years ago, my wife and I moved into a new house which had a room perfect for me to rescue my collection from my parents’ loft and set it free!” Today, Mark expands his collection by filling in gaps where he deems appropriate, experiencing for the first time the computers and consoles he missed out on when younger. “Now I have a bit more spending money, I can add those things – and it’s a joyous experience!” he smiles.
Lord Antstream Arcade
As a keen advocate of gaming in general, Mark enthusiastically backed Antstream Arcade’s Kickstarter campaign back in 2019. “And I’m very happy to have a founder title on my Antstream avatar!” he confirms proudly. But what is it about the retro gaming streaming service that he admires the most? “I love that I can just load it up and play from a huge and growing list of classic games, without having to own the original software or, worse, pirate it from the internet,” he reveals, and another of Mark’s joys is the multi-format nature of Eighties games in particular. “So, whereas I might wish to play a version of a game that I’m familiar with – for instance on the ZX Spectrum – I can then see what my poor Commodore 64 owning friends had to endure! Joking, of course – but the playground wars never end!”