Why Dreamcast?

Yet another very interesting article from The Dreamcast Junkyard about where Tom Charnock explains about why choosing Dreamcast!

– As popular as this blog may have become in recent years – I still have no idea why people want to read my rambling diatribes about a long-dead games console, by the way – I don’t go around in real life announcing myself as some kind of saviour of the Dreamcast. True, I bore my gamer friends to death with stories about long cancelled games and how this series or that game originally started life on the Dreamcast…but generally in my day to day life I barely speak about my affection for Sega’s final console. It’s like a dirty little secret in some ways. However, on occasion people who aren’t really involved in my gaming stuff do find out about this place or see something on social media that I may have tweeted or posted, and inevitably the question comes: “why the Dreamcast?”

Work colleagues who have a passing interest in gaming or retro tech find out that I spend my free time writing this guff, and at first they think it’s cool or intriguing…then become a little puzzled. And sometimes I have to just sit there and ponder to myself…why Dreamcast indeed? What is it about the Dreamcast that has fuelled my desire to continue to churn out podcasts, videos and articles and haul all my stuff across the country to events for the last 11 years? I generally fall back on the old “the Dreamcast represents so many missed opportunities” response; but the more I think about it, the more I think I have another reason. But before I share it with you, dear reader, some more about my other gaming habits…

I don’t exclusively collect Dreamcast-related paraphernalia and I don’t elusively play Dreamcast games. I’m not – by any stretch of the imagination – a ‘fanboy.’ I am a lover of retro technology in all of its guises, and games consoles just happen to fall under that umbrella for me. I love the obscure, the forgotten and the obsolete – there’s something truly fascinating to me about technology that didn’t catch the imagination or the attention of the mainstream audience it so desperately wanted to court; those contraptions that fell by the wayside and were largely forgotten. For every world-conquering success in the field of tech and gaming, there are hundreds of failed formats and contraptions that also set out with the same aims…but failed to catch on. And I’m not just talking about in the gaming sphere, either. The history of computing and audio visual entertainment is littered with forgotten formats and devices; many of which offered enhanced abilities over the thing that did actually become the industry standard for whatever niche it occupied.

Go and have a look at The Museum of Obsolete Media or Techmoan on YouTube for further information.
To get back to the point, I love all forms of old technology and by extension I am fascinated by all forms of gaming devices. My collection of consoles and games is by no means gargantuan or exhaustive, but the little corner of my house in which I store all my trinkets of deceit is full of consoles by manufacturers that aren’t Sega. Nintendo, SNK, Atari, Philips, Microsoft, Panasonic, Sony, and Amstrad devices are all jammed together in my makeshift shrine to the antiquated…and that’s because I’m format agnostic. I love games of all types and from all manufacturers. So to bring it back around,what I’m trying to say is that I don’t love the Dreamcast simply because it was made by Sega. And I don’t blindly eschew games or consoles from other manufacturers – I just love games. That’s it. I care not one iota who makes them.

So. Why Dreamcast? After mulling this over for so long I think I finally understand why. Before the Dreamcast I had a host of other systems but none of them really struck a chord with me in the same way the Dreamcast did – and still does. The reason the Dreamcast means so much to me is because it was an ever-present and intrinsic part of one of the shittiest periods of my life. I was 17 when the Dreamcast launched in the UK, and was studying at college for my A Levels (that’s what you do before you go to University in the UK). It was the first console I could really afford to buy myself (partly by flogging my Nintendo 64 through an advert I put in the window of a local shop). I was an angry teen, always getting in trouble or fighting with my brother. My mum kicked me out of the house because I was a complete cunt and I ended up having to go and live with my dad. I had no job and no money but I carried on with my college course and slept in a spare room on a mattress on the floor. But I had my Dreamcast.

I used to just sit on my own in that shitty room surrounded by junk and boxes of broken crap that middle aged men accumulate in spare rooms, playing Metropolis Street Racer for hours, trying to beat hot laps to get the next car in the showroom. I didn’t really have any friends – something I partly put down to the area being ever-so-slightly racist, but that’s a different story – and so I just spent all my spare time playing on the Dreamcast. It’s weird to think back that I was ever like that, but there it is. Through that period of just being a bit of a waster and a lazy student bastard, I played on MSR and the various other games I could get my hands on through trading stuff in and spending the money I got from my summer job before going to university. While at university I got rid of the original Dreamcast, then bought another…then sold that one too and then went for several years just going through the Gamecube and Xbox systems before finally buying another Dreamcast in 2005 and starting this whole thing.

But this is the crux of the matter. The reason the Dreamcast is so special to me, is that it really was – and this sounds so pathetic – my only friend at times. Stems of depression, years of being kicked out of this school or that school, zero self esteem and the usual teenage angst bullshit mixed with being split between one parent living in an inner city ghetto and another living in a fairly rural, prejudiced area, combined with no real sense of self identity or worth. It didn’t matter when I was playing a hot lap in MSR. I didn’t buy games to show them off on Twitter, or say ‘look at all my retro games – aren’t I awesome?!’ to randoms on a forum (also – neither existed in 2000!). I bought them because they were a way of occupying myself through the shit times of my late teens. The Dreamcast literally became a sort of crutch. Other stuff happened in that period that I’m not comfortable sharing on a public blog (plus, I don’t know who is going to read this); and to be honest if it’d been any other system other than the Dreamcast I probably would have found myself oddly attached to that one instead. It’s just how the stars aligned, I guess. That I happened to be born when I was, and that I happened to reach my late teens at the same time that a Japanese gaming firm decided to release their final console.

In the current climate, being a ‘gamer’ or more specifically a ‘retro gamer’ has become almost a badge of nerdy honour. I see a lot of people on social media who are new to the system proclaiming their love for Shenmue or Jet Set Radio or whatever, and while I wish them no ill will I can’t help but feel that it’s all a bit superficial. Sure, the Dreamcast has a lot of great games and people are well within their rights to proclaim this game or that game as the best thing ever. But for me, it goes a bit deeper than that.

I also owe a lot to the Dreamcast – without it I would never have started this blog. Never have started writing about games and never have gotten to the point where I have had articles published in actual magazines and on proper games and tech websites. I wouldn’t have been able to attend so many events, and I would never have met so many awesome people who have gone on to become true friends…simply because we share a passion for the Sega Dreamcast. The Dreamcast helped me through some really tough times, and also opened up a lot of doors for me. So when somebody next asks me: “why Dreamcast?” I’ll be sure to send them a link to this post.

Thanks to The Dreamcast Junkyard for making it possible to share the articles on Distrita. Dreamcast is a console market that we support as an inde

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