I was inspired to write this piece, my first for Retrospekt, after seeing some pictures of Kevin Nivek’s amazing new Space Invader and Pac Man tattoos (these will be featured in this article later). But after chatting to him about his tattoos, I discovered him to be a rich source of information about Classic Gaming! He subsequently shared the following entertaining and interesting recount of his love of, and experiences with, Classic Games.
Born in Melbourne, Australia in 1968, Kevin Nivek has had a passion for gaming ever since he can remember. His family moved to Liverpool, England in 1969 where Kevin first discovered arcade video games. As a young boy growing up in Liverpool, Kevin made his own fun as he states, “There was nothing to do at home.” He therefore took every opportunity to seek out games in his neighbourhood. As he describes, “I recall spending countless hours playing Space Invaders, Pac Man, Galaxian, Galaga, Dig dug and Phoenix. Not too mention countless pinball machines.” He fondly recalls playing everything that was released at that time and took any and every opportunity to play games. He describes how, at the age of ten, he witnessed the birth of the video game as we know it, having seen and played some of the very first games to be released as arcade video games!
The very first games he remembers playing are games like Super Brickout and Arkanoid (see above). Both are simple games involving a ball and the sliding ‘pong’ bat the player manoeuvres in order to hit the bricks. Kevin explains, “It was early in 1979, my cousin Geoff and I had been travelling between home and the local gym because we had discovered a games machine there, the first machine I’d laid eyes on that wasn’t a pinball or poker style machine. This machine was called Super Brickout, a basic pong style game where you had to remove the bricks to release other Arkanoid balls to create multi-ball mayhem-something pinball machines soon adapted.” This was a time when games were not readily accessible at home and Kevin describes how, “I used to get two buses to school and instead of leaving on time, I’d go way early and play the latest machine at the chip shop on the way to school and often sacrifice my lunch money!” Kevin describes it as, “An expensive hobby, but a very satisfying one!”
Kevin distinctly remembers encountering
Space Invaders, the first blockbuster arcade video game, which quickly
became one of his favourite arcade games and still is to this day. Kevin recalls,
“One day my grandfather decided it was time for a trip to Eastbourne to see my
aunt. We were somewhere on the highway M1 when we pulled into a
flash, newly built dual roadhouse for petrol and some eats. And, then KAZAAM !
KAPOW ! There in the foyer was this brand new shiny stand up
Neo Geo (A.E.S) style cabinet with Space Invaders written all
over it! My eyes nearly
popped out of my head!! So
many 10p pieces later my grandfather
dragged me away and we headed
off down the road.”
DID YOU KNOW?
Space Invaders was in part inspired by a dream about
Japanese school children who are waiting for Santa Claus
and are attacked by invading aliens? >:D
Kevin then moved back to Australia in 1979 . As he describes, “I was a very keen roller skater and spent lots of time at the local rink in Newcastle, and from 1980-1982 I spent lots of time playing various machines.” He then moved from Newcastle to Melbourne in September, 1982. Now 14 years of age, Kevin got a job and fondly remembers spending his entire weekly wage on a Friday night on games.
Kevin also found a full-time job as an apprentice, and relates how he, “Had no real expenses due to free entry to skating and pretty much free food and games, so Friday afternoons meant spending my entire pay packet on games in the newest arcades! Some machines were so new they only cost 60 cents! It seems silly now as nothing is less than a dollar.” Kevin also maintains that through his extensive gaming he has acquired such life skills as patience, problem solving, determination and coordination all useful in his current job as an Automotive Electrician. Gaming gives you skills people! (Did you ever doubt it?)
The late 1980’s saw an increase in home gaming consoles, this was the beginning of home gaming for Kevin. His first console was a trs80 Tandy computer. This was short-lived however, as he then bought an Atari 2600 and spent forever playing games such as Pitfall. Then came the Commodore 64 which was soon superceded by the Amiga 1000 and then the Amiga 2000. Japanese company Nintendo then released T.V. NINTENDO which, “Changed the face of gaming for me. I was no longer countlessly killing aliens, but jumping plumbers! Then came ZELDA, my first real RPG.”
Currently, Kevin owns every gaming console on the market. From the Xbox 360, PS 3, Wii, PSP, Nintendo DS, Gameboy Colour, PC, and of course his collection of retro gaming consoles like N64, PS1, PS2, SNES, Megadrive and Master System. He does not use his retro consoles to game any more as he has all his favourite old games reissued for the newer consoles. As he explains, “I have retro copies of all the oldies to play on my latest machines so Pac Man and Space Invaders still get thrashed when I don’t really want something too hard and just want some fun!
DID YOU KNOW?
Pac Man creator Toru Iwatani stated that he designed each
enemy, known as ‘ghosts’, with its own distinct personality
in order to keep the game from becoming impossibly
difficult or boring to play?
Recently, Kevin had the ‘ghosts’ of Pac Man tattooed on the back of his right calf and the Space Invaders tattooed on his left calf. They were done at Tattoo You on Nth East Road, and Kevin drew them himself and photo-shopped them so they are perfectly symmetrical. I must say they look amazing! Perfect and very colourful! :)
As you can see below! And what better way to pay homage to something so life-changing?
When asked what he believes to be the biggest difference between retro or ‘classic’ games and contemporary games, Kevin replied, “Most early games you could learn very quickly and didn’t necessarily take hours to play, whereas most new games these days have a large time factor involved with them. But I’m 43 now, and I can’t see myself ever not gaming, it’s in my blood! And although Space Invaders wasn’t my first video game experience it certainly was the catalyst for my life of gaming.”