When I was a kid, Fridays were the best. Not just because it prefaced a whole two days before I’d have to go back to school, but also because Friday nights meant Robot Wars. To my youthful eyes, watching giant robots flip and tear and saw through each other was the greatest thing in existence. That is, until the game Robot Wars: Arenas Of Destruction came out, and suddenly I could create my own robots – or better yet, play as my familiar favourites from the TV series – and live the dream myself.
Looking back, it… wasn’t the best game. As both a robot creation tool and a physics simulator, it was shallow and bug-riddled. There was nothing to differentiate any weapon from another. A circular saw didn’t carve slices into the metal chassis of the opponent, nor did a diamond-tipped axe leave a satisfying puncture wound wherever it hit. To make things worse, the physics would often spontaneously be thrown into disarray, sending stationary robots catapulting into the air for no reason. Most frustrating of all, the lightest tap against a wall or the opposing robot would sometimes result in an inexplicable engine failure and immediate loss of the game (and therefore the tournament you were about to win).
But did I care about those things? Of course not. All I saw was the sleek black frame of Chaos 2, the raw power of Hypno-Disc, the devastating elegance of Razer. Destruction was the name of the game, and as a hyperactive eight-year-old, I lived and breathed mindless destruction. It didn’t matter that flippers were infinitely more powerful than any other form of weapon. It didn’t matter that all my robots eventually ended up as carbon copies of one another because no other design was remotely viable. It didn’t matter that they were only able to afford about ten lines from commentator Jonathan Pearce, and so each of them was repeated about three times over the course of a single fight.
This was Robot Wars made real for me, and I had to be prised away from the PC whenever it was time for bed, school, food, or any of the other distractions of real life.