Computer games are big business. You’ve probably all played a game or two, whether Angry Birds or something more blood thirsty like Call of Duty. The video games industry has grown to be a multi-billion dollar industry, close to eclipsing even Holywood. And you’ve all heard of California’s Silicon Valley and even Scotland’s Silicon Glen.
But what about Stornoway’s little known Silicon Ditch (a row of old sheds along the ‘canal’ at the bottom of Anderson Rd) – the nerve centre of Stornoway’s gaming industry?
The late 70’s and early 80’s had seen a dramatic growth in arcade machines in Stornoway’s pubs, clubs and funfairs, and Silicon Ditch was at the forefront of developing new local games to meet this demand. By far the most popular game was ‘Feis Invaders’, where the player had to shoot rows of drunken Celtic musicians as they tried to storm the stage at the Feis. If the musicians managed to reach the stage and grab your instruments it was ‘Game Over’. Also popular was ‘CacMan’, where the player had to navigate a maze of fences without standing on cowpats, whilst being chased by angry crofters.
Another early game was ‘Pong’, which was immensely popular, despite being very simplistic. In this game the players threw piles of fresh todhar at each other, scoring points if a shovelful hit their opponent.
In the early 1980’s local entrepreneur Clive Sinner developed a cheap home computer in order to help him do his sheep subsidy applications. This was known as the ZX Spectram. Other crofters realised how useful this new computer was and soon Clive was inundated with requests for him to build new Spectrams. It wasn’t long after this that the younger generation noticed that the Spectram was also good for developing cheap and cheerful games, and soon Clive was making a small fortune thanks to the popularity of games such as ‘Manic Manorpark’, ‘Chet Set Uilleam’ and ‘KennyFroggans-er’.
The local Churches began to notice a decline in teenagers attending Sunday services and put this down to the video game craze. To counteract this they developed their own gaming platforms with the intention of ensuring wholesome, family friendly games with a strong moral message. But of course, none of the different denominations could agree on a standardised platform and so each developed their own.
These included the Praystation, the Wii-free and the Excommunication Box. Not surprisingly, the majority of the games produced for these games consuls had a religious background including, ‘Plants vs Wee-Frees’ and ‘The Elder Scrolls’. For backsliding liberal denominations there was ‘The Hymns’ (the big selling simulation game where players take on the role of a member of a church choir). Most of the local churches considered ‘The Hymns’ unscriptural, however, and launched a similar game, ‘The Psalms’, in which players lost points, lives and after-lives for being in tune with each other, finishing a line at the same time as any of their opponents, or repeating any of the actual words sung by the game’s virtual precentor (and following on from the success of mainstream GuitarHero game, this eventually became a local hit as ‘PrecentorHeehoro’)
Other popular consoles included the Commatodhar 64 and the Tha-miga, each bringing their own games to the mix.
We’re off to have a game of Coll of Duty now, so we’ll leave you with a list of the most popular games;
Mortal KomBack, (and all its sequels, Mortal Kommongrazingsclerk, Mortal Kommunions, Mortal Komhairle, Mortal KomunngaidhealachAGM, Mortal Karryout, Mortal Krofter, Mortal Klachancustomers)
Seonaidh the Hedgehog
Command and Comhairle
Prince of Perceval Rd
Cromwell St Fighter
World of Todharcraft
Land Raider/Loom Raider with Lara Crofter
Super Nazir Bros
Tet a’ reisd
Grand Theft Mawto