It’s me – don’t run away!

Hi, I’m Simon Smith – and welcome to my website Higher Plain Games. It’s an independent, one man show and I also run the Higher Plain Games YouTube channel too. My mission is to spread the word about games that have struck a chord in my heart – usually games that are hidden gems that I feel should be getting a lot more love in this world.

Unless otherwise stated, I have purchased the games myself and if a reviewers code has been given to me, I will complete my review and share my thoughts without bias. Even if cake was supplied! This man’s not for turning…

So what is my gaming story?

Born in the 80’s, I was always drawn to technology. My dad bought a ZX Spectrum +3 and part of our bonding would be rummaging around car boot sales (I’m English) finding cassette games to play or picking up the latest Your Sinclair magazine. My parents were worried at how much I loved it and so I was originally limited to two hours on a Saturday and Sunday to play on it. Horace Goes Skiing, Cosmic Wartoad, Super Ivan Offroad, Rainbow Islands, Chuckie Egg, Cyclone and Renegade were part of the first collection of games that stuck with me. I was utterly lost in the world on screen and have never wanted to return since.

From there I would sneak onto my brothers Atari 2600 before being bought a Sega Master System and then Mega Drive are carefully ensuring my best mates were all going the Nintendo route so I could sample those joys too. Instead of pocket money I would be allowed to rent a game for a weekend and spent ages carefully choosing the next game to try without really knowing what I was getting. Zombies Ate My Neighbours, Sonic, Olympic Gold, Ayrton Senna’s GP, California Games, Castle of Illusion – I could go on.

It was the PlayStation where things really overtook me and I think one of the most powerful moments was standing outside EB (Game as it’s called now) and watching a looping demo of the Formula 1 game. My parents would do a weekly shop and I would still be standing there watching it. The following year I was lucky to get one and as soon as I was earning – all my money would be for gaming (and sweets). I would stay a console gamer mainly until around 2004/5 when I bought my first PC – one that would introduce me to online gaming.

The advent of PC and therefore online gaming bowled me away. As a Motorsports fan I was drawn to online racing games first and have spent the last decade racing in various online leagues across many games – usually coming in the last few places but loving every minute. It merged what for me was a solo experience into something more social and has gained me many a friend.

PC gaming also introduced me to indie games as the market continues to split into two very specific camps. The big budget non risk takers, and the tiny indie teams. The reason why I hold the PS2 as currently my favourite console era is that there was a middle ground at the time where you could be inventive but also have a relatively stable budget to try new things out. Now that middle ground is gone, I’m finding myself siding with the indie gamers. I am experiencing new feelings, emotions, senses and opportunities in heavily stylised environments and that interests me far more than a cookie cutter shooter. I understand why they exist – they just aren’t for me.

I have a few thoughts around gaming these days but they are also reflections on society. An entitled digital age where digital products are often undervalued is an interesting predicament. Should developers always have their game on 91% discounts to get a single sale? Shouldn’t we be able to fully own a digital product that we’ve paid for and not feel like we are being loaned something at full price? Why would I want to play a free-to-play game when I can buy and have something that I can call mine? How can I actively preserve my gaming collection that I love so dear and yet still enjoy the games themselves?

Gaming is complex. Gaming is emotive. Gaming is many things but most importantly – gaming is me.