Idris Elba says he grew up playing Commodore 64 games, never hacking them

the The New York Times delivered (opens in a new tab) my favorite title for a while: “Gamer Idris Elba was excited to join Sonic the Hedgehog 2.” That’s how the article appears in search results, at least. On the Times website, it’s remixed to “Idris Elba, Gamer (that’s why he was so into Sonic the Hedgehog 2)”. The fact is: Beloved actor Idris Elba? Yeah, he’s a player. (And that’s why he was so keen on playing Knuckles in Sonic the Hedgehog 2.)

Elba told the newspaper that he’s owned “almost” every console since the Sega Genesis, and is into “FIFA and driving games” these days. He started playing, however, on a Commodore 64 personal computer, which makes him a PC gamer in my book (or it would be if I kept some sort of PC gamer field identification book).

Elba would have been nine years old when the Commodore 64 was released in 1982. At the time, it cost $600, which today equates to a very good gaming PC considering inflation, or around $1,740. For this, you have a processor clocked at about 1 MHz and 65 KB of RAM. Shit yeah.

There were tons of games available for the C64. Lucasfilm Games released several, including Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders and Maniac Mansion. Many arcade games have also been ported there. I’ve played Bubble Bobble shit, although I’m thinking maybe the Apple 2 version.

What Elba played on his Commodore 64 is a mystery, as the NYT conversation shifted to how easily C64 data tapes could be copied and therefore pirated.

“I remember you could take a blank tape and copy a game over it,” Elba said. “And you had to remove the tabs from the tape so you wouldn’t record over it.”

He added in a deceptively serious voice that all of his games were “purchases allowed”. Very suspicious! How am I supposed to appreciate Elba’s performance as Knuckles if I wonder if her copy of Bubble Bobble was obtained legitimately or not?

I’ll just have to have faith, I guess. Regarding Knuckles, Elba said he “wanted to try playing it with a grating voice” because he “thought it might be funny”. The studio didn’t think it was funny and the idea was “immediately rejected”. I like to imagine Elba starting every job that way. Heimdall squeaky voice. Squeaky voice Stringer Bell.

Elba didn’t say whether or not he would be the next James Bond, which everyone seems to want. I’m not sure Elba does, though. I’m not even sure he wants to play human. Knuckles is an echidna, and Elba has also played a Cape buffalo in Zootopia, a sea lion in Finding Dory, and a tiger in The Jungle Book. Regarding his role in the movie Cats, he told The New York Times, “…It’s an amazing experience, being a feline.”

Maybe Elba will make Bond if they make Bond a Scottish wildcat?

Let’s go back to the original point of all this: Elba’s PC gaming experience may not be as deep as that of fellow 007 candidate Henry Cavill, who thinks of Warhammer while playing Geralt in the Witcher series of Netflix, but that’s not going to stop us from welcoming him into the club – even though he’s probably copied a few Commodore 64 tapes. (Of course, I never copied a floppy disk (opens in a new tab) in my life.)

About Dorie Castro

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