|Karen Gordon as she appeared at the time on the cover of Zzap!64 issue #28|
Karen Wild nee Gordon might not be the most familiar name to Zzap!64 fans, but there is one aspect of her that makes her stand out from the rest of the crowd. Namely the fact she was IN one issue of the hallowed magazine. Or more precisely ON. The lucky girl won the Zzap!64 "Face" competition in 1987 and was whisked to Zzap! Towers to be immortalised in ink. Recently I happened to run into her online quite by accident, and she was willing to answer some questions about something that happened more than 15 years ago now...
First of all, a bit about yourself such as location, age (if it's not impolite!), job etc... up to you how much you want to divulge!
I now live in Lincolnshire with my husband, two young kids and two old dogs. I'm 32 (gasp!), I look after my children and work from home producing bronzed casts of babies hands and feet (not as freaky as it sounds). I also regularly sell stuff on eBay. I decided to follow my ambition to live in the 'Way of the Exploding Fist' and so I train in Shotokan Karate three times a week. I wish the leg sweep 'cheat' technique from 'Fist' would work in real life for me.
|Karen Gordon then...||...and now, with her two little "sprites"!|
When did you get into the C64 and why? And also when did you get into Zzap!64 and why?
We got a ZX81 when they first came out which kicked it all off. Back then it was all really unexplored territory and very exciting to be able to write your own programs. I wanted more so I sold my clarinet, which I could not play and bought a C64, which luckily I could. The graphics and sprites just made it outstanding. I was into arcade games; PacMan, Space Invaders etc. We had one of those addictive TV game things with tennis and shooting - I always had to win. I guess I am very competitive.
I had very little funds to be able to afford the newest games so I was a budget game fanatic. I loved Zzap! 64 because it meant you never ever wasted your money on a naff game. The reviews were to the point and not at all self-important. Some of the other C64 mags around were full of patronising reviewers handing you their 'expert' opinion from somewhere way up on high...Zzap! was never like that. You always felt like they were just normal guys who happened to be expert gamers (respect!).
For me Zzap! covered all the aspects of C64 that I found interesting - from high scores and tips to articles on software houses and programmers. I never did 'get' the whole Jeff Minter thing though.
I am guessing from your auctions that you still have most, if not all of your C64 stuff from the years. Is there still an interest in the machine for yourself, or is it a question of needing some room for other items?!
Oh I still love my C64 and I turfed it out of the loft a while ago. I still have it with all the paraphernalia. It was all carefully packed away with my high scores carefully written down (and no, I'm not ashamed to admit that!). I found myself getting back into the old obsession about the games. It's such a shame that I never have the time to sit and play and play like I used to. That's why I thought I would start to sell it off. However, my 2 year old son thinks the games are great. He is much better at them than I am.
I fell out with my C64 a few years back when I was nearly finishing writing my latest adventure game when my 16k Ram pack wobbled and I lost the lot.
Can you remember what your winning entry for the Zzap!64 competition was?
I believe you had to write a reason why you thought you should get the chance to meet the Zzap! crew. I recall that I wrote something along the lines of 'You all need the feminine touch'. Ha!
What can you remember from your time at Zzap!64 Towers for the day? How did the process of getting your face onto the cover work, did Oli sketch you there or did he base it on pictures taken? What goodies did you receive from your visit?
When I visited Zzap! towers I was really overwhelmed, partly because I was seriously star-struck and also because I had an O-level exam the next day. It was a little weird seeing the 'real' Julian Rignall - perhaps I was expecting him to be a sketched cartoon like he appeared in the mag!
I also met Ciaran Brennan, Steve Jarratt and Glenys (she and Julian had just announced their engagement) amongst other people. They were (and probably still are) extremely nice people, very funny and really friendly too. They showed me around Zzap! Towers (a tall building right in the middle of Ludlow) and copied me a Star Trek picture which I still have. There was a very cosy atmosphere. I recall one of the team (was it SJ?) had been eating a curry Pot Noodle for breakfast. This in itself should give you a feel for the place! We went to a pub for lunch and they were so nice to me - but I was still star-struck. I was only about 16.
I had my photo taken by Cameron the cameraman - he gave me prints of the pics which I still have, and some transparencies too. I was told Oli would use them to sketch from. I was supposed to be holding the little characters from 'Head over Heels', so I had to sit on a bench and pretend to hold them (yes it was weird).
I never did meet Oli, but my Mum had told me to ask if I could have the original when it was done. So I did ask and got a few raised eyebrows (well, how was I to know?) so I never got to see it. I don't know exactly what happened but a few months later I bumped into JR and Glenys once again in Ludlow and they said they did not know why Oli had slapped the Ninja picture right in the middle of the cover, they seemed a little apologetic. A mystery indeed. If you look carefully at the cover there is definitely something else drawn under the Ninja. I have always wondered about that.
I was thrilled with the pic of me with the knight in shining armour and the pennant he's holding has my initials on it, which I thought was a very nice touch. I hated the pic inside the mag though (aaaagh!). They gave me a bag full of games, which I was delighted with as they were not my usual budget 'fare'. Krakout was one, Dragons Lair II was another. I also was given a Zzap! binder to keep the mags in... I think I may have got a T-shirt too.
Favourite C64 titles?
I have loads of faves all for different reasons, so I will answer this in terms of hours spent playing: Collapse, Zolyx, Dropzone, Krakout, Impossible Mission II. And I used to love Summer Games I and II/Winter Games for sheer entertainment value by making the gymnasts eat mat or by making the high divers do a Bobby Davro.
I always had a love/hate relationship with Twin Kingdom Valley. I had the whole layout memorised and got so close to finishing it, by which time the tape was worn out and refused to load. So sadly I never did get to the end.
Whilst growing up, did it feel isolated to be a girl interested in computers, or were there other female enthusiasts in your area that you knew?
I was the only girl I knew that was keen on computers and gaming. It felt odd to be standing in the computer game shop mulling over which budget title to buy next, when there were only blokes around. However it was a little bit satisfying to be able to whup their high scores and tell them they'd been beaten by a girl! I never felt isolated as I had loads of mates, it's just that my friends were not even faintly interested in computers. Their eyes used to glaze over when I went on about it. So my winning a visit to Zzap! was totally lost on them.
In fact, I remember buying my copy of Zzap! with me on the cover and showing it to the lady in the newsagent to say 'Look! that's me!' because I knew my friends would just go, 'Yeah? SO?'. People can be so crushing sometimes.
Anything you want to say to other Zzap!64 fans out there online?
Er... Hi everyone. Nice to know you are still out there. Wasn't Zzap!64 the most brilliant magazine ever? Happy days. And don't put in the bit about my beating Gary Penn's high score in Collapse, even though it is true.
Oh okay then, if you insist. LOL!
Karen Wild can be found floating around the internet if you look carefully, and selling some C64 stuff (amongst others) on eBay under the ID of Dodgerian if you want to acquire some games :)