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classic of the month : OUT RUN (Sega)

Monday, 1. April, 2019
Reunification, fall of the Berlin wall, East Berlin, my first West computer (from Commodore) and our move into the heart of the city, shortly before the country, in which I was born, ceased to exist. The look and feel of video games burned into my mind during the many days and even more nights spent playing on (at the time already not very new) home computers.

The encounter.
At my new school behind Alexanderplatz, I would spend my breaks inside the “Markthalle” – a gloomy GDR structure, in which all the new products from the Federal Republic of Germany in the west looked oddly displaced.

Between the booths: The first modern arcade video game from the west in my life – Out Run by SEGA, which invited you to take a seat in the cockpit-version (in exchange for half-a-week’s worth of my allowance).

The demo mode, featuring a real Ferrari at crazy speeds dashing along detailed coastal highways lined with palm trees accompanied by inviting, joyful synth-pop: The promise of experiencing beloved TV shows of the 80s like Miami Vice or Magnum, with their iconic sports cars and gorgeous co-drivers.

The illusion of going on your own journey was enhanced by a clever game mechanic, which offered new forks along on the route as you progressed. From then on, my innocent computer at home and early console experiences had to compete with the graphics and music from a different, prettier world.

The disenchantment.
Unfortunately, no computer or gaming console in those days could transfer the force of this impressive gameplay onto any screens at home. Even today, the technology behind the game is still intriguing. Rapidly zooming into numerous two-dimensional graphics (sprites) to create an image of three-dimensionality and depth is a very processor- intensive method and therefore too expensive to apply outside of gaming arcade halls.
New old love.

I have not seen an Out Run arcade game since 1990. Until a cold day two years ago in Suomen Pelimuseo, the Finnish game museum in Tampere, when I encountered my old love again. Even more beautiful than on the first day it stood there, lovingly restored, the deluxe version with the hydraulically shaking driver’s cab and warmly blinking rear lights.
Sadly, it did not fit inside the airplane back to Berlin :)

What was there to do after such an encounter and a recurring sense of loss? I got myself the perfect arcade adaption of the game with the help of a Japanese Sega Saturn and the SEGA-AGES version. Now you too can enjoy Out Run here at our “Classic of the Month” station.

When friends and acquaintances ask about my goals after collecting for 25 years, pixel palms and a sparkling ocean off to the left of the highway immediately pop up in my mind: No doubt, an Out Run Deluxe sit down cabinet.
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