It was a starkly optimistic, probably necessary, distraction from the reality of British life for many people, which was all miners strikes, IRA bombing campaigns, unemployment and Mrs Thatch.
It was also the year that the British games industry was born, thanks in no short measure to the release of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum.
The bedroom-coded nature of games development during the 80s meant that singular, idiosyncratic, visions were the norm. Nobody really knew what a video game should be, so they explored personal ideas which offered suggestions for what they could be. And often, what games were was a depressing reflection of real British life wrapped up in some truly eccentric gameplay.
Here are ten such games which nailed it. For better and worse...
Unfortunately, this being a place where the only road is a one-way street, and the residents don't want you to leave, achieving this dream played out as an exercise in tolerating monotony.
With its dead trees, rubbish bins, and park built atop an old sewage works, Scarthorpe was definitely bleak... though its most melancholic element was how little really happened.
The town was a maze of empty streets and dead ends, and its greatest success was in not being yet another adventure with a fantasy setting. Publisher Richard Shepherd Software clearly anticipated players going round in circles, and offered tips sheets to those who sent an SAE/suicide note.
Soho Sex Quest places you in the role of Albert Battersby, a 27 year-old sewing machine attendant from North Yorkshire. In a national competition, Albert has won a night with "Zelda... the finest prostitute in Soho", and sets out to lose his virginity to her... but standing in the path of his deflowering are pimps, police, and "perverts".
Seemingly having been written by hormonal 14 year-old boys, Soho Sex Quest was lacking in sophistication, dealt in monstrous, offensive stereotypes, and players could be killed suddenly through forced buggery. Additionally, the game would also randomly insult you, calling you "penis-head", and order you to stop "pissing about".
It was published by Malan Associates, whose other mail-order titles included less-salacious fare such as Character Generator & Drawing Program, and Music Maker. Amazingly, it proved popular enough that there was a sequel entitled Soho Sex Quest 2: Herpes or Bust.
Quite why anybody would go out of their way to contract herpes is anybody's guess, but this simply highlights the unsophisticated and ill-informed notion of "sex" that the game's creators had. What's the betting that they're still virgins?
As if that wasn't moribund enough, Super Trolley has been rendered even more depressing with time, given that it featured the endorsement of no less a reviled figure than Jimmy Savile. The game was the result of a Jim'll Fix It request from a young viewer who dreamed of living out his baffling supermarket fantasy.
Savile even appeared on the cover, cheerily filling a trolley with the aid of a young helper. Suffice to say, given what we know now, there's a whole backstory that one could extrapolate from this scenario.
True story: when I was a child I saw a girl collapse in Sainsbury's, and her panicked mother insisted it was because she hadn't eaten enough that day. I blame her entirely for my waistline, but on the plus side... I've never passed out in a Sainsbury's. Though I may have choked on a bag of crisps.
Trashman - despite the Americanisation of its title - is a distinctly British game, showcasing the Groundhog-esque tedium of the role, as a humble bin man serves the residence of an upmarket neighbourbhood . There are distractions along the way - being invited in to help a householder to fix their TV, angry dogs, cyclists - and should the bins not be collected and emptied before the bin bus disappears off the top of the screen, the player is fired.
There was a sequel released later the same year, Travels With Trashman, where the character found himself in assorted international locales, continuing to clean up after others. Perhaps he had some sort of compulsion.
Watching Arthur have a nervous breakdown after stealing the Christmas Club money has nothing on slaving over 16 drafts of the same thing only to be told that the first draft was probably the best one and, and being called in to discuss your episode on your birthday when you'd been assured you'd finally have a day off, and having a script editor who had some weird agenda that seemed to be about furthering her own career at the expense of your own, but noooo... you can't actually say that to anybody because it makes you look mad and a troublemaker.
That was 15 years ago and I've not watched a single episode since.
Oddly, Eastenders The Arcade Game (a joke of a title if ever there was one) proved that EastEnders becomes even more depressing when you take out the drama, and centre it around a nameless resident who has taken it upon himself to help the locals with menial tasks, like some creepy little weirdo.
Tasks include preparing drinks in the Queen Vic, pruning the plants in Arthur's allotment, sorting through the wash loads in the launderette, and stocking Pete Beale's fruit and veg stall...
Truly one of the worst Spectrum games ever, but also... probably the game that EastEnders deserved.
What are we saying here exactly? Andy Capp isn't lazy and sponging off The State? That he actually on disability benefits? Really though? And that's the person you want on your crisp packets is it?
The Andy Capp game was truly desolate; Andy, having blown his unemployment benefit, had to accrue money to give his demanding wife - gathering funds by betting on the horses, borrowing from a loan shark, tapping strangers for a hand-out - while repeatedly entering pubs to ensure he doesn't sober up.
Like most Northerners, Andy would also get into fights - including with his missus - which risked landing him in prison for being a wife-beater. As if all of that wasn't dubious enough, Andy could also stop passers-by in their tracks by, inexplicably, blowing kisses at them.
- Benefits sponger.
- Abusive husband.
- Sex pest.
- From Hartlepool.
Playing as Gonch - who never, as far as we know, dabbled with narcotics on the show - players had to try to retrieve his confiscated Sony Walkman, while avoiding the temptations of drug abuse, being savaged by a dog, drowning in sewage, or starving to death after becoming trapped behind a wall.
I once fell off a wall at a friend's house and cut my head. His mother's solution to this was to apply some "warm water" to the wound.
Unusually, The Archers game doesn't place you as a character in that world, but as a scriptwriter on the show, who must plot the series and please the controller of Radio 4, and ensure ratings didn't suffer. Completely far-fetched of course; there wasn't even a script-editor trying to stitch you up!
Oddly, this task was achieved by selecting from potential multiple choice plots, which led to some truly wrong-headed storylines - many of which ended in grisly deaths for beloved characters, and the option to exile one to a mental institution.
Also, one plot sees a character visiting a vet when he becomes concerned over how much time his obese dog is spending asleep. The vet's diagnosis? The animal "sleeps to avoid the sadness of life"...
Unfortunately, whereas the real Sir Clive appears to spend his days inventing things, visiting lap dancing clubs, and marrying young blonde ladies, his computer game equivalent has a more mundane existence... albeit in the context that Sir Clive - or, when the game begins, just Clive - has to travel to London in his C5 to receive his knighthood from Das Queen.
En route he's faced with such challanges as getting dressed, buying a newspaper, and finding some lunch. There are dangers along the way, of course, including psychotic beach balls, random fires, and sentient televisions. At no point, however, is Sir Clive lured into a lap dancing club, suggesting that A Day In The Life takes some considerable liberties with the truth.
In Flunky, those others comprise a grotesque parody of the British Royal Family, and the player is manservant who dashes around Buckingham Palace trying to keep them happy; Fergie needs you to applying her freckles, Lady Di wants a fresh wig, Little Andrew requires a toy boat to play with in the bath... Your ultimate goal is to receive a request from Das Queen herself, as if the greatest reward for these people is to be issued orders by some old woman with a lump of metal on her head.
Inevitably, if you fail in any of the above tasks and you will be shot by a royal guardsman.