The Atari 2600, the Atari ST, the ZX Spectrum, my Astro Wars LED, and Donkey Kong Game & Watch... all of them meant something important to me, because I had less of everything (though looking at that list - what a spoiled wretch was I).
The Master System was an impulse purchase, essentially. I had my first month's wages melting a hole in my wallet, and I needed to dash them against the rocks of something new and shiny.
Ladbrokes couldn't afford a full-time graphics monkey, so I had to double up as an 'inputter' - updating the betting odds on Ladbrokes' in-store computer displays. Later I'd move six feet across the office to the teletext - or Oracle - department, doing the same thing for the company's teletext pages (my immediate boss was a chap called Julian Edwards, who went on to run the Bamboozle quiz for Teletext Ltd).
I wasn't great at it; I tended to get distracted by doodling, or plotting out the next adventure for my beloved Tuesday role-playing game nights. I made frequent mistakes, and the department manager once gave me a talking to about my appearance (long hair, a blue tartan suit and trainers wasn't considered appropriate company attire, I was assured).
Somehow, I was liked enough that I ended up eventually getting promoted to deputy manager of the Oracle section... but I hated it. I didn't want the responsibility of having to discipline people, and I never had any ambition for power for the sake of it. From there it was only a matter of time before I left.
Still, while the job wasn't quite the spending-all-day-doing-computer-graphics role I'd expected, it was still a step up from going to school or college or university, as far as I was concerned. Employment was a better fit for me than education, regardless of what I was doing.
Yet there was a down side to getting paid: being able to purchase what I wanted, when I wanted - within reason - somehow took away a degree of the enjoyment from owning that thing. The intensity of the high wasn't the same as coveting an item for months, or years, and then getting it. Somehow, not relying on my parents for money devalued everything.
You have to wonder how awful life must be for millionaires and thieves...
Fortunately, life would soon have other designs on my disposable income, but - for now - the retail world was my lobster.
Regrettably, this grim orgy of consumerism extended to as much food as I could possibly stuff in my gob. I'd always been lanky, but the second I started working I distended like a blimp that's been loaded to its seams with carbs.
As an example... during one lunch break, I took myself to a Chinese restaurant, and had a set meal for two... for one. The staff stood and watched, because they didn't believe I'd eat it all.
I often had to work Sundays - alone in the office - and used it as an excuse to see how many olives I could slide down my oesophagus. Another time I returned home from the pub, gorged on a 12 pack of crisps, vomited the entire lot up on my bedroom floor, wiped it up with half a dozen towels, took said towels downstairs - and threw them in the neighbour's garden.
My mother wasn't hugely impressed the next morning, but - to her credit - she was as amused as anything. She made me use a broom to fish them out of Mr Benson's apple tree.
Age and vanity has slightly tempered my eating (middle aged spread is starting to have other ideas, mind), but it doesn't take much to eat myself into a food trance.
But I digress, massively.
At £99, the Master System was the most expensive thing I'd ever bought up until that point. Distributor Mastertronic (RIP) billed it as "An arcade for your home" - which seemed like a reasonable deal for less than a ton - but I regretted the decision almost immediately (much like the aforementioned meal for two... for one).
It was like agreeing to go out with someone just because you were flattered they'd asked you out, even though you liked someone else... and then struggling to extricate yourself from that relationship, but being too damn nice or feeble to just come out and say it.
THE "LOOK - NES!" MONSTER
Actually, to be fair, 'regretted' might be overstating it. I was more disappointed. I still had the memory of the NES in Harrods from some years before - that was the machine I really wanted - but this was the time before Nintendo got its shit together in Europe; there were no NES consoles to be found in town. The Master System was me "settling".
But like every relationship not driven by something as powerful as love or loins, the Master System and I limped along in a state of dazed half-life.
The only games I ever ended up owning for it were Alex Kidd in Miracle World, some Mahjong thing - no idea what the Hell I was doing with that, unless I've forgotten that it came bundled with the machine - Spy vs Spy (based upon the Mad Magazine comic strip), Outrun and Hang On. I never bought any others.
Alex Kidd - a lug-eared, beer-chugging, brick-puncher, in a pair of Mario's cast-off, soiled dungarees - was the best of a tepid bunch, but it was evident he couldn't compete with Nintendo's finest.
The game also displayed something that would frustrate me throughout those early console years - no save feature. Like so many games, if you wanted a shot at seeing everything Alex Kidd had to offer, you had to keep the machine on, and just play through to the end. Without using up all your lives and continues, or stabbing yourself in the ears as the endlessly recycled soundtrack coiled around the pleasure centres of your brain like an aural tapeworm. It wasn't worth the effort.
All in all, the Master System was a weirdly cheap-feeling system, with an uncomfortable joypad - rendered only fractionally more tolerable by its screw-in joystick nub - and games coming on both cartridge and card. It always felt like a half-conceived attempt to compete with the NES. Which, let's face it, is exactly what it was. There were some half-decent games to come along later in its life, but by that time I had already moved on.
Consequently, the Atari ST remained my main games machine of choice.
That is... when I still played games.
For the first time in my life, my interest in games was being replaced by other things. I no longer needed them to be the refuge that they provided during my younger teens, and so the Master System and the ST mostly became redundant.
I got to play with computers at work - which scratched that techno-itch - and what spare time I had was taken up with seeing mates, listening to music, going to gigs, and arguing furiously with my girlfriend.
I was enjoying the social freedom of not being a kid, the financial freedom of having wages, and the creative freedom my job offered me.
For the first time in my life, games weren't essential, but it wasn't going to last too long. I'd picked up a copy of S: The Sega Magazine (shortly afterwards to be renamed Sega Power), and seen the future.
All 16 bits of it.
THE GAMES OF MY YEARS: SEGA MASTER SYSTEM - PART ONE by Mr Biffo
THE GAMES OF MY YEARS: ATARI - PART ONE by Mr Biffo
THE GAMES OF MY YEARS: ATARI - PART TWO by Mr Biffo
THE GAMES OF MY YEARS: THE ZX SPECTRUM PART ONE by Mr Biffo
THE GAMES OF MY YEARS: THE ZX SPECTRUM PART TWO by Mr Biffo