'Hampstead': The social climbing game that has made the leap from ZX Spectrum to iPad

The text-based adventure game pokes fun at people who treat living in the fashionable north London suburb as the ultimate badge of social success

In an era of computer games dominated by Pac-Man and Space Invaders, Hampstead stood out as a test of people’s ability to social climb rather than use a joystick.

Thirty years after it was first played on the now obsolete Spectrum and Commodore 64 systems, the game’s creators now argue it was too ahead of its time to make them rich.

Hampstead was a text-based adventure game which asked players to climb as high up the social ladder as they could, simply by punching commands on their keyboards.

It was named after the wealthy and fashionable north London suburb, its creators said, because they wanted to poke fun at people who treated living there as the ultimate badge of social success.

Gamers looking for a slice of nostalgia – or simply to master a new life skill – can now play the game on their iPhone or iPad by downloading it from Apple’s App Store for free. Peter Jones, one of the game’s writers, told the Camden New Journal: “1984 was the high water mark of Thatcherism and the social aspiration that came with it. This, we felt, deserved to be mocked: hence the idea that you could ‘attain’ Hampstead as a sort of quasi-religious goal; a social and cultural nirvana.

“We were fans of Mike Leigh films like Nuts in May and Abigail’s Party, in which flawed and desperate people blunder about making a mess of their lives. So we wrote this ridiculous story in which the player blunders about and accidentally attains Hampstead. In other words, it was the least commercial idea you could possibly come up with. But for some reason, all the publishers wanted it. We were even voted Game of the Year by a magazine called The Listener.”

Mr Jones added that he wished he and his co-creator, Trevor Lever, had stuck at it. “Computer games are now created with feature-film budgets and earn more money than Hollywood movies. Ironically, what we had in mind when we did Hampstead was something filmic, but Tomb Raider was still 12 years away, and the technology just wasn’t available to us. That’s why we’re still poor.”

Players of Hampstead begin the game in a filthy council flat wearing only their underwear, but must rise from these humble beginnings to woo “Pippa, a beautiful model” and win a high-paid job in the City with which they can buy cars and a house on Hampstead Heath.

Mr Jones said: “I think we sold around 70,000 units overall and it was £10, which was high for a game at the time.”

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
filmDirector said film would 'never have been financed' with ethnic minority actors in key roles
News
people
Sport
footballArsenal 2 Borussia Dortmund 0: And they can still top the group
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
film
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
News
Albert Camus (left) and Jean-Paul Sartre fell out in 1952 and did not speak again before Camus’s death
people
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
News
Ed Miliband visiting the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The Labour leader has spoken more openly of his heritage recently
newsAttacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But are the barbs more sinister?
Arts and Entertainment
'Felfie' (2014) by Alison Jackson
photographyNew exhibition shows how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
News
i100
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
Fright night: the board game dates back to at least 1890
life
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    SThree: Associate Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree are seeking Associate Recruitm...

    Ampersand Consulting LLP: Server Engineer/ Systems Engineer (Windows Server, Networking)

    £23000 - £27000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Server Enginee...

    h2 Recruit Ltd: Head of Regional Sales - Financial Software - £130,000 OTE

    Negotiable: h2 Recruit Ltd: A rapidly expanding, global Software/ SaaS Vendor ...

    h2 Recruit Ltd: Sales Manager - Contact Centre Sales - £100,000 OTE

    £35000 - £50000 per annum: h2 Recruit Ltd: After a highly successful 2014, a m...

    Day In a Page

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
    There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

    In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

    The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

    It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
    The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

    Staying connected: The King's School

    The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
    Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

    Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

    Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

    The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
    Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

    When two worlds collide

    Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?