'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.”

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Back End

    £18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has bec...

    Guru Careers: Trainer / IT Trainer

    £30 to £32k : Guru Careers: We are seeking a Trainer / IT Trainer to join an a...

    Recruitment Genius: Project / Account Manager and IT Support

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This world leader in Online Pro...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer

    £18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great company to work...

    Day In a Page

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

    I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
    Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

    Margaret Attwood on climate change

    The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

    What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
    Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

    The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

    Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
    Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

    Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

    The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
    Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

    Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

    The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
    Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

    Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

    Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

    Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

    The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
    10 best waterproof mascaras

    Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

    We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
    Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

    Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

    Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
    Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

    England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

    The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
    Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

    Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

    British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'