Every year since 2001, England has hosted a Mega Drive competition, however, 2014 will be the first time in fourteen years where there is no national 16-bit event.
The First English Mega Drive Championship may have been modest by the competitions that have taken place in recent times, but those three valiant warriors, tightly crammed around a 12” TV screen, bashing their controller buttons to the point of collapse, fought just as hard to obtain the title of Mega Drive Champion as their successors. Of those three legends, Mr Smith and Lord Dilks had both stepped down from competitive Mega Drive competition by 2008, only Doc Shakib continued the proud tradition of having been the only person to have participated in every tournament to date. 2014 will rob him of that opportunity.
To say the end has been on the cards for some time is like saying Josef Stalin was a little bit cruel – the writing has been on the wall for a while. Attendances in the English domestic league has fallen so far that the competition which once promised the prospect of three divisions, contained at the 25th, just a single league in which 7 men participated. Financially unsustainable, the English Mega Drive Championships have been put on hold for the time being.
The tournaments reached an almost Golden Age from 2008-2010. This was the time of European Mega Drive Championships, where contestants from across Europe would gather to represent their nation in 16-bit battle to earn bragging rights for being the most accomplished Mega Drive players on the continent. Domestic attendances were at a peak, the two division system was close to bursting, but then something strange happened – the members stopped coming. People who attend Mega Drive tournaments generally express highly positive opinions on the events (with the exception of David Wyvern who appeared to find the awesomeness an inconvenience and Flint Stone who lamented promotion at the 24th Championship, realising this made it necessary for him to return). The last vestiges of the old guard seemed to move on with their lives; Baron Von Hooton, Captain Maltby, Fireman Sam, Lieutenant Gareth and Professor King are big names who no longer regularly compete, if at all. Fresh members have dried up, 16-bit gaming is nearly 25-years old, indeed, every member who fought at the 25th Mega Drive Championship had done battle in a previous Mega Drive competition.
In 2011 we wrote about the demise of the Portuguese Mega Drive Tournaments, the Lisbon events had ended owing to member disillusion, although the Portuguese system favoured the better players and gave everybody an opportunity to compete for the ultimate prize, the other side of that coin saw weaker members with little to play for other than elimination. Now the English contests have become a further nail in the coffin of Mega Drive Championshippery. The one bright spark remains the German Tournaments, which were started in 2009 and continue to expand and grow stronger.
So is this truly the end of Mega Drive Championshippery in England? This is an impossible question to answer. For now the answer is almost a certain ‘yes’ as the lack of interest in the established Mega Drive members, combined with a lack of fresh blood wishing to pick up their controllers, attempting to rouse a competition in view of such apathy seems a futile endeavour. But as Sean Connery has taught us all, one must be careful to “Never Say Never Again”. 2016 will be the 15-year anniversary of the Mega Drive Championships and this would be the prime time to rekindle any former passion. The scarcity of the events and the desire for old friends to reassemble might be the boost the competitions need to return from their coma and, as the old motto always observed “When the Tournament calls me, I’ll be there.”