Mondays are usually slow for news as people start to stir for the coming week. Therefore, every Monday, we will address one topic to start the week and get discussion flowing. It stimulates the week like a cup of coffee, hence the title.
Everyone’s hobbies start somewhere, and gaming is no different. This week, the staff at Gaming Bus takes a trip down memory lane to explore how each member started their gaming careers, be that through a single game, a particular console, or even just an experience with a friend. Readers, feel free to respond with your own replies.
Here’s the question:
What was one of your first experiences as a gamer?
Nathan Wood: Wow, I haven’t thought about this in a long, long time. My first console, for those who aren’t aware, was the first PlayStation. I have so many memories of playing that thing, and it was durable as hell. I even brought it on my first international trip. The only memory I managed to salvage before becoming incredibly ill is that of a four-year-old me walking in on my twenty-year-old Uncle playing Crash Bandicoot on a level I had never seen before. He had beaten me at my own game.
As for my first experience as a gamer, at least the one I can remember, would have to be one of my all time favorites, purely because my whole family got involved in trying to figure it out. In fact, it might’ve been the only time the whole family, for at least one moment, was genuinely interested in my hobby and played it themselves. The game that this honor goes to? Why, Disney’s Hercules, dear reader. I loved the movie as a child and loved the game even more, and this is the reason I haven’t touched it ever again so that the memory remains untainted. If Chris ever did a Now and Then on it, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of my crying.
Moving on, there was a particular boss battle that had my young mind troubled, the one against Nessus the Centaur. I was stuck for days on this particular boss and I could not figure it out for the life of me. My parents noticed that I hadn’t made any progress, when in reality, I had given up, deleted my save and started again only to get stuck at the same point. It was at this moment both my parents said they would help, took the controller from me, and played their first video game. After showing the controls, I went outside and played like kids did.
Returning about an hour later, I found them both still sitting, stuck at the same boss battle. It was the sound of the door shutting that snapped them out of it, leading to my father standing up and proclaiming, “I’m making a phone call to find out how to beat this stupid horse.” I’m a bit hazy on the details, but I believe you were supposed to mount the Centaur to beat the level, but that doesn’t really matter.
This is why video games hooked me in so quickly. Its ability to bring people together is something that I’ve only felt with one other thing in my life. Although I never had another experience like this again, it was one I would never forget.
Connor Horn: I kind of grew up around video games, so it’s hard to quantify what my first gaming experience was. However, one of my earliest memories of a game was getting a PlayStation. I was four or five years old at the time, and my family lived in Japan. My father had been off on a six-month deployment at the time, and when he came back he got us a gift (kind of backwards, isn’t it?). I was sitting in a bedroom with my two brothers, and he just walked in with a PlayStation and a copy of Tekken 2. I had no idea what a PlayStation was, but I instantly knew that it was the most awesome thing in the world and that there was nothing on this planet that was cooler than Tekken 2. Unfortunately, as I quickly found out as Yoshimitso kept running circles around me as Prototype Jack, I was really bad at fighting games. My favorite character was Kazuya, the crazy devil guy. I also remember fondly fighting against my brothers in Elite Fours, where one of us had to beat the other’s best four characters in succession.
Besides that, maybe my first game was Pokémon Blue. I had gotten Pokémon Red for my birthday but my brother more or less stole it, so for his birthday, he got Pokémon Blue, and I more or less stole that. Anyway, I had a blast with Pokémon Blue until I lost it awhile later at a pool party. The thief stole my game, but not my Gameboy Color, which I remember was the most mind-boggling thing; I considered that my Gameboy Color was freaking boss and somehow required less batteries than the original Gameboy despite being able to show colors.
The 1990s were awesome.
Crystal Steltenpohl: I started playing on the Atari 2600 and Super Nintendo at around the age of four. I played the hell out of games like Hogan’s Alley, Duck Hunt, Super Mario Bros. 2, Pitfall!!, StarTropics, and various others. I also found out rather quickly that I wasn’t terribly fond of Punch-Out!!, and Superman 2600 was an absolute shitfest. I played these games with my dad when I could (he was deployed a lot when I was younger), and I generally remember those being pretty fond days. Around the age of six, I got my first handheld—a green Gameboy Pocket—with which I also got Metroid II, which I played to near exhaustion. My dad had a decent PC, so we also played Lords of Magic and 1602 A.D. quite a bit, though in that case it was a lot of my watching my dad play and eventually feeling confident enough to offer advice. Sometimes there’d be arcade games at the local bowling alleys on post, but in the places I lived, especially Europe, it was pretty rare to find them. The only other memory I have of arcades was when I went to Las Vegas for a robotics competition my senior year of high school; my friend Tucker and I spent nearly the entire night in the arcade area that our hotel had.
My family wasn’t exactly well off, and since my dad was in the military, we moved a lot. As such, I didn’t get the chance to play consoles too much as a kid because my dad was concerned that movers would break and/or steal our stuff, which actually happens quite a bit; we wouldn’t have the money to buy the consoles once, let alone replace anything that went missing or broke. We also didn’t upgrade our PC very often in those days as that was expensive, so I didn’t really get to move too far beyond Lords of Magic-level PC games until much later. Any experience I had with consoles, until college, was limited to whatever my friends or other family members had. If they’d let me play—which usually meant trading who had the controller in single-person games like Final Fantasy IX and Majora’s Mask—I spent a lot of time watching and offering advice while sometimes getting the chance to solve more difficult puzzles or beat tricky bosses. This doesn’t mean I had very little experience playing video games; quite the opposite really, given the crowds I hung out with. Rather, it just meant that I didn’t get to complete a lot of games by myself, which I’m actually okay with. I created a lot of bonds over having solved important quests together or trading off grinding duties.
I got the chance to play handhelds more often because they were portable, so I could carry them with me on a plane. Because of that, I ended up owning a Game Boy Pocket, Advance, DS, and now a 3DS, meaning I got a lot of experience playing Nintendo games. I eventually wound on the Internet as a result. My first forum experience was actually on Golden Sun Realms, where I met some of my oldest friends; the game also served as an inspiration for my own forums, Mercury Ice, which morphed from a Golden Sun fan forum into a video game fan forum and finally into a general purpose everyone-is-really-weird-in-an-entertaining way forum. I then got into Fire Emblem as well and rose to the staff on most of the major Fire Emblem forums around at the time. The Internet gave me a means of hearing about and playing games that I simply wouldn’t have had the chance to experience otherwise. I wouldn’t say I’m totally caught up with everything I’d like to experience, and I still don’t have the money to buy every console or game that comes out, but my library has expanded significantly in the past few years thanks to friends, family, and my own wallet. I’d like to say that, despite the limitations my childhood offered (at least with regards to material items), I’ve managed to become a well-rounded gamer.
Aileen Coe: Growing up, we mostly had Nintendo consoles in the house until the PlayStation and Xbox came around. I spent a good deal of time in front of a TV, either watching my brothers play or playing myself. I’d play the Mario games (2 and 3 stick out more in my memory), Ice Climber, Punch-Out, Duck Hunt, and others. I also have fond memories playing Final Fantasy VI, Chrono Trigger, Breath of Fire, and The Legend of Zelda, though I did play other games as well. I’d also borrow their Game Boys and play Alleyway, Tetris, and some Spiderman and Simpsons games I can’t recall the names of. I remember watching them play Hero’s Quest/Quest for Glory and later getting to try them myself. At that time, my “library” was limited to whatever my brothers had as I didn’t have the cash to buy my own games yet.
As far as multiplayer, I went over to my friend’s house and she owned a Genesis, so we’d play Streets of Rage together and alternate who got to play as Blaze. We traded and battled with Pokémon, though she was able to get two Gameboys and one of each version while I was stuck with one of each, so I let her have my link cable. In high school, there was a computer set up with an SNES emulator, and people would play Street Fighter 2 against each other using one keyboard. Despite that and my being a button masher, I somehow managed to eke out some wins, with people acting shocked when I did. Over all, though, I’ve never had much luck with finding other people to play with.
Even now, I don’t have much in the way of resources with which to buy new games and consoles, so much of what I have is from friends and family kindly gifting me with stuff. I mainly play portables and some PC games since I don’t have my own TV. I didn’t really delve into PC gaming until I got my own computer to play games on. Thanks to my getting Fire Emblem to occupy myself during flights to and from Argentina, I found FESS and met a lot of my online friends, which has affected my life significantly. While I wish I could feel less out of the loop and find people to play with, I’ve still gotten to play a lot, which I’m happy about.
Christopher Bowen: As how I’m the oldest guy on our staff by a wide margin, my memories are just a little hazy. The first visceral memory I have of playing video games involved the Atari 2600 and the game Maze Craze. That was an easy enough game to understand; you’re one guy, and you have to get out of the maze before the other guy does (in two-player mode; otherwise, he just stood there). Others that I fondly remember were the home conversions of Frogger, Joust, Phoenix, and Pac Man, the last of which proves that children are stupid. Beyond that, I remember arcades. Back in the early 1980s, you couldn’t find a pizza place or laundromat that didn’t have something, so my earliest memories were Donkey Kong at the laundromat and Pengo or Q*Bert at the pizza place. To really date myself, this was around when I was three years old, in 1983. That’s literally three years before the second oldest person on my staff was born.
Eventually, I would be brought to arcades. Arcades have been glorified a bit since their passing, but remember that we’re talking about the early 1980s, when it was acceptable to smoke indoors. It was actually kind of hard to see the screen with all the smoke going around as the local teenage delinquents would come by and hang out. Arcade owners would say they didn’t want kids cutting school to hang out there, but they would always look the other way, lest they lose their source of income.
Younger readers and staff members, I don’t think, understand the appeal of arcades. After all, why bother when we have those same games on command in our living room? But think to a possibility like this: imagine a game that has leaderboards, but where the top score is actually achievable because they haven’t been destroyed by exploiters. Imagine if those leaderboards didn’t have the top twenty-three positions taken up by players in Korea. Now imagine playing a two-player game against someone who’s not calling you every horrible name in the book because they’re standing right next to you and they don’t want to run the risk of being punched in the face. Imagine a fighting game where all of the characters are unlocked and don’t have to be purchased later as an add-on. Lastly, imagine just being able to meet other gamers face to face and hang out with them instead of having to rely on message boards and the like. That’s what arcades were. It’s why people like me look back on them fondly, even if I was a little young for their heyday, or if they’d be virtually impossible in today’s environment.
It’s funny reading the responses of my co-writers and about their experiences because the things that they experienced as youths and are forever ago to them are the things that I remember like they were yesterday. Connor’s earliest memory was the PlayStation; I was already getting hickeys by that time. So the environment I grew up in seems alien to those who came later. I remember giving my youngest brother, born in ’97, the controller to play the Gamecube version of Mega Man 2 that was included on the disc of the Mega Man Collection. This kid, who was already beating me in N64 games, threw his controller in anger (he was about seven or eight at the time, I’d wager). To him, the game that I beat and re-beat as a kid was as foreign to him as the Odyssey and Fairchild F would be to me. Today’s eight-year-old likely reacts the same way to those PlayStation games I played by the time more casual gamers of my generation were “growing out” of the medium.