From casual to junkies
We just finished the year 2012, and in the gaming industry it was an amazing year filled with brilliant games. While looking back I began to think about my own gaming history. We gamers all have one. The moments that turned us from casual players into junkies. While I could write a novel on all the touching and profound moments in my history with video games. There are only a handful that are truly special. The few memories that have come to define me as a lover of video games.
Each generation of systems holds a memory for me, and it all began with the most influential console in history the Nintendo Entertainment System:
The year was 1990, and the game was Super Mario Bros. Of course at my age this game was a struggle. Sure I could make it through a few levels but eventually I would become exhausted and give up. But my father was a pro. I remember nights where my brother and I would sit behind him and watch Mario go from castle to castle in search of the Princess.
Then on one fateful night he defeated the evil lizard and saved the Princess. I was jumping with joy and excitement. Mario and the Princess could finally live happily ever after. At least that is what I had hoped to see. But Nintendo had other plans. Instead of watching the two characters walk off into the sunset holding hands, all we were given was another adventure for Mario to embark on. Sure the video game industry was young, and the games weren’t about the story, but for a five-year-old this was devastating. At the time all I wanted was a fairytale ending. This without a doubt is the one memory that surfaces in my mind when I hear the NES mentioned.
Fast forward a few years to find a shiny new Sega Genesis under the christmas tree. Yet another present from my parents. My brother and I had grown up a bit; Mario had become old news and Knuckles was the new cool kid on the block. He was edgier and faster than his Italian plumber counterpart. So of course we had to get our hands on the new game Sonic & Knuckles. Well at the time I didn’t think Sonic & Knuckles was an actual game. I merely thought it was a sort of expansion of Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and that this expansion would allow Knuckles to be played in Sonic’s sequel.
A few weeks had passed and one day I had the brilliant idea: Just put the Sonic & Knuckles cartridge in the system alone and see what happens. This was one of the biggest shockers of my youth. That day I found out that not only was Sonic & Knuckles an expansion for Sonic 2, but it was also its own game. I couldn’t believe it at the time. It was as if I had solved a mystery, something that no one else had cracked. This was by far my most cherished memory with video games. It may have not been a huge shocker for many, and I personally don’t remember playing that game a whole lot, but the revelation that it was its own game is a memory I will cherish for a long, long time.
Years had passed and new consoles had risen. This time from a new face in the industry, Sony. With my own money in hand I went out and bought a Sony PlayStation. The golden era of my gaming youth began. So many great titles: Final Fantasy VII, Wild Arms, Suikoden, and on and on. But the moment that I always reflect on when it comes to the original PlayStation was in 1998, and the game was Metal Gear Solid.
At the time I had no idea what the Metal Gear series was all about. It was a lot to take in. To go from Japanese RPGs to a military stealth experience isn’t easy. I found Metal Gear Solid challenging, but interesting. It wasn’t until I faced off against a particular boss did I realize the true genius of the game. That boss was Psycho Mantis. Over and over again Mantis defeated me. He knew every move I was going to make, he was even able to disrupt my actual TV. The first time the boss battle blacked out on my screen and all it said was Hideo on the upper left corner I jumped off my couch and freaked out that I had broken my family’s TV. After a few seconds of panic I realized it was only the game trying to trick me. After 45 minutes of pure frustration I realized that Col. Campbell was trying to contact me. The wise Colonel knew the secret to defeating Psycho Mantis. All I had to do was unplug my controller and plug it back in the second player port. Once I accomplished this Psycho Mantis was as good as dead. To this day that is one of the most clever boss battles I have encountered in video games, something we all know developer Hideo Kojima is known for. And it is something I will never forget.
I have never been a PC gamer; I don’t like the idea of having to constantly update my computer to play games. But back at the beginning of the century I decided to break into PCs for just one game. Half-Life 2 was a difficult wait, with delays after delays. The game finally came out while I was a freshman in College. I wasn’t even going to bother looking for the game since I figured it would be sold out at every retailer. I got lucky that day, though. My roommate had gotten back from class and mentioned how he saw a copy of Half-Life 2 at the bookstore. Without hesitation I ran for the store and sure enough there it was in between copies of Microsoft Word.
Now the memory comes later on, in the last stages of the game. You are pinned down by the Combine and they take all your weapons and destroy them. But to their own demise they only made Gordon Freeman’s Zero-Point Energy Field Manipulator – better known as the Gravity Gun – more powerful. Instead of being able to pick up smaller objects, now you could throw human bodies around like rag dolls. The final moments of the game were filled with puzzles and action that only this souped-up Gravity Gun could handle. It was and still is one of the best level designs seen in video games. I will never forget my excitement when I realized what I could do with the Gravity Gun, I would replay those stages over and over just because of how fun that weapon was to use.
In 2007 I was excited to finally be able to play an FPS that wasn’t set in WWII. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare replaced the Nazis with terrorists. During a mission to put a despot out of power everything seemed to be going wrong. You received orders to retreat, but a fellow chopper went down. Being dutiful soldiers, your squad volunteers to go back and rescue your fallen comrades. Then out of nowhere came a nuclear explosion. Your chopper began to spiral out of control, waves of destruction powering your way. And cue the sound of my jaw hitting the floor.
I was speechless, I could not believe what had happened. Pardon the pun but it was a major bombshell. Video games rarely kill off their main characters and Call of Duty did it in the second act. The best part of this scenario is that it wasn’t over. Your character wakes up in the wreckage of the helicopter. You slowly crawl out of the wreckage to witness a city on fire. This was back when Call of Duty allowed the player time to develop an emotional reaction to something. You were able to bask in the utter destruction and sadness. I’m sure like many other players out there, this memory will never fade. It was a stunning display of surprise, graphics, and emotion.
What makes any hobby great are the memories you forge. I had many great memories from many different video games, but the five above are my most cherished. These memories will never fade from my mind, and they always bring a smile to my face. These moments are why video games aren’t merely a toy, but a true experience. So what about you dear readers; what are your fondest memories from your video game past?