Many of my favorite memories from those polygonal formative years come in the form of the Super Nintendo and games like Super Star Wars, Super Ghouls and Ghosts, Pirates of Darkwater, and The Death and Return of Superman. Games such as Mario never truly clicked for me (gasp); Donkey Kong was just too cute and cuddly (eck).
From the SNES, I parlayed my gaming knowledge and love into an affair with the Nintendo 64. I explored the labyrinthine realities of Super Mario 64, the byways of Cruisn’ USA, the dark caverns, lofty palaces, and vulnerable plains of Hyrule, and the beautiful debauchery of Conker’s Bad Fur Day.
But I wanted more.
From the N64 I ventured to the Playstation. It was the Christmas of some year in the latter part of the 1990s; demo discs were still a thing and one came conveniently packaged with my new, state of the art, new-car-smell Playstation. I spent the day playing MediEval, Spyro, Ninja, and Metal Gear Solid. Later, I would come to recognize MGS as one of the seminal experiences of my gaming life, yet at the time it was just another amazing experience during an amazing time.
Later that afternoon, my father took me to the local video store – a place I had grown to revere – and I picked up a game called Resident Evil. That night, with the windows held tight and a cool, arctic breeze bellowing through the ribs of the shutters, I experienced true fear for the first time.
Things were never the same…
Then there was the Dreamcast. It seemed to just from the ether and deposit itself in my life. I suspect Gamepro had something to do with this, but that is, currently, unsubstantiated.
Nevertheless, it was the first Sega system I had ever owned and, unfortunately, the last. But through this last vestige of Sega’s once brilliant console empire, I lost myself in the then all encompassing world of Shenmue; countless hours of my early teenage life were spent driving a blocky forklift around a polygonal dock so I could digital monies to spend on digital sodas and digital junk food.
I cherished every moment of it.
Then there was Capcom vs. SNK; Jet Grind Radio; Seaman. The Dreamcast controllers felt like nothing I had ever experienced and the memory cards were almost like the handhelds of lore that I had never held; the experience was like nothing I had ever experienced. And then it died…
From the ashes I returned to PC gaming. I dived back into my first love. I perused the shelves of Wal-Mart - there was no Best Buy in my small Southern town – and discovered a little game called Call of Duty.
I didn’t expect much from a $5 shelf game nor did I want much. I booted it up and it sucked me in. Countless hours were lost in the pursuit of killing Nazis and journeying from the shores of Normandy to the streets of Berlin.
Then something else happened; Half-Life 2. I neglected the original and didn’t quite know what to expect from its predecessor. Needless to say, I became enraptured by it. It was, until that point, the best gaming experience I had ever had. I was, in fact, flabbergasted…
To this day I still own a PC. In some way, shape, or form it has persisted with me throughout the years. I moved from a desktop to a laptop and back again to where I am today -- a medium-end desktop that I'm always wanting to upgrade.
But in between, the Playstation 3 slinked into my life somehow. There, in its architecture and DNA, is where the spark of gaming reverence first shone. There, in the Playstation 3, is where I first discovered that gaming was one of my truest passions and something that would never depart me. Uncharted, Killzone, Assassin’s Creed, Metal Gear Solid 4, Bioshock; these were just a few of the games that entrapped and enraptured me. Everything about the system felt right. Yes, the controllers were architecturally the same as the PS2’s, but somehow they were different. Yes, the publishers – for the most part – were the same, yet they were different. Yes, the company spilling these consoles out to the consumers was the same, yet it was different. For the first time in many, many years, my fondest gaming memories weren’t in the past, but in the immediate present; everyday I lived my memories and lived them well.
So from here, in a weekly follow up to this post, I will revisit the games and gaming experiences, whether on console or PC, that influenced me the most, that brought me to the beautiful digital plain on which I stand today. Games like Super Castlevania IV and Uncharted, Syphon Filter and Bioshock: Infinite. I will explore what made them special for me and why their narratives, whether good or bad, still persist with me until this day.