Video games are becoming a bigger part of the world each day with newer technology that provides different and more accessible platforms for the general public to play on. But for me I feel like my history comes from the support of my family and friends to give me the freedom to try different forms of entertainment, whether it be sports, outdoor activities, clubs, or my number one choice, video games. Gaming has been my go-to hobby, time-killer, stress-reliever, friend-maker, conversation-starter, and so on. It’s a big part of my life, and has been since I was roughly 4 years old, so around 1999.
The first game I remember playing is Crash Bandicoot on the PlayStation. I was at my mother’s friend’s house and he handed me the controller and said “go for it.” I vaguely remember seeing commercials or circulars in the mail for the PlayStation and Nintendo 64, but I never had the opportunity to try a game system. I remember the controller feeling comfortable in my small hands, the mechanics of the game coming very quickly to me, and the amazing feeling that came with being in control of a vibrant pixelated character. I probably sat there for a good hour and a half before my mother managed to pry me off the couch to leave. Needless to say I was hooked.
On Christmas morning 1999 I unwrapped the Nintendo 64 Atomic Purple console set, and I’m sure it was a recreation of the notorious Nintendo kid video. I also got Super Mario 64, Star Wars Episode I: Racer, and NBA Live ’99. I was completely blown away, and it still goes down as the best Christmas gift(s) I’ve ever received. Christmas isn’t about giving or receiving gifts, but damn it that was one hell of a Christmas! The system quickly replaced the RCA cables from our VCR player that was plugged into the TV and probably stayed that way for the foreseeable future.
Throughout the next couple of years I received other games such as Banjo-Kazooie, V-Rally Edition ’99, Toy Story 2, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2, and probably a dozen or so more. Although in that time I learned how to ride a bike, rollerblade, scooter (which was my other big hobby along with gaming), and played with the kids in the neighborhood, I came home every night and played a video game like someone would come home from work to have a beer. It was routine, it was my drug, it was my life. Then, in 2002, I received the amazing PlayStation 2. My barely-existent social life was done for.
I spent so much time playing Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (I know, I was probably too young), Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4, and Medal of Honor as soon as I got it. I spent my weekly allowance (every Saturday morning) on a game rental from Blockbuster or Hollywood Video, it was like clockwork for my mother or grandfather to take me to the rental store to pick up something I hadn’t tried yet. The PS2 was my pride and joy, although I did go back to play some N64 every now and then. I played my PS2 to death, quite literally. It stopped reading discs about 4 years later and I managed to get it to work long enough for the GameStop employee to see it was in working condition to trade it in. The devious punk kid in me came out a little there.
There was a point that I had a GameBoy Advance SP with only a few games such as Pokemon: Emerald, The Urbz: Sims in the City, and Super Mario Advance. I really only played Pokemon, logging around 200 hours into it. The system didn’t get much love from me. I also had a PlayStation Portable, which was cool for the first month I had it and then it became an MP3 player. I got a few games throughout the time I had that, but nothing that I played more than 10 hours on. I wasn’t much of a handheld gamer, which has changed as of lately.
I actually went about a year without a single system, but I did have a friend who I spent a lot of time with who had a PS2 and we would take turns renting games to play on it for a weekend. I had some family issues and my GameBoy, PSP, and N64 was gone. Maybe I’ll go into that another time. But then after that year-long drought, on Christmas morning, I received the Nintendo Wii! Oh boy! Motion controls, whaaat?! I was ecstatic, primarily because I had no expectations of getting one and had planned to save up and buy one. I played hours and hours of Wii Sports, Super Mario Galaxy, Mario Strikers Charged, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and even borrowed Luigi’s Mansion and a GameCube controller from a friend to play through. That was a great system that held me over for, well, about 6 months. I lost interest which I’m sure many of you can relate to. I got sick of renting shovelware and didn’t want to spend money on WiiWare or Virtual Console games. I got a Nintendo DS Lite at some point but only had it for a couple months to play Pokemon Diamond (I then sold it after beating the game). But after playing Rock Band at a friend’s house on his Xbox 360, I decided to save up and do some extra work around the house to buy the full band kit for the Wii, which revived my interest in the system for a little while longer. BUT THEN (dun dun dun) I got the Xbox 360 Pro console!
I don’t know if you guys remember but in 2008 there was an Xbox 360 bundle that came with a 60GB hard drive, Lego Indiana Jones and Kung Fu Panda. I’m not even kidding when I say I never played those two games. It came in a case with 2 discs (the good ol’ days where we got physical bundles and not download codes) and I left it in the shrink wrap on the bottom of my game pile. Why would I play a subpar licensed bundle when I could play Halo 3 with my friends or sink hours into EA Skate or free-run while shooting bad guys in Mirror’s Edge? Seriously though, I never played Lego Indie or Kung Fu Panda. I wonder if they were any good… I did play quite a few different titles, such as Madden ’09, The Bigs, Skate 2 & 3, Grand Theft Auto 4, Burnout, Need for Speed, and many more. I tried out a lot of different games that I wouldn’t normally go for which peaked my interest in some different genres for awhile, and those genres have stuck with me to this day.
Unfortunately more family problems came up right before the next Christmas and I no longer had my Xbox. I still had the Wii, but I stopped going into the room where my Xbox was because of the memories. But what I DID do, which became the new thing for all of my friends, was spend our weekends doing World of Warcraft marathons. Oh my god, we played so much WoW, it’s not even funny. There were more times than I’d like to admit that we played for 12+ hours straight with short bathroom breaks and would keep snacks next to us. For $15/month, I felt like all of us got our money’s worth for the next year or so. I don’t play anymore, nor have I since probably 2012, but I’m very much aware that the game has not lost its spark for people who have been playing since vanilla. Going off on a tangent, I remember there was a time where two of my friends got into an argument on WoW and one of them had the other’s login information and that asshole deleted his main character. A level 80 shaman, with hundreds of hours spent on this character doing raids and dungeons and running quests with other people to help them level up; gone. I’m not even kidding when I say that their parents had to get involved to sort things out.
Anyway, in 2010 I used money from my bonus at my first job to buy a PlayStation 3 120GB slim console with Skate 3 (my all-time favorite franchise, rest in peace) and Call of Duty: Black Ops. I loved the fact that I could play online for free with a PSN account, but I had no friends to play with because everyone had an Xbox. I tried to not let that get to me, but eventually it got boring playing with random people. I tried to switch it up with more single-player games such as Portal 2, Little Big Planet, and eventually Skyrim. I never had a huge library on the PlayStation 3 originally but it got me my gaming fix for the time being. I didn’t play as much as I normally would because I got a serious girlfriend (as serious as a high school sophomore/junior relationship could be I guess) which took up a lot of time, as well as riding scooters with a few new friends. It was a quiet couple of years for gaming, besides a 1 month Minecraft binge somewhere in that time. I eventually bought another 360 to play the new Call of Duty with my friends, sold my PS3 and used some of the money to buy a Nintendo 3DS and played that for a few months, and then by the beginning of senior year my interests had switched from school and gaming to getting into trouble.
I didn’t play games hardly at all, and if I did then I don’t remember playing games for about a year. Another short tangent incoming: it was a dark time, I thought I was having fun and living it up but really I was in constant fear of being caught and always being away from my family and real friends. I dealt with demons for a few years, but I’m happy to say that I’m in a much better place now than I have been in my entire adult life. I met my wife at the end of senior year and she has stuck with me through all of it and has been very supportive throughout my ups and downs. I wouldn’t be where I am today without her.
I would say that’s the history of gaming for me. The defining moments in my life that qualify me as a “gamer”. As of right now, I have a PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Nintendo 3DS XL & 2DS, and a gaming PC that I built back in 2014. I would say I play the Switch the most, but I honestly split up my gaming time between all my consoles pretty evenly. I’ll lean towards one or the other depending on if I’m playing a game that I just got or am trying to clear up my backlog. Even though I have my PC, I’m a modern console gamer. I just have a hard time going back to old (or “retro” is what the cool kids call it) games when I’ve been so spoiled with the graphics the Big 3 has blessed us with.
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