as a younger, and therefore smaller, version of myself back in the early ’80s, i have this dim memory of going to an arcade in the town i grew up in. i can’t recall distinct visuals, but i do remember flashing lights, beep boop sounds, and everyone having an excellent time while wedged in between cabinets.
in retrospect, it feels like a digital fairyland. it intrigued me.
a couple of years later, i became friends with someone who had a home computer (not widespread at that time) and they introduced me to games on cassette tape (yes, i am that antiquated). i remember being BLOWN AWAY by being able to play pinball on this computer. and that’s where it all started.
a few years later the nintendo entertainment system descended on america, and like so many other kids out there, I WANTED ONE. i mean i wanted it so badly, i wrote POETRY about it. i made ART about it. and it wasn’t just the NES i wanted, but super mario brothers 2. i wanted to hurl turnips at baddies, and POW everyone off the face of the game (p.s. i SUPER did those things).
i must have read the super mario brothers 2 issue of nintendo power three dozen times. i had the first level memorized before i even played the game. and that christmas (1989), by some miracle, i got the nintendo power set which included super mario brothers, duck hunt (that GD snickering dog…), and world class track meet. the system included the zapper, as well as the power pad. and to top it all off, i also got super mario brothers 2.
for MONTHS i would get up before school just so i could play the game. i knew the shortcuts. which character to use on which level to get the most coins (don’t judge me for using toad. that dude could pick up coins faster than anyone.). it amazed me that this entire world existed in my living room.
and thus, my love for games was really born.
for the first few years of gaming, i was all about nintendo (i didn’t get a different brand of console until many years later). when i started playing tetris, my mind melted. i would lay in bed at night and see the pieces falling into place. and when i started playing dr. mario, i went into hyperdrive. i don’t know what it is about dr. mario, but that ranks as one of my top ten games of all time. i love the crap out of it.
bubble bobble was another early favorite (i DARE you to not become obsessed with the theme song). who wouldn’t want to trap their enemies in bubbles, pop them, and get delicious candy? i can still feel the rush of finding bubble gum (SUPERBUBBLES!) or a shoe (a mixed-blessing).
soon after, i got my original gameboy, and i became best friends with that green screen. tetris on the go? yes, please!
but in a couple of years, my gaming ceased entirely, and for quite a stretch. i was studying piano intensely (five hours a day), and between school and my piano studies, there was no other time.
it wouldn’t be until i moved back from europe in 2005 that i got my next gaming system.
i actually got two new systems on the same day: the gamecube and the original xbox. this would be my first foray into 3d gaming. it took me a bit to get the hang of it after so many years away, but when i did…WHOOSH! i was right back in it.
one of the best games i played of this period was disney’s haunted mansion. as a huge fan of the attraction at disneyland, i thought it was exceptionally well done. i have such good memories of that game. and it paved the way for all the amazing games to come in the following decade.
the following year, a friend introduced me to a magical place that i’d never known existed in the city i lived in (portland, oregon): ground kontrol. an arcade with classic cabinets and pinball machines. heaven.
as soon as i went, i fell in love. it still ranks as one of my top two places to go in portland when i am back for a visit (more on my undying love for ground kontrol in a later blog).
after moving away from portland, there was a bit of a gaming lull, but as soon as i heard about super mario galaxy, i WANTED a wii. i was all about it. of course, it was hard as heck to get one, and after nearly a year of trying…i obtained one! i still remember hugging it to me as i scuttled through that parking lot, worried someone would try to jump me and steal it. :)
shortly thereafter, i got a ps2 (this was a couple of years into the ps3 era). a few months later, when i discovered the existence of sackboy and little big planet, i HAD TO HAVE a ps3. i actually bought the game of the year edition of little big planet before i even had the console. good times.
ps3 was my main console for several years, but now i have, and use, them all. currently connected to the television are: ps2, ps3, ps4, xbox 360, xbox one, NES, and the wii u. that’s a universe of stellar gaming experiences. i feel incredibly fortunate.
i’ve been gaming strong once again since 2008, but there is such a huge gap in my library, i’m still trying to go back and experience those games. there are certain series i feel almost guilty that i’ve not yet gotten to (i.e.: metal gear solid, mass effect, fallout), but i know i will sooner than later. there is never a shortage of games.
i feel incredibly grateful to not only be a gamer, but a gamer in this time. there are so many unique worlds out there, and so many ways to immerse in them, i wouldn’t have it any other way.
my friends: to gaming!