① When I stop to think about the most important thing in my life, I would almost have to say that it’s video games. From the Sega Genesis in the early nineties all the way to the PlayStation 4 today, gaming has been a huge part of my life. I’ve been playing them and spending most of my free time consumed by them since I can consciously remember, and it’s something that has bonded me with friends and family. Really, it’s become more than just a pastime for me; it’s a way of life.
② The Sega Genesis was the first gaming system my family owned. My father had games like Madden NFL, Cool Spot, and Cosmic Spacehead. As a young kid, before I could remember, my father used to give me the spare controller, unplugged, and let me pretend I was playing while he would play. I was nonethewiser, and I’m sure I had a blast. But of course, this led me to wanting to play myself, which I remember doing quite a bit. Madden NFL never interested me; it was far too advanced for five-year-old me. But I remember that Cool Spot and Cosmic Spacehead were my favorites to play. In the old days of gaming, there were no ways to save your game, so I never got very far. But as a kid, it didn’t really matter. I wouldn’t have remembered where I was when I picked it back up anyway.
③ Following the Sega Genesis was the system that revolutionized car trips forever: the Sega Game Gear. This was the first hand-held gaming console I owned, though if you ask my parents, they’ll probably say it was really my father’s. I’m sure we had a few games for it, but the ones I remember playing were Tom and Jerry: The Movie, and some casino game. Though it was my first portable gaming system, it wasn’t my favorite. In reality, I remember little of this, other than the fact that I often left it on the floor of the car to get trampled on when I got in and out. Its life was cut short due to my childish neglect, which is something my father still whines about to this day.
④ The next gaming console my family owned was one that still holds a place in my heart: the PlayStation. The first game I remember playing was Army Men 3D, a game giving life to those classic plastic toy soldiers. There was a story-mode campaign to the game, but I know I never got very far. Every time I got shot at by an enemy soldier, my heart would skip a beat and I would be afraid of moving out from behind cover. There was a multiplayer mode to this game, which I remember playing often with my neighbor and best friend Nicky, as well as my dad. Playing with him would give me an equal adversary, if not an easy one since I played far more often than him and probably knew more what I was doing. But it was fun, and it was another way for us to bond and become best friends. However, playing with my father was not as happy of a memory. As a kid younger than ten, I wasn’t the most strategic gamer, and my father, twenty-one years older than me and an avid gamer, definitely was. I don’t know if I ever actually beat him, but if I did, it was likely because he let me. After listening to me cry to my mother about how he would play unfair, claiming that him being older than me was the reason I couldn’t beat him, countless times, I can imagine he would let me win to shut me up and dry the tears. Why I continuously challenged him to matches baffles me; maybe it was the self-destructive side of me, or maybe it was the hope that maybe someday I might grow smarter than him.
⑤ Although we had many games for the PlayStation, my absolute favorite will always be Tomb Raider. (Though Spyro the Dragon is a very close contender.) My father rented it once, probably interested in the game’s protagonist, but didn’t like the gameplay. For some reason, I tried the game, and fell in love. With what, I don’t exactly know, since the same fear that prevented me from getting very far in Army Men 3D also hindered my ability to play through even the first level of Tomb Raider. I was, and still am, very easily startled; so when wolves pop out of seemingly nowhere with little warning aside from a howl in the distance, I have a hard time moving forward in the game. My mother told me that I would have to get her, a person who isn’t very fond of console gaming, to fight the wolves for me so that I could continue in the story. Of course, because the graphics were so horrible and the game was too open-ended, I never actually finished the game. Still, to this day, I’ve yet to finish any Tomb Raider game made for the original PlayStation, but my experience for this game as a kid spiraled to an obsession of the entire series during middle and high school. I now own each title, save the recent reboot released last year, which for various reasons infuriates me.
⑥ I’m not sure how old I was when I received this, but my Nintendo Game Boy was the hand-held console that changed my life. Pokémon Red and Blue versions started it all, creating an obsession that has lasted for almost twenty years. These games, including my love for the anime series based on the games, has given bonded me with quite a few people, not just with Nicky in elementary school, but my neighbors in middle school, and my best friend from college as well. But it wasn’t just Pokémon that kept me interested in my original Game Boy Pocket, and later the Game Boy Color, Advanced, and SP (all of which I still own and occasionally use); over the course of my life, I’ve had, and probably lost, more game cartridges than I can remember. The Game Boy might be the best thing about being a nineties kid.
⑦ PC gaming isn’t my favorite form, console being my first go-to. But there have been a number of games that I couldn’t live without, namely the Forgotten Realms series, the Sims series, and Minecraft. Baldur’s Gate, and Icewind Dale, two Dungeons & Dragons games in the Forgotten Realms series, were among the first computer games I fell in love with, and are still favorites today. I watched my dad play them a couple times as a kid, and knew that I had to try them. Since Icewind Dale had a multiplayer mode, and through LAN, my father and I would play together, something I always loved doing. The Sims series is the one that my mom and I bond over, and it’s her love for the games that makes the three of us a family of gamers. Her and I still share expansion packs, tips, and building ideas. My love for this game, as well as my obsession with the blocky building game Minecraft, has also bonded me with friends in high school and college.
⑧ Today, my main source of gaming would have to be the PlayStation 3, the system that commands most of my gaming life. I greatly enjoyed the PlayStation 2 (which I remember playing quite a bit with my dad and neighbors in middle school), and I’m impressed with the graphics of the PlayStation 4 (which my father and one of my friends owns), but there are too many great games for the PlayStation 3 that I’m not quite finished with. Games like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Final Fantasy XIII, BioShock, Call of Duty, and Grand Theft Auto V are among the titles and series that I will never grow tired of.
⑨ Gaming has not only been a source of entertainment and relaxation, but a way to bond with most everyone in my life. My father and I wouldn’t be nearly as close as we are now if it weren’t for split-screen battles in Army Men 3D, co-op slashing of dragons in Icewind Dale over LAN, or competitive teamwork online in Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto V. I don’t think the friends I’ve had over the years, or the ones I have now, would be as close as we were or are if it weren’t for our bonding over various video games. Of my three closest friends now, our idea of having a good time is either playing PlayStation, Minecraft, or the Sims, and it has created some of the best memories. But even beyond that, it’s given me a goal in life: to work for a game development company in developing characters and creating plots and stories for RPG video games.
March 13, 2014