I mentioned it before, I love video games, and I have been gaming for as long as I can remember, some of my fondest memories are of sitting at home playing a beloved game and oh boy have there been some developments in my life-time.
Apart from Pong, the first gaming system I really had was an Atari 2600, I remember it being set up in the dining room and hooked up to the TV, being handed a joystick and a cartridge inserted into the system…and suddenly there was a game. Next thing I know I was playing Pacman and Centipede for hours, I had space invaders down and no one could beat me at Frogger. Though the graphics were simple, imagination filled in the gaps.
Not only that but you could buy books and code the games yourself. It was not long before I knew how to change the coding to get extra money or lives. Finding out how to break the game was just as much fun as playing them. You would code the games and save them onto a cassette tape. Loading them would give you a long series of beeps and squeaks like the old internet dial-up tones, but they always felt worth the wait…even if half the time they would crash.
Eventually we upgraded and the Atari got passed on to my grandparents. After a while my Nan was playing so much she made me look like and amateur on certain games, it was good to know that the old console was still getting some love. When the retro consoles came out I picked one up for her knowing how much she had loved it. I hope she enjoyed having those games back again.
Though I loved these games I always felt there was something lacking, that games could give us so much more. It was time for something new.
The Amiga always has to be my first real love when it comes to games, I was really this computer that began to teach me what a video game could really be. I became hooked on games that had puzzle elements and problem solving and although I could just a likely be found playing James Pond 2: Robocod, or Prince of Prince of Persia and platform games with basic puzzle elements, though it was the point and click adventures that really drew me in.
Monkey Island, with its puzzle solving, unique humour and interesting story had me playing it through again and again. Even now, when I have it on my phone and Steam, the lines in the Sword Master fights still make me smile, and when you quote lines you are sure to get a witty retort back.
Add into this hours of Lemmings, being enthralled (and completely frustrated) by Another World and playing every text adventure I could get my hands on and you can imagine my broken heart when our Amiga eventually went into its final Guru Meditation.
Like the Amiga, bringing up the N64 is sure to set off those nostalgia trips, when mentioned to gamers of a certain age, their eyes glaze over and an expression of contentment spreads across their face. This is very quickly followed by excitement and gushing over old games.
It will surprise no one, that knows me well, that sitting under my TV, behind some other consoles, is an old, almost forgotten N64, that still works. I have my copy of Golden Eye, though I did not play that very often, and a few other games, but mainly Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time.
What I love about being that little bit older is being there when those iconic games come out, you just knew people loved them and wanted to play them, you relied on word of mouth and conversations with the folks at the game store. I had no idea that 20 years later these games would have the cult following and devotion they do now. Ocarina of Time is one of those games, though other Legend of Zelda games have a lot of merit, and of course are so much fun, this is the game where a generation understands the sheer annoyance of the Water Temple, would happily whack a small fairy with a baseball bat if it ever says ‘Hey Listen!’ again, and can probably still play Epona’s song from memory.
Even though I keep it in the pretense that I will one day pull it out from it’s dusty crevice, the only game I would really play on it again is the Ocarina of Time and I happen to own all of the early Legend of Zelda games on my old GameCube…who am I kidding? It would be like throwing out an old friend.
Gameboys and Nintendo DS
It was really the first time that games were conveniently handheld, I did not own an original Gameboy but friends did, I would play Tetris with them when ever I had the chance. When it came out in colour I discovered Pokemon, and the little creatures had me hooked.
It was a while before I got my own handheld and the the first one I managed to get for myself was a Gameboy Advance. Now I could have Legend of Zelda with me where ever I went. Books were put aside on bus trips for games of tiny people saving the world or catching a hundred monsters in tiny balls.
I could suddenly bring much loved games with me and, before smart phones, that was a true revelation. This is where my love of all things Pokemon came from and it is no great surprise that to this day my third favorite travel companion, after my other half and my e-reader, is my Nintendo DS.
And so on…
There are so many more things to talk about, more consoles, the development of games on the PC, but for now I thought I would give all of you older gamers a little trip down memory lane, and for you younger gamers, the fresh blood coming in with new visions, needs and expectations, a little glimpse into what it was like to watch things develop. Happy gaming folks, and please tell me your favourite games and consoles!