Happy Thanksgiving Day to our US residents! For those who reside outside the US and might not know what Thanksgiving is — of course you know. We shove our culture down your throats all the time, get with it. Anyway, for this week I would like to give thanks to some of the key components that built up my love of games. Unlike some of my colleagues here I may have been exposed to videogames all throughout my childhood, but I never regarded them as a hobby or passion until my high school years. There are many reasons for my exposure to games, and in this little piece I would like to call out a few of them that seem most important. Whether it is before or after consuming a disproportionate amount of food, reflect with me on these experiences and add to them in the comments below!
Simply enough, my parents and my older brother were the first reasons I was introduced to games at all. Probably the typical way of it, but I could have been raised in a home that did not think such things were “good” for children. Or I could have been in a home that could not afford the expensive new devices and games. Either way, they remain the first reason I ever touched a game controller. My older brother in particular, and to a lesser degree my father, found themselves immersed in these early games in ways I only observed at the time. Sure I played, either on my own or with them, but when it came to beating a game or playing particularly well at all, they were the ones to do it and not me. Games like Punch Out were purely a spectator sport for me as I watched my brother figure out the patterns of each fighter, then get demolished by Mr. Dream (no we did not get the Mike Tyson version). I may have tried a few times to play games like this or later Street Fighter II, but I was more than happy to watch them play. Even my mother played often enough, oddly she was enthralled by Super Castlevania IV, being a fan of horror literature and scary movies. From their early interest was sewn the seed for my own, and for that I am quite thankful.
Throughout my life since second grade I have managed to maintain more or less the same group of friends, even through college when we all went to different schools. And like many kids growing up in the ’90s, we played a lot of videogames together. This was how my interest from games went from a casual observance to a fully formed hobby. By the time we were in middle school, from about age ten to thirteen, weekends and Friday afternoons were commonly spent at someone’s house playing the games they had. Of particular note were the N64 multiplayer mega hits like Goldeneye, Perfect Dark, Super Smash Bros. and the hilariously janky Conker’s Bad Fur Day. I either found out about or just ended up getting a lot of these games because of my time playing them at friend’s houses. The little yellow couch we spent time on for a few hours after school, the tiny wood paneled TV set, the jokes we came up with that we still bring up to this day, these were the moments that made me love games. Nintendo obviously had the largest role to play in serving up the content I would play through most of my childhood, which mostly just meant I played a lot of multiplayer party games instead of deeper single player ones. The time I spent finding out how fun games could really be with friends made me want to play more of them than I had time for at other people’s houses. It ultimately made me discover those deeper single player experiences I had mostly skipped over.
Once high school rolled around I found myself much more consumed by those single player experiences which helped lead me into the growing community on the internet. My friends enjoyed games, but only about as much as could be enjoyed with others. On their own time, they mostly did other things. To fix that problem I turned to the internet circa 2001. The days of the internet, and computer usage in general, earlier than that are a hazy memory to me full of loud dial up modems and websites that had options like Frames or No Frames. Eventually I would get to an internet with a more robust feature set and more easily navigated or discovered content. My gaming interests led me to various fan sites, the precursors to today’s games news sites, and many of these sites were either platform specific (they were fan sites, after all) or had segregated content. These sites, many of which I can only find through the Internet Archive now, introduced me to the industry side of games. I knew “Nintendo” and “Sega” and later “Sony”, but now I was learning about things like “Shigeru Miyamoto” and “Square” (later becoming SquareEnix) and industry PR people like Perrin Kaplan. I found out about games in development, games that got canceled, games that (shock!) jumped platforms, and I found myself at least as interested in these industry goings on as I did the videogames themselves. I quickly became the kid everyone asked about new games, not just among my own friends, or about rumors for new consoles or game sequels. And by that time I still had not dived too deep into things like forums or chat channels. I lurked in a couple places, but stuck mostly to reading “published” content on the front pages of the fan sites. And without social media coloring every iota of news, it was a simpler (not necessarily always better) time to read about gaming on the internet. This increased exposure would see me branch off from Nintendo-only drudgery (and it really did become a drudgery) to other sources of games.
I think I mentioned just about everything I wanted to for this piece. And now the only thing missing is for you to add something. It can be anything, maybe not even about games. Thankfulness is the topic, really. Are you just thankful this post is over? I am!
Eat, comment, and be merry!