Growing up Gaming – Volume 1
A new feature we’d like to jump-start at PSNStores is called “Growing up Gaming.” Basically, we’re asking readers to contribute stories of… growing up gaming. E-mail your story to firstname.lastname@example.org and perhaps you’ll see it on your favorite PlayStation Network site!
Many of my childhood memories come from playing video games. Whenever I talk to people about my upbringing, they assume that I never saw the light of day; that I grew up inside of a room, in front of a TV. To the contrary, my brothers and I played outside all the time. Somehow, some way, we also found a ton of time to play games. Throughout my life thus far, I’ve run the gamut of emotions while playing video games: excitement, elation, frustration, despair, determination, and more. One of my earlier memories involves a pseudo-relative’s TMNT skills.
As a young’n, one of my ‘uncles’ – yes, I grew up in that kind of a family – showed me the Ninja Turtles arcade cabinet. He was the only person I knew who could beat Bebop and Rocksteady. Thus, he was branded among family as “The Bebop Killer.” After hanging out at his house, my brothers and I redubbed him “Sega Mike” because he had more Genesis games than we knew existed. Anyways, the point is I remember that guy because of his close relation to video games. I would later beat Turtles in Time for SNES over and over, but I always recalled my first encounter with the green guys’ video games.
During my time in elementary school, I was surrounded by video games. I used to babysit for a kid down the street whose dad worked at a magazine factory (to this day I have no clue what his actual job was, so for all intents and purposes, we’ll go with “magazine factory”). My payment for watching his kid was discarded GamePros, Nintendo Powers, and other popular gaming magazines that would be immediately devoured by my wanting eyes. I would bring video games into school with me for a few reasons. For one, I had to prove to my classmates that I owned a Sega Saturn and a PlayStation. (When I think about it now my boasting seems arrogant, but at the time I was just a child; I had no concept of being privileged enough to have all of the newest games.) Another reason I brought games into school is that I used to scour their instruction manuals for story ideas. I distinctly remember practically plagiarizing the Bug! manual in order to write a story for Language Arts class. A related anecdote is how I would read my Fallout 2 manual in church instead of being bored to death by sermons. My parents didn’t mind that I was missing standing and kneeling cues, as long as my brothers and I were quiet and not fighting.
The fights. For as many brotherly bonding moments through video games that we had growing up, there was an equal number of all out brawls that could shake the neighbor’s house. The list of games that threw us into mortal combat include Mario Kart 64, Marvel vs. Capcom 2, Super Smash Bros., Goldeneye 007, NBA Street, Gauntlet Legends, and many, many more. I was once accused of hogging GTA 3 to the point that my older brother put a hole in the wall using my head. The hole remained as a friendly reminder to share the controller until we moved a few years ago. While playing Gauntlet Legends, one of us ninja looted one too many locked chests from my younger brother, hurling him into a fit of rage that included wielding a rumble pak as a weapon. The fights brought us closer, I think… or maybe that’s just something people say about fighting their brother(s) growing up. We don’t see each other often anymore, but when we do, our conversations almost always veer towards gaming – what we’ve been playing, what games look good, that one time when someone removed Super Metroid from the SNES without turning it off, effectively erasing all of the save files.
I woke up extremely early on the morning of September 9th, 1999. I’m not sure I even slept, to be honest. I didn’t quite comprehend the idea of shipping at the time; all I knew was that the Sega Dreamcast released, and I had ordered one. When the console finally arrived, I played the demo disc religiously. Between the House of the Dead 2 coin mini-game and Powerstone, I had enough ‘next-gen’ gaming goodness to drive me deep into countless nights. Around this time, I moved to a new town. My new school was intimidating for several reasons. All students were required to tuck in their shirts, we weren’t allowed to tote backpacks, and I felt afflicted by all of the symptoms of ‘new kid’ – I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t particularly care to meet anyone, so on and so forth. At one of our first assemblies, I sat down next to a group of kids who, unbeknownst to me, would become my best friends from that point on. I overheard one of them mention Falcon and/or Wang Tang and the rest is history. They introduced me to Firebats, SCVs, and the previously uncharted territory of PC gaming. We played games throughout middle and high school. We bonded over sleepless nights of Diablo 2 MF runs. We were enthralled with tunneling in Red Faction, then the surprisingly fun multiplayer in Red Faction 2. We still wonder how we possibly juggled schoolwork, wrestling, and Phantasy Star Online. Yes, most of my friendships were forged by the metaphorical flames of playing video games.
At one point in high school, I was home sick for a couple of weeks. My dad dubbed my sickness an offensively feminine ‘-itis’, but we later found out that I was succumbing to massive anxiety. I felt like crap, coughed constantly, and stayed up late nights without much will to do anything. That’s when I decided to play Final Fantasy 7. I printed out a hulking strategy guide and went to work for about two straight weeks. I tripled my Knights of the Round materia, bred a gold chocobo, beat all of the weapons, etc. Up to that point in my gaming career, I had never shed a tear based on a video game’s story. When that one part happened, though (spoiler, though I can’t imagine you’re guessing what I’m referring to), I couldn’t hold back. I suppose it was a combination of investing so much equipment, materia, and time into a character that truly hit me where it hurt. I wasn’t bawling, just upset at losing my sole healer at an important point in the game. The graphics of the cutscene were great at the time, and the music is still undoubtedly fantastic. The next time I would feel something similar while playing games would be Heavy Rain, then The Unfinished Swan.
I’m now 26 years old, a near-adult in a serious relationship with a budding career as an English Language Arts teacher. The amount of time I can devote to playing video games has shrunk significantly. The bulk of my gaming over the past four years can be attributed to this website. I’m extremely grateful for having the opportunity to play so many new games. I’ve shaken hands with people who create these works for a living; people who slave over one project day in and day out. Video games have gone to interesting places in the last five years, and I’m glad to have been at the forefront of the storm, reporting their paths. I’ve started a Literacy and Gaming club in my high school. Students play games then write about them, paying close attention to author’s purpose and author’s craft. With any luck, the program will be a success and lead to a wider understanding of video games as a meaningful medium. As for my personal future, I can’t see myself getting older without a controller nearby.
Have a personal Growing up Gaming story? E-mail us at email@example.com. We’d love to hear from you and potentially post it on the site! Thanks for taking time out of your gaming schedules to read this post. Game on.