Take a moment and think…
This is going to be a big article so please be prepared. I don’t care if only one person reads it, or one million people do. Just so long as it makes that one person look back on their own journey and think about what gaming has done for them… I would say that it has been of resounding success.
Me personally, I started gaming at a very young age. So young that some of my earliest memories are still quite foggy. I can remember using tape drives on what I believe was an Atari (I’ve never ‘counted’ that as my first console because I can barely remember much) but some of my earliest memories had me playing a Sega MegaDrive with the newly released Sonic the Hedgehog. That would have made me two years old or thereabouts. I was playing games before I could even speak properly.
I might add that my parents weren’t so poor as to just throw a two year old into a console, I had an older brother who at the time would have been five… it was probably bought to please him more than me…
Anyway, I remember playing Sonic for the first time and loving him in that innocent, childlike way! I wasn’t the only one either. Friends, (I say ‘friends’ – people I went to nursery with) would race around as him and we would attempt to finger paint him – albeit extremely poorly – when our nursery teacher said it was painting time.
I might have been terrible at the game itself to begin with but as I grew older, my love for the character seen me spend my ‘pocket money’ on the comic selection, posters and the usual merchandise.
As far as the game was concerned… I naturally got better and better with time and age. I actually still remember that point when I completed the game for the first time – yes, it was a major achievement! It was my first proper achievement as a kid. Something I had longed to do just so I can see what happened.
Not long after, I had Sonic 2, which I played to death. I was so good at it, I could remember every single checkpoint, ring area and could walk away as Super Sonic by the end of the first zone. Not bad considering that was all at a time before you could save games (or use a PC emulator system and constantly reload a previous state). Essentially a perfect run.
I tried it recently on the iPad/iPhone re-master and I couldn’t replicate it.
I had quite a quiet childhood. Neither of my parents could drive a car and didn’t earn that much (my dad worked two jobs and my mum was in and out of the house working) so I didn’t really go anywhere – gaming was my evenings and my weekends when I wasn’t in nursery/school or out with friends (when I grew up). The fact they didn’t earn much made me realise how lucky I was to own gaming console(s).
I fondly look back on the time when I used to go to the video rental store as it had a Sega MegaDrive section. My dad, for a couple of pounds, could get me a game for the weekend (Theme Park on the Sega was a frequent rental… as well as Ristar and DeCap Attack!). He’d take me every Friday unless I had misbehaved so in a bid to get a new game, I’d obviously do so.
A few years later with a couple of games mastered (and when I started school), I struck up a friendship with a guy who had the game that had me hooked indefinitely, Landstalker: The Treasures of King Nole. He let me borrow it and I don’t think he got it back for a year. I played it constantly. I explored the world (which is actually tiny but as a kid fairly new to games – it was amazing).
I explored every inch of that world, completed every extra possible, collected all items and maxed out my gold.
As much as I loved Sonic, this was a real story. It wasn’t just level after level, zone after zone… it was so much more.
Not to mention, with the story being text based, I was able to develop my reading skills to become a very competent reader at a young age. The words I didn’t understand – I asked what they meant.
It could be argued that gaming helped educate me to some extent.
It encouraged me to get lost in these story lines and over time, planted the seed that made me want to be a writer/creator myself. As I grew up, I used to write new chapters/encounters to my favourite stories and how they could tie in with the rest.
It was an extremely creative outlet as a child and it was even recognised through my school years, especially in my English classes.
Not to give any sob stories, this isn’t what this is about… but gaming was also an escape for me. My parents had a rather volatile relationship prior to divorce so I would play games to get away from any arguing and the like. I could observe and watch their bickering between them, perhaps mould my own personality in some way as a result, or I could play another new and captivating story…
The stories and games often won.
I once picked up a history book and got hooked on Chinese/Japanese history – so imagine my surprise when I found games that allowed me to play as characters in that era! A friend recommended Dynasty Warriors 3 and then I bought every accompanying title from Kessen, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Samurai Warriors and still occasionally purchase them to this day (despite being cash cows now).
In a large part, gaming was a very large part of my formative childhood years.
From the writing to the soundtracks, to the gameplay itself – I appreciated what I was playing in more ways than one.
Social gaming took off (and/or internet gaming) and when it did come into my life – it was like exploring a new world.
Meeting different personalities and people for varying lengths of time was amazing.
Some you’d ignore, some you would just say hello to, some you would chat to and strike up more lasting friendships and some you would simply teabag after they insulted you in some way…
I moved from the Sega MegaDrive onto the SNES/N64, I moved from there onto the PlayStation 1/2, then the Xbox/Xbox 360, back to Playstation 3/4.
I’ve explored so many consoles and their accompanying games and I wanted to list some of the ones that have been a big part of my childhood, my teenage years and even now as an adult. It’s not easy when you’ve played so many different games and genres but I have reasons for each. Try it yourself, try and list your top five (or six if it is difficult) games.
Although some have been mentioned above, I’ll give you a brief summary of those not currently mentioned and why.
1: Landstalker, The Treasures of King Nole.
2: Sonic 2.
3: Final Fantasy VII, then the following instalments into the series.
The first ever Final Fantasy I played. Might be a bit ‘expected’ to come into the list but still – I love it. I actually got quite bored of it initially. I thought the game would only be set in Midgar but my friend (who let me borrow it) told me to stick at it. I’m so glad I did. The moment I left Midgar, I just stared at the world map…
Although the first game in the series I played… safe to say that it wasn’t the last. All up to date aside from the MMOs and I absolutely love anti-hero Caius Ballad.
News of a remake excited me – but upon reflection of the original… will it have the same effect? Time will tell.
4: Shadow of the Colossus.
A truly beautiful, unique game as well the fact it features one of my favourite soundtracks. Nothing will ever beat the feeling of playing this game for the first time and not knowing how to beat the Colossi; having to figure it out with epic music accompanying you and feeling a strange sense of protection over Agro, your horse…
I even found myself just exploring on occasion. Taking a look at some of the more out of the way places. It’s sad to think that this game is already a decade old. I’m still the proud owner of a mint condition original featuring the unique SotC postcards.
I remember looking at the TV puzzled when I was faced with Malus, the final colossus. He could only fit on the screen when you were a mile away!
5: Romance of the Three Kingdoms VIII.
Again, my love of Asian history seen me pour hours into this game. Nothing made me feel more joy than creating a character and blending him into the history of the Three Kingdoms era. A strategy/simulator game of sorts.
Maybe not as much of a visually compelling title compared to its later successors but in terms of gameplay, I’d be inclined to say that the series ‘peaked’ with this title. Many of the game’s features were actually taken and incorporated into the later Dynasty Warriors/Samurai Warriors: Empires instalments as a result.
Once again, I recently purchased a copy of this to put into the nostalgia section of my games collection.
Part of me has always secretly hoped they would re-make this one because it’s a classic.
6: The Last of Us (because 5 was difficult after all)
I’m just putting this forward because it is the pinnacle of what gaming is these days, at least to me.
This is everything that gaming has meant to me over the years combined into the one title but on the current/latest generation of consoles. True beauty in every creative form.
Ground breaking storytelling amidst exciting, often challenging gameplay… it is my type of game.
Whilst opinions will shift based on the individual, I think it’s fair for me to say that games mean a lot to me now and meant a lot to me growing up.
Anyway, I don’t want this to get TOO long but if I was to summarise everything into a few select points and answer my own question, what has gaming done for me?
Simply but a few points:
– Made me appreciate the finer things in life.
– Kept my behaviour in check at a young age.
– Kept me away from a lot of negative behaviours in my life.
– Helped me deal with family bereavements/emotions by acting as a getaway.
– Improved my reading abilities as a child.
– Improved my vocabulary.
– Made me meet some of my best friends.
In a roundabout way, Modern Warfare 2 (I formed a friendship one of my best mates – on there) even made me the Godfather to two little legends!
I can’t wait to see what the future holds for the gaming community because I guarantee that I will be able to look back in another 10-20 years with an extended list of favourite games and moments. There’s just no way to put it all in a top five list.
Thanks for reading.