My intrepid journey into gaming began simply enough.
My earliest memories were in that Pennsylvania duplex. The neighbors around us were generally very friendly, even having helped rescue me from the tree in our backyard. I had climbed the rope that suspended the wooden-plank swing and clamored onto the branch it was tied to. I remember in the same instant being both proud of my accomplishment and realizing that I was in way too deep… or too high I guess. I had not considered my escape plan and also discovered that I was (and still am) deathly afraid of heights. I found out later, through my mother, that my rescuers were likely junkies, but I also remember how kind they were to me and how jovial they were with each other.
I did what many kids did. Rode bikes, used sticks for guns, built snow forts in the plow-piles in winter. But I also had another hobby. One that the current media may lead you to believe insidious or otherwise inscrutable. I played video games.
Like many people my age, my father and I played Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, and Duck Hunt (just to name a few). I was also inundated to PC gaming, something almost unheard of at the time. To be entirely fair, I was six, maybe seven years old; late to the game (pun intended) by today’s standards. I’ve watched the rise and fall (and in some cases rise again) of Everquest, StarCraft, World of Warcraft, Splinter Cell, Assassin’s Creed, Minecraft, PUBG and Fortnight. I’ve seen worlds that people outside of video games couldn’t even imagine. The morose mountains of Morrowind. The soul-crushingly silent space of EVE. The constant cutting cardio of Chernarus. These worlds (and many others) have helped shape me in ways that I cannot even begin to explain to those who shun the name of video games.
However, it all began in the Pennsylvania duplex, so many years ago, with a Hewlett Packard personal computer and King’s Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow. I’m not going to sit here and review the game. Hell, I barely remember it, but the parts I do remember keep me in constant certainty of why my favorite time-spender is the computer generated worlds of yesterday, today and tomorrow.
Soon after being introduced to King’s Quest, I started playing my dad’s copy of Doom. Admittedly, not a great title for a six or seven year old, but I understood it was a game and I just wanted to shoot some damned monsters. As a result of my monster-slaying experience, I took to pen and paper (probably crayon and paper, but who’s keeping track?) and drew a quite in-depth portrait of one of the fur-monsters (the graphics weren’t great, I’m not entirely sure what this was) getting fully gutted by a shotgun. My kindergarten teacher recommended my parents have me see a therapist.
Yeah, one of these dudes
My parent’s got divorced and moved apart. My mother, my sister and I moved in for a brief time with my grandmother (Nana) while Ma got back on her feet financially. I remember my dad getting me a Sega Genesis one year and I remember spending hours on end in Nana’s basement playing it. That year, I played so many hours of Sonic and Knuckles that I think I can still complete the first level with my eyes closed.
I also got a little game called “The Lion King”. This piece of shit was the hardest fucking game I’ve played still, to this day, and I’ve played Dark Souls III. Looking back I still can’t believe how many controllers I DIDN’T break (I broke a few). Trying to get Simba through the jungle level with Timon and Pumba was pure torture. I’m 100% sure that I never beat that damn game, and the experience of playing it was so bad that I definitely never will.
More like “Hakuna Ma-Hell-Naw”
My mother remarried and I gained three new step-siblings. They had a Super Nintendo and an array of games I’d never even heard of; we became fast friends. I’ll keep it brief: Super bonk, A Link to the Past, Mortal Kombat, Killer Instinct, Sinistar and a whole lot of Ms. Pacman. My eldest step-brother, Sammy, is a mere six days older than I am. I remember him being incredible at Killer Instinct and Mortal Kombat, to the point where it wasn’t super fun to play with him because I couldn’t ever win.
My younger step-brother, Seth, is 5 years younger. He was great at Super Bonk, like really great… maybe a prodigy. I think we all got Gameboys shortly after… or maybe I had one before, my gaming history kind of blurs. I remember playing a hell of a lot of Animaniacs and some form of a Mario game, though I forget which iteration. Eventually, as many of us did, I began playing a LOT of Pokemon. My Pokemon days were some of my favorite in gaming.
In the next console generation, I got an N64 and Sammy got a PS1. Our parents were big into computers, and so, we had a communal computer as well. It was mostly used for MSN chat, or looking up walkthroughs, but I played more than my fair share of Flash games on it. When the parent’s weren’t around, you could guarantee we were on Newgrounds and up to no good.
We had our hands tied with Goldeneye, Starcraft, Super Smash Bros., Everquest, Final Fantasy 7 and many, many more. Eventually we convinced our parents to buy us Conker’s Bad Fur Day (Boy was that a get!)
We transitioned from there into PS2, Xbox and every single goddamn one of us having our very own PC. How spoiled were we? We transitioned our love of Starcraft on the N64 to the PC version and played multiplayer games there. We got the whole house involved in Civilization 2 matches, even our sisters who did not care for gaming.
Xbox brought us Halo and Call of Duty games. PS2 brought us Guitar Hero and Metal Gear Solid. We transitioned again into the Xbox 360 and PS3. More Halo, more Call of Duty. I wound up having LAN parties with groups of friends almost weekly and it was a blast. Many of my friends that I still keep in touch with to this day were regulars. We put our time into Halo, Call of Duty, World of Warcraft – you name it, we tried it. We still slum around in Diablo 3, Rainbow Six Siege and from time to time, Arma.
I graduated high school with no idea what I was going to do. I enrolled in college for a music degree but that didn’t pan out. I switched to undecided and floundered around for awhile. Had a few jobs, liked some – hated others. Loved and lost. Tried to find myself.
The thing that was always consistent in my life was video games. I tried to push back against them. I, nay, all gamers, were misunderstood. Few of us kept down that virtual path. Few of us were able to justify the long hours of adventure, of triumph, of loss, of frustration. Few of us could find time to have a social life and play the games we loved. All seemed lost.
I’ve made what will , I can only assume, be lifelong friendships with people whom I haven’t (and may never) meet. I’ve spent days in game with these people and they are truly some of my closest friends. Friends from high school and my brothers all keep in touch through video games. We don’t talk *much* about our personal lives, but it comes up on occasion. None of that matters, when we are in game together we laugh, we die, we often annoy and get irksome with each other. The next night we all log on and do it again.
But now, a new generation rises. The way paved for younger generations to be streamers, reviewers, creators, rivals, athletes – Gamers.
With the rise of esports upon us, we find ourselves in a new renaissance of gaming. Virtual Reality is on the horizon, our games look better than ever, the creators of those games are more diverse (From AAA studios to Indie sweethearts), we truly couldn’t be in a better era for gaming.
There were a reported 143 million regular esports viewers in 2017
That number is projected to be 250 million by 2021
Was I some sort of gamer pioneer? The Davy Crockett of CoD? Hell no. But I’ve been here, trying to figure out where to go, what career to pursue; and to no avail. Only recently I’ve discovered that I must pursue a career in the gaming industry, and I plan to do so by combining it with one of my other passions – writing.
In the following passages I will begin my earnest effort to become a better writer. Hell, looking at this wall of text above me makes me a little bit nervous about this undertaking in general. Where was I going with that part about my brother Seth being a Super Bonk prodigy? Was I trying to get him a Super Bonk scholarship (Super Bonkarship)? I don’t know, but what I do know, is that fucker was really, really good at Super Bonk.