Gaming Through The Years: A Personal Journey
I want to preface this by saying it’s an EXTREMELY long read. So, with that said, I understand if some of you read a bit and then disengage. I get it completely.
When I was a kid in the 90s, there was a lot of gaming systems floating around from different companies. Even into the early 00s for me as well. The thing that I loved about it was that there was just so much variety between systems and games and god knows what else that it could keep my childish self busy for ages. Mind you, I’m just writing this shit for fun so obviously this is a personal essay of experience, not something to really facilitate discussion or much else. So without further ado, here we fucking go.
The earliest released gaming system that I remember even touching was the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) sometime in the mid-90s. Although it was released in 1985, I didn’t get to even see the thing until ten years later. For reference, I was born in 1991, so cognitively I wasn’t really up and at-em until about ’95 or ’96. My cousin had one with Duck Hunt and the first Super Mario Bros game. I didn’t really get to play it myself much but I definitely enjoyed watching others play it. I actually enjoyed Duck Hunt more than anything I can recall. This was a part of the “Third-Generation of Video Game Consoles” though and that’s as far back as I can muster.
From the “Fourth-Generation” onward is where things really kicked up for me. By this point the gaming industry had reclaimed it’s dominance and never looked back. A friend of mine had the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) and the game Goof Troop with Goofy and Max. We played the living hell out of that game as much as possible and it was a great time both playing and watching it played. I also remember Super Mario World although I don’t recall who had it or anything. Another friend of mine had the Sega Genesis and that was really fun too. We played Golden Axe or at least I know I watched it being played. I remember playing Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic 3 & Knuckles, and Sonic 3D Blast. At least as far as the Sonic games go that’s what I remember. However, the game we played above and beyond Sonic was Streets of Rage. A classic 2D side-scrolling beat ’em up that was beyond anything I had seen before. I actually have it for Steam and even the other two sequels to it. Also around this time I was introduced to the Nintendo Game Boy and even the Nintendo Game Boy Color/Pocket. My cousin with the NES had the Game Boy (original) and a friend across town had the Gameboy Color. My cousin had Tetris, Pokemon Blue, and a few others. The friend had Pokemon Yellow. By this point Pokemon had blown the fuck up. It was pretty much everywhere and nearly inescapable.
The “Fifth-Generation” was where I actually obtained a console for myself for the first time. My first console was the good ol Nintendo 64 (N64). I played the living hell out of that console and to this day have the fondest memories of it. Of course, I had the game Super Mario 64 and I would play a bit but definitely enjoyed my dad playing it with me moreso. It’s actually the best memories I have with us together. Now this is where it gets fun. With my acquiring of an N64, the games started flowing in at a rather fast pace. Thinking back, the N64 may have been the first and only console I obtained within the year or after it was released. Which is damn near unheard of for folks. Anyway. As far as games go, at one point or another I had: Super Mario 64, Mario Kart 64, Super Smash Bros, Star Fox 64, Wave Race 64, Mario Party 2, Pokemon Stadium, WCW vs NWO: World Tour, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, Bomberman 64, NFL Quarterback Club ’98, San Francisco Rush: Extreme Racing, NHL Breakaway ’98, Vigilante 8, and many more. Notable omissions from this list are Goldeneye 007 and both Legend of Zelda games. Never did enjoy LoZ that much once it went 3D and 007 just wasn’t in the cards at the time. Anyway, Super Smash Bros is a game I’ll never forget mainly because of how much I played against/with my friends on it. We spent ages on that game and unlocked all the characters (Only 4 unlockable ones). Jigglypuff, Captain Falcon, Luigi, and Ness were those characters. Ness and Cpt Falcon being my personal favorites. Obviously during this particular generation of gaming the Sony Playstation (PS) was among this. I never did own the original Playstation but did see it played and played myself. Notably, the friend with the Sega Genesis upgraded to a Playstation at some point and we played the living hell out of Twisted Metal 4. This was the first time I was introduced explicitly to Metal music through TM4′s soundtrack which featured the song “Dragula” by Rob Zombie. It’d be another year before I really dug deep into Metal with Linkin Park’s debut “Hybrid Theory”. Anyway, TM4 was fantastic fun and I love it dearly.
Now, the “Sixth-Generation” is where shit gets fucking diverse and damn near obsessive. Most notably the Sixth-Generation saw the release of four major home consoles: Sega Dreamcast, Sony Playstation 2, Nintendo Gamecube, and the Microsoft Xbox. Because I’m writing this mainly for my own entertainment and benefit, I’m going to dive into each of these consoles for shits and giggles.
First up, the Sega Dreamcast. Now, I never owned one of these and only really saw it at an after-school program game room at the local community center. The game that literally every person in that program played, watched, enjoyed, was of course Sonic Adventure 2. There was literally no escaping it. Even though the Dreamcast spelled the end of Sega as a hardware developer, there’s no denying that SA2 was their golden child for the console.
Next up is the Nintendo Gamecube. I briefly owned one as an adult but as far as it’s release and such, never personally did. I did however have friends with one in middle school and early high school. We would all gather and just play the mess out of the thing. Some notable games we played were: Super Smash Bros Melee, Sonic Adventure 2: Battle, a fuck ton of Mario Party games, Sonic Heroes, Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, and a few others I don’t remember right now.
Now, I’m going to go forward and discuss the Microsoft Xbox before the PS2. The reason being is that Xbox is another console I never owned, at least the first one. Another friend of mine from childhood, whom I’m actually still friends with today, got one of these for Christmas one year along with a handful of games. One of these games was Halo: Combat Evolved. Now, I need everyone who bothers making it this far reading to understand something. That is that Halo was an absolute GAME CHANGER for me and many people in that timeframe. I’ve been to LAN parties where we played Halo for upwards of 10–12 hours and nothing but. We barely even bothered eating sometimes in-between matches. We would play the coop story mode together for hours and hours and hours until completed. It wasn’t a game really, it was an absolute obsession for myself and my friends. Thinking back, it was utterly ridiculous how much time we spent on a single game. Anyway, other notable games from that time that I’ve played are: Fuzion Frenzy, Need For Speed Underground 1 & 2, Def Jam: Fight for NY, Halo 2 (of course), Need for Speed: Most Wanted, and many more.
Alright, the time has come to finally discuss the greatest selling console of all-time as it currently stands: the Sony Playstation 2.
The PS2 was the console that I owned out of this particular generation. Now, the game that I most associate with this console is one that actually didn’t sell terribly well (only 170,000 copies), received very mixed reviews, and even the online community for the game was extremely small. The game is Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Lockdown. Now, R6:L was a mediocre game and rather bland in most aspects of it, however, the thing that set it apart from everything previously was that it was the first game for me that I had online capability for. The childhood friend that had Halo also was a major player on R6:L and got me involved in it. It was a huge change of pace for me because prior to it, I had never played anything online against people that weren’t literally in my field of vision. It forever changed my perception of what gaming was and could be. I obtained a microphone and ability to connect an ethernet cable for online play and that was the beginning of the end. The game had clans, unique usernames, leaderboards, and a host of other things. It was just wild to see at the time. For reference, the game came out in 2005 and I was a freshman in high school at the time of me getting it. I also got big into Madden NFL at some point during my PS2 ownership. I played all of the PS2 iterations of the series but made the distinct declaration that I will not play any Madden game prior to Madden NFL 2004. Mainly because of the ability to use the “Playmaker” feature which would adjust the direction of the running back’s route. Some other games worth noting here are: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Vice City, Final Fantasy X, Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King, Battlefield 2: Modern Combat, Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction, Need For Speed: Most Wanted, Call of Duty 3 and Big Red One, Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, WWE Smackdown! vs Raw (most of the series on PS2), Tony Hawk’s Underground 1 & 2, Tekken Tag Tournament, NBA Live 2004, NBA Ballers, Star Wars Battlefront 2, NBA Street Vol. 2, Burnout 3: Takedown, and a fuck ton more. Especially considering Wikipedia lists 2502 for the console and it’s STILL considered incomplete. Now as for handhelds of this generation, the Nintendo Gameboy Advance/SP/Micro stand out from the crowd of course. This is especially obvious since GBA’s closest “competitor” was the Nokia N-Gage/QD. That’s really not much of a competitor if you think about it. Anyway, I had the original Gameboy Advance for the most time of the three iterations but enjoyed the Micro the most from a pure Gameboy vantage point. Of course, Nintendo’s absolute juggernaut of a series is Pokemon. This should surprise absolutely no one when it comes to handheld gaming. Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald are actually my favorite Pokemon games to date and have a very special place for me. Pokemon Firered and Leafgreen are fantastic remakes of the original games. Of course, who could forget the games Advance Wars and Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising. Although I played the first Advance Wars significantly more than the second, the series is great and I enjoyed it. Finally, the game I love to death for the GBA will always be Yu-Gi-Oh! The Eternal Duelist Soul, because I am forever a fucking nerd. I also enjoyed Sonic Advance when I did play it.
Now, the last generation of consoles I’m going to talk about is the “Seventh-Generation”. The reason I won’t go any farther than this is because in the last year (2016–2017) I have stopped console gaming altogether and have gone to PC. I owned a PS4 for a very short time and it was actually a “Lemon” so once that broke hours after obtaining it, I kind of just let console gaming go. Anyway, this generation of consoles had the Nintendo Wii, Sony Playstation 3, and the Microsoft Xbox 360. This generation is where I actually made a drastic change in terms of what console I decided to spend most of my time on. I went from the PS2 last generation to the Xbox 360 this generation. If I remember right, the PS3 didn’t really wow me at the time and even to this day honestly. Though I did end up owning one at one point late in it’s life cycle, I still wasn’t impressed regardless. The Wii felt more of a really elaborate gimmick than an actual console and haven’t owned one at any point. I actually haven’t owned a Nintendo console for an extended amount of time since my first console, the N64. Weird how that works. Anyway, I spent the most of my time on the Xbox 360 and really enjoyed myself actually. I definitely was engrossed in online play by this point in my life. The most notable games I was heavily involved with were the Call of Duty series of games after they went berzerk with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. I spent so much damn time on that game and subsequent releases all the way until the final “Ground-based warfare” version in the franchise of Call of Duty: Ghosts, released in 2013. In looking at a rather lengthy list of games for the Xbox 360, I honestly am rather shocked at how few I’ve spent any time on that didn’t have Call of Duty in the title. Of course I did actually play and enjoy other games but the monopoly of time was spent on a CoD title. I really did play the hell out of Grand Theft Auto IV and the Mass Effect series though. GTA4 was the first game of the franchise that I actually enjoyed and beat, though I used cheats to beat it, everyone who plays that series does. Mass Effect had a great impact on me when I played it and thoroughly enjoyed my time. Anywho, some notable games from this era of gaming for me are: Too Human (which I really liked though mediocre), Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Vegas 2, Skate, The Last Remnant (awful game graphically but fabulous battle system), Halo 3, Crackdown 1 & 2, Army of Two, Battlefield 3, and a few others.
Now in terms of handheld gaming, by this point I severely lost interest in it. However, the Nintendo DS series grabbed a little bit of my attention. I actually recently reaquired a Nintendo DSi and play it here and there. Of course as always with me and Nintendo, Pokemon is a thing that has to be had at least at some point. For the DS series it was Pokemon Diamond and Pearl, Black and White, B&W2, and Platinum. I also enjoyed, for once, New Super Mario Bros on the DS. The game that I enjoyed the most, even though I didn’t beat it, was Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies. I spent a lot of time on that game and really enjoyed myself. I will mention that although this next handheld is in the “Eighth-Generation”, I had one for a time and want to mention it. The Nintendo 3DS is what I’m referring to. I briefly had one and actually beat my first Pokemon game on it, Pokemon X & Y. Though that may be “controversial” of a statement to a degree, I had fun playing X & Y and am happy to have beaten it.
Anyway, now it’s nearing the end of 2017 and the world of gaming and entertainment has changed dramatically since my humble beginnings. This is obviously evidenced in the drastic upgrade in graphics, online capability, companies involved, gameplay itself, and many other factors. Most notably, the people involved in gaming have changed from nearly a counter-culture of sorts to the most mainstream that mainstream can get. No longer are those who play these games on the outside of society looking in, they are damn near the forefront/face of an entire industry. People of all backgrounds have enjoyed them to some extent and have made their voice heard to become more prevalent than ever. I’m not really sure where we go from here, but it’s going to be a very interesting ride.
Thanks for reading.