Throughout my time running this quaint little gaming-based blog, I have routinely referenced my past and general history with gaming. While I personally find the subject to be a little gauche, I have been looking back at my version of how I got into video games and I think my story is sufficiently unique enough to warrant telling. Or maybe I’m just feeling a bit nostalgic after playing the two Sonic Adventure games. Possibly a bit of both.
Part I: Humble Beginnings at 6 and 4
While I originally wanted this to be a sort of timeline of my gaming history and how I developed the tastes I have today, I found it difficult to explain that without getting into more extraneous details about my childhood, so I’m sorry if things get a bit rambly and long winded at point. I mean, these are called rambles for a reason. Anyways, I was born in November of 1994, and even as a newborn I was never a very social child, often preferring to be in very small groups or by myself. This, combined with the costs associated with daycare, led me to spend the majority of my days from the ages of 2 to 5 at my paternal grandmother’s house, where I was taught basic reading, writing, and math skills from an early age, played with various toys, watched television, and ate a gratuitous amount of cereal. While that sounds like I was very isolated from a young age, I still went outside a fair bit, mostly for walks or to play at the park across the street, and I met with other children who my grandmother occasionally took care of.
Anyways, one day while I was at my grandmother’s house I wandered into the bedroom of one of my uncles. He’s about 15 years younger than my father, so he was a teenager at the time, and I saw him playing a 1991’s Sonic The Hedgehog on a Sega Genesis. I stared for a while as he went through Marble Zone, and he eventually noticed my curiosity and offered me to play. I had just turned 4 at the time and was not really familiar with the concept of video games, as the only exposure I had with them up to that point was via commercials, and the 90s were notorious for uninformative video game commercials, so I didn’t know jack about how they were supposed to be played. As such, I simply jumped around a few times in the level, and ran into an enemy before losing my rings and maybe falling into the lava. Then I got upset and ran out of the room.
That was during 1998 or so and I did not play a video game again until 2000, but my interest in them only grew during that period, as I was well within the target demographic of Pokemon when it first hit the international market, and upon seeing a few episodes of the show on syndication, I was hooked. I asked and begged my parents for toys, books, cards, branded food products, sheets, and so forth. If there was something with Pokemon on it, I wanted it, and I was really interested in checking out the various games I saw advertised for the series. Though I never really asked for games, as my house didn’t have any game systems, and even at a young age I assumed they were well outside of my parent’s price range for birthday or Christmas gifts. However, on Christmas of 2000 my grandmother and uncle gave me a Nintendo 64 with Donkey Kong 64, Mario Kart 64, Pokemon Puzzle League, and Pokemon Stadium. A present that sounds outstanding for a 6-year-old, but Pokemon games aside, it was a hand-me-down from my uncle, who was getting older and losing interest in video games.
Now, this sounds like it would be a tremendous opportunity for me to get into gaming, but despite having this system, I really did not have a lot of opportunities to play games. There was only one TV I could use in my house, and it was the same one used by my sister, who is ~3 years older than me, and mother. For me, video games were firmly a sometimes activity that I did when I had the TV for an evening, or didn’t have school, and when I did play them, I had very mixed feelings about them. It’s a bit hard to explain, but while I loved the act of actually playing video games or having some sort of direct input into a digital interactive experience, and being able to see a barrage of sights and sounds correspond with my actions, I had a lot of trouble with the act of playing them.
To further provide some context, I was a very sheltered child who mostly played on their own and let their imagination run wild, scribbling some drawings, or acting out a story with my toys. I rarely did I ever elect to play games, whether they be things like tag, hide and go seek, kickball, or board games, due to how I often lost them due to a mixture of inexperience and my own personal development.
When I was about 6 I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a condition that has since been folded into autism spectrum disorder, and means a little something different for everybody diagnosed with it. For me, it resulted in a strong fixation towards certain subjects (Pokemon, video games, and technology), and a bunch of drawbacks. I found most social situations difficult to understand and would often struggle with basic communication skills, and they’re still pretty poor. I had significant speech issues, which still manifests itself in a speech impediment even after years of speech therapy. While my motor skills, both fine and gross, lagged behind many children, making it difficult for me to throw a ball or write intelligibly, two things I am still pretty bad at to this day.
Anyways, where this applies to video games is that I had difficulties performing inputs, understanding what I was doing, and dealing with things the game threw at me. In general, I lacked gaming literacy, lacked anybody to show me the ropes, and because of this I was immensely intimidated by the idea of challenges or getting a game over.
For some reason my child-sized brain thought that dying in a game was a very bad and scary thing to experience, and it resulted in me developing some bizarre habits. In Donkey Kong 64 and Mario Kart 64, I would only play the multiplayer modes, where I played against a stationary opponent controlled by nobody. In Pokemon Stadium, I only played a bit of the single player campaign and mostly focused on creating mock battles where I controlled player 1 and 2, along with the mini-games. While in Pokemon Puzzle League, I just played against the lowest level CPU. Though for the record, I did also play these games with my elementary school friends when they came over, and also with my sister sometimes, but she was never really into video games.
Despite my odd behaviors with playing N64 games, my library still grew on occasion, eventually expanding to include Pokemon Stadium 2, Hey You Pikachu! (which was unable to recognize my lispy child voice), and Super Smash Bros. Yes, I had an N64 but never got many of what many consider to be essential titles like Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time. Shame on me for only getting around to those titles via the DS and GameCube versions respectively.
Part II: New Millenia, New Systems, New Ways to Play
While I enjoyed the Nintendo 64 for what it was, and had fun with it in my own bizarre way, my interest in it would rapidly begin fading after I checked out the Sandwich Islands Pokemon Trainer’s Survival Guide at my local library in 2002, which provided a detailed walkthrough of Pokemon Red, Blue, and Green. Seeing as how I had certain issues with real time games, I found the more structured RPG approach seen throughout Pokemon to be very appealing, and after getting more familiar with the game mechanics through the Stadium titles, I was confident that I would adore these mainline entries.
As such, I asked my mother about getting a GameBoy Advance so I could play the mainline Pokemon games, but rather than obliging me or letting me wait for the holidays, she instead offered to buy me the game if I were to join Boy Scouts. Yes, Boy Scouts. Recounting your past can be awkward like that when you’re transgender. This was one of her many attempts to make me more outgoing, as while I did have a few friends at school, and I sometimes went on play dates with them, I was not part of any group or club, and every report card I got from school had a comment from some teacher saying that I needed to participate more in class.
I barely remember my time in Scouts, other than getting second place in the pinewood derby, and being shown how to do various simple acts in exchange for badges. But upon ascending to the next level in the scouts hierarchy or whatever in early 2003, my mother to me to a nearby GameStop, where she bought me a brand new black GameBoy Advance, a used copy of Pokemon Ruby, and a used copy of Pokemon Blue. Because I knew Pokemon Blue better, I focused on that game first, renting the strategy guide from the library once more, and because my parents were very generous, they also gave me an updated version of this Sandwich Islands strategy guide along with a Bradygames guide for Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire.
Anyways, with guides in hand I was able to get sufficiently far in both of these games, but more than that, I was given physical representations of these titles, filled with information that was not available clearly in the games, and loads of pictures for me to look at with a degree of awe. As a young child, I had a certain fondness for maps, and would often go through this massive two foot tall world book at my house, play with a globe, or stare at pictures in my social studies textbooks, and this was simply taking that love and combining it with something else. Even to this day, I still love a good expansive map. They can express so much artistry and information in a concise package that just gets my imagination roaring.
Anyways, these guides furthered my love with these two games, and also helped me get up to the Elite Four in both games. However, there was a certain fear associated with the Elite Four, a sense that they were these incredibly powerful threats that, even with a somewhat well balanced team of appropriate levels, and an excess of healing items, I was intimidated by. Cut to the summer of 2003 when I met a kid named Eric at one of my sister’s dance recitals while I was in the room for children who did not want to sit and watch their sisters dance for several hours, and would rather eat junk food while watching the Phantom Menace on VHS. I was playing Pokemon Ruby and casually brought up how I was worried about fighting the Elite Four, and Eric offered to help me with an Action Replay, a cheat device that gave me infinite rare candies and use them to bring my entire team to level 100, allowing me to defeat the Elite Four with ease.
This in turn instilled a fondness towards Action Replays and cheat devices that would remain with me for several years. I would eventually get my own Action Replay for GameBoy Advance, and use it to make games easier by giving me infinite health, lives, money, and so forth. With this aid, I was now more comfortable with the idea of playing action oriented games, many of which I only briefly owned, and barely remember ever having. It was a lot of licensed games most likely, or titles that I briefly played and eventually traded back in to GameStop. But over the years I would pick up some good stuff, like all the mainline Pokemon titles, Super Mario Advance, Mario Vs. Donkey Kong, Mario & Luigi, the two GBA Metroid games, Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, Drill Dozer, Final Fantasy I & II, A Link to the Past, Minish Cap, Wario Land 4, the Sonic Advance games, Sonic Battle, and more. Most of which I would go through with some form of strategy guide, online or physical, in addition to making use of my cheat device, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Remember how I mentioned that Sonic The Hedgehog was the first game I played? Well, that left me with some degree of fondness for the character, somehow, and over the years I was still quite interested in them to some extent. I rented whatever Sonic VHS tapes my library had available, I somehow caught wind of the comic series and started following it at issue 119 (and I’d continue past issue 200), and I started watching the Sonic X TV series when it began airing in late 2003. This caused me to become interested in Sonic, namely the Sonic Adventure games after the comic did an arc called Sonic Adventure 2.5.
Not to dwell too much on this subject, which I plan to cover at a later time, but this helped direct my attention to the Nintendo Gamecube, which also boasted more 3D Pokemon games with Pokemon Channel and Pokemon Colosseum. While I asked for it for Christmas in 2003, my parents did not want to give me two gaming systems in a single year, and instead we eventually reached a conclusion that I would get a $100 platinum GameCube with an extra controller and 3 games if I went to summer school in 2004. I did that, and got my Gamecube along with copies of Super Smash Bros. Melee, Kirby Air Ride and Mario Kart: Double Dash, because around that time my parents and I were under the impression that home consoles were meant to be multiplayer machines based on my gaming habits. But, I had been saving money over the summer by giving massages to my maternal Great Grandmother, who would often look after me during the summer, and was able to buy both Sonic Adventure 2 Battle and the Versus Books strategy guide for it and Sonic Advance (which I would get a few months later).
Now, I would typically play through these GameCube games on my own in the same manner I did my N64 games, as in, either against an opponent controlled by nobody, the occasional friend, or against very low leveled CPU opponents. However, when it came to exploration driven sections of games, such as City Trial in Kirby Air Ride or the Knuckles/Rouge stages in Sonic Adventure 2, I was comfortable going through them, as threats were limited and mobility was fairly seamless. This kept me amused and happy with these games for quite some time before I was able to get an Action Replay for the GameCube, which allowed me to go through single player portions of games without any worry, concern, or fear of getting a game over, allowing me to go through the positively immaculate story mode of Sonic Adventure 2 along with a variety of other games that gradually made their way into my collection.
Said collection, at least at some point in time, included all the other Sonic games released for the GameCube, Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door (one of my all-time favorite games), Animal Crossing, Super Mario Sunshine, Yu-Gi-Oh! The Falsebound Kingdom, Pokemon Colosseum and XD: Gale of Darkness, Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee, Chibi-Robo, all the GameCube Zelda games, Metroid Prime, and the two Mega Man collections. It’s actually a pretty expansive collection come to think of it, but for the sake of clarity, I go these games over the span of 2004 to 2007. So yes, this was a very large library for a child, but I got it gradually, and through a lot of Buy 2 Get 1 Free sales.
I have a soft spot for most of these titles, as going through them was a very lengthy and formative experience for me that gradually helped me broaden my horizons, and get to understand what games could be a little bit better with each title.
Part III: The Next Generation and The Next Step
So by age 10 (late 2004) I was pretty actively into gaming, albeit still using cheat devices, and my only major ties to the ongoing industry came from a subscription to Nintendo Power that I got when purchasing my GameCube. Well, that all changed when my sister and I were called out to the garage one Christmas morning and were each given an all-in-one eMac. Before this point, my family did have a computer in the living room, but I mostly used it to play flash games, look at sprite gifs from Dragon Ball Z games, and to type the occasional school project. But this was 2004, and in that time it was seen as reasonable to give children their own computers, and with it, I had unrestricted keys to the internet… which I was timid about initially, yet quickly grew enamoured with over the course of years and years, before practically living off of it, seeking valuation and self-satisfaction that is oh-so lacking in my humdrum day to day life.
Point is, access to the internet provided me with access to loads of information about games in addition to an infinite amount of entertainment. I would regularly check out sites like Serebii and Sonic Stadium to learn about the two game series I was obsessed with. I read sites like IGN and GameSpot to keep up with the current events of the gaming industry, before switching over to Destructoid from 2008 until 2015. I watched GameTrailers and their partnered ScrewAttack content to learn more about gaming history via detailed retrospectives and some very… dated videos that were rich with swears and fun facts about classic gaming.
I read sprite-based fan comics like Bob and George, Sonic and Pals, Two Evil Scientists, Pokemon-X, and literally dozens of others, which have gone to to shape my sense of humor to this day, for better or for worse. But mostly for worse. Then there was Newgrounds, which, to me, functioned as a platform for video game parody flash animations. I still have glowing memories of things like Super Mario Bros. Z, Final Fantasy Gil Quest, Perfect Kirby, and a bunch of other things i can only scantily remember.
Along with all of this, by 2008 I started watching a variety of Let’s Play videos on YouTube, before they blew up and became a big thing for a couple years, in order to learn more about select games that I could not play because I was a child with a very limited income.Looking through my subscriptions from one of my old YouTube channels, I followed people like xthemusic, xitstyler, Odinspack33, Cypheron48, Durden77, Homestar92, DarkMindedSith, SlimKirby, GriffinLobster, Chuggaaconroy, NintendoCapriSun, SyKhotic, Jammo2000, MikeLat, MasaeAnela, Tatsudoshi, SSoHPKC, and SonikDude101 (who now goes by AntDude). Even though some of these Let’s Players were really bad, and I mean really, really bad, I still gobbled their stuff up, loved getting a look at whatever games they were playing, and fell into the same sort of faux-relationship that would go on to be exploited with the eventual rise of online influencers. But by the time Let’s Playing really took off, I had more or less stopped watching them. Well, aside from the Super Best Friends and the Bastard Brothers.
Bottom line, I experienced gaming through tangentially related means a lot, and I do mean a lot, thanks to the internet, which helped instill a sort of “gamer” identity into my mind. It’s something that I thankfully began to discard as I grew into adulthood and started becoming a somewhat more well rounded person, albeit one with stifled social skills and a couple buckets worth of anxiety. Yet I still absolutely adore random gaming trivia, love hearing random facts about gaming history, and I could probably fill up a textbook with information on 80s and 90s gaming just by using the facts that are still rattling in my head to this day. While I very much did like gaming before all of this, I think it might be safe to say that I only started loving it, and truly loving it, once the internet showed me how expansive this medium truly is.
Oh, but I did not simply spend the intervening years hearing about games, and I was quite privy to getting onto the next generation bandwagon once I started learning about what Nintendo was planning. So, after purchasing a used NES style GBA SP back in 2005 (one with many stuck pixels and a battery that exploded several years later), I wound up asking for yet another major Christmas/Birthday present despite having already gotten oh so much from my parents thus far, and was given a blue “fat” Nintendo DS along with a copy of Nintendogs that I was intended to share with my sister. Which I did for the first few weeks when it was my only game for the system, but it quickly became my device exclusively.
Now, the original DS is easily one of the most reviled and despised pieces of gaming hardware that I have ever seen, with just about everybody having seemingly discarded their original models in favor of a DS Lite or DSi during the system’s lifespan, except for me that is. I never really played on any of the mother models, so I cannot really say I felt like I was missing out on much, and for me, being able to play games on my own system that had access to such a diverse library was more than enough to tickle my fancy. It is easily my favorite handheld (for what little that’s worth) due to the myriad of fond memories I have playing through games on it.
However, despite playing so many games for the system, I don’t really have much in the way of a collection nowadays, as I wound up selling games regularly so I could afford newer titles. Partially because of this, I have only beat a small fraction of the DS games I have played, but I still look at the games I played on it very fondly. Partially because a lot of them were really damn good, incorporating old school designs with modern sensibilities, and because it represented something of a turning point for me and how I played games.
This is due to two reasons. One, the Action Replay I had for DS barely worked half the time for reasons I cannot precisely recollect. Two, I was nudged off of cheat devices by a friend of mine who I met in 2006, and would remain my best friend until 2014, when I more or less destroyed our relationship because I was in a bad place mentally. Anyways, I was able to gradually nudge myself away from my infinite health and such gradually, because of his incessant teasing, all while going through a large enough number of games to warrant a proper spreadsheet.
So yeah, a lot of great games were played, some of my favorite gaming memories were made, but while I was taking all of this in, things were brewing in the console scene and as a child who was only recently made aware of the great games industry va the magic of the internet. I was following it feverishly, and made it extremely clear to my parents that I wanted a Nintendo Wii, but as stories of the system being subjected to shortages may imply, finding one of these things in the holiday season in 2006 was nigh impossible. My mother, my dear sweet and lovely mother, worked so hard to find me one of these things, but could not get ahold of one until April 23rd, 2007. A date I remember because it was the day after Pokemon Diamond came out.
The Wii was something wildly different from anything else that was available on the market at the time, and I was pretty swiftly suckered into thinking that it was the next big step for the medium, and would go on to be a bastion of amazing games, similarly to how the DS was. In many ways, this was absolutely true. But in arguably more ways, it wasn’t even close. Looking back at the system, the sheer volume of quality and quirky games in the Wii’s library is rather staggering, even more so when considering the numerous WiiWare titles, and the fact that the system boasted hundreds upon hundreds of classic games available at a very reasonable price. One could easily list off dozens upon dozens of great games for the system before ever getting to the first party offerings, but I only say that with the benefit of hindsight, and after having mostly forgotten about the frustrations that motion controls often provided, but that’s a topic for another Ramble.
While my first year with the Wii was positively stellar, with my game library gradually growing to include Super Paper Mario, Super Mario Galaxy, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, and, my most anticipated… thing of all time, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, things began looking rather dry after the end of the 2008 fiscal year. As a 13-year-old, I was very much interested in seeing the next big game Nintendo had in their line-up, and the gaming press more or less conditioned me that some form of salvation would come in the form of E3 2008. Now, E3 used to be a very elusive trade show, and it was only around this time when press conferences began being widely televised (at least as far as I can remember). So, with no school to worry about, I proceeded to watch all the press conferences that were offered that year, including the utterly infamous disaster that was Nintendo’s 2008 E3 conference, where they revealed Wii Music.
As somebody who had began considering themselves a hardcore gamer (again, I was 13) this was something of a massive upset for me, and I began thinking about the other conferences I watched, namely Microsoft’s showing. It was a delightful cornucopia of major AAA titles that titillated my mind, and showcased what the next generation could offer for me if I were to upgrade to an HD system. Though, what really pushed me over the edge and made me want to get an Xbox 360 was none other than the announcement of Final Fantasy XIII for the system. At this point, I was really interested in the Final Fantasy series despite only having played the first 3 games and watched a playthrough of Final Fantasy VII, but I was taken aback by what snippets of the game were available at the time.
Now, one could have asked why I was not satiated by the PS3, but one must remember that, from about 2006 to 2008, the PS3 looked like a joke next to the Xbox 360, with its expensive price tag and a series of underwhelming exclusives. I mean, by 2008 the biggest game the system had was Metal Gear Solid 4, a game that I already experienced via a playthrough I watched on YouTube at that time.
So with my decision made halfway through the year, I began saving money and stocking up my Birthday/Christmas presents so I could afford games for this new system, eager to embrace this bold new age of gaming. Then a few months later my father randomly gave me a 20-ish inch HD TV that I could fit in my room, which allowed me to move my Wii and keep my Xbox 360 in my bedroom. A move that meant I was no longer tethered to the TV schedule of my mother and sister, and could play games whenever I wanted, for as long as I wanted.
So come Christmas I got an Xbox 360, which rapidly became my go-to gaming system from the ages 14 to 18. It is a system that I look back on exceedingly fondly, as the sheer variety and breadth of games I played there proved to be a very formative experience that helped me gradually narrow my focus of what I did and did not like. I dabbled in western AAA titles, smaller niche “indie” titles, the gooey in-between, and some games that would go on to be among my all-time favorites (big surprise).
Sure, first party support stopped two years too early and the original model is destined for hardware failures (mine thankfully never died), but the system’s library is nothing to sneeze at. Between retail games, Xbox Live Arcade titles, and even Xbox Live Indie Games, there was always something that I wanted to check out, and I somehow had the capability to do so back then, and managed to wind up with a library of over 100 games, which I remember being utterly nutterly butterly at the time.
It was a system where I went from liking the act of playing games a whole lot to outright adoring them and wanting to keep them as a persistent part of my life. It is the system that offered me the experiences that made me want to start writing about games in order to better understand and appreciate them, which is where this entire blog came from. That, and a desire to get better at expressing my thoughts via writing, because boy was I rubbish at that back in 2012. I’d say that you should check out some of my earlier efforts, but I made all of those posts private. You’ll just have to settle with whatever I wrote back in 2014 and extrapolate how bad I used to be before that.
Part IV: Gen 8 and Beyond
I guess the next step in this story would be me getting a 3DS, which I bought on the Saturday after launch, and proceeded to spend over a thousand hours playing, enjoying a large number of retail and downloadable titles. The system was home to a large number of delightful titles, but I feel that it is prone to a plethora of technical deficiencies and ultimately felt more than a little cumbersome, especially the launch version I had. It began a trend where I simply started preferring the idea of emulating these games so I could play them on a device with better form factor, and with a superior presentation. I certainly enjoyed it for some time, but the deficiencies with the hardware would grow on me over the years, and as I spent more time with more powerful hardware. Namely my gaming PC.
In 2013 I faced a predicament. I had saved up a decent amount of money prior to the console launches that were due to happen that fall, but I was very much unsure as to where I what platform I would hop to in the next generation. The Wii was something of a disappointment to me, and I did not want to invest in a console that would not receive multi-platform releases, which the Wii U didn’t after its first year on the market. The Playstation 4 looked rather iterative and lacked promising exclusives at launch. While the Xbox One was a complete crapshoot boasting system-wide always online DRM, which Microsoft removed after dragging their name through the mud for a good month or so. To compound all of this, I was getting positively sick of using an aging macintosh, and felt the need for a new computer. So, I figured, why not kill two turtle doves with one transaction and build myself a PC.
Around this time, PC gaming was on the rise, with a flourishing independent scene, a plethora of quality console ports, and a reputation for being the most inexpensive way to buy up a mountain’s worth of games between Steam sales, Humble Bundles, and the like. So in July of 2013 I decided to build my own PC, which threw me into a wide world of gaming that I have more or less decided as being my main home for the rest of my days. It’s convenient, just about everything besides exclusives comes out for it, and the game are still routinely cheaper than they are on other platforms. Things are modular, there are many benefits to having a powerful desktop PC beyond gaming, and I find the act of sitting in a chair more comfortable than laying back in a couch or sitting on my bed. Not that I could do either of those, since I don’t even own a television any more. Oh, and then I built another PC in December of 2015, because I cheaped out with my first one.
With my PC, the only things I really was interested in from other systems were their exclusives, which eventually led to me getting a Playstation Vita back in 2014, my first Playstation system ever, if you can believe that. However, I really don’t have many good memories about the Vita itself. I played Persona 4 Golden, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (again), the first three Danganronpa games, Freedom Wars, a better version of Virtue’s Last Reward, and Muramasa Rebirth. I bought a lot more games, but I really was not very fond of playing the system when I could be playing games on my PC on a larger screen. Plus, the only exclusive that I played on the Vita that I did genuinely like was Persona 4 Golden. Yet I still like the system for what it was, and even bought a $50 Playstation TV that I used to play Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls. So, yeah, it was a system for Persona 4 Golden and little else.
Alright, I think that’s a good point to stop now. While I skimmed through a lot of the later years as it were, I really only wanted to focus on my early history with gaming, and I find that much of the more modern recollections are, well, dull in comparison. Hopefully you found this to be of some interest, and that you can understand where I’m coming from when I go on about certain games, topics, and bits about gaming history. But I’ve said about 5,000 words at this point, and should probably get back to playing and reviewing games. So until next time, see ya!
Header image comes from the anime Nyarko-san: Another Crawling Chaos.