A collection of gaming memories


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[I never owned a current-gen console as a kid, and I really didn’t mind that much either. CowBearSnail takes me back to a time, before the internet, when others’ opinions didn’t have as much sway over the way I played video games. Sometimes, it’s nice to find your own fun… – DeadMoon]

Originally, this article was intended as a top ten list of the most influential games of my childhood, but, in the process of whittling years of personal gaming history into that all-important top ten, I was taken down a much longer road of reminiscence and reflection. I’ve been on Destructoid for quite some time now, though have only just begun publishing pieces here and there. My favourite conversation to have with other gamers is around their history of playing video games and what games mean to them. Incidentally, I’ve found this is also the best way to get to know another gamer. So, in way of a formal introduction, my name is Ryan, and this is a little slice of my life playing video games.

We all play video games for different reasons. Some use play as a form of escapism from mundane routines or unfortunate circumstances. Others play video games as a point of social connection with massive global communities. Video games can be used as tools for coping with hardships or as competitive platforms through which disputes are settled. Although video games have filled each of these roles for me at some point in my life, there is a simple, singular reason for my foray into the wild world of gaming.Video games were cool.

Even before owning a console, I still vividly remember how strongly video games had gripped my imagination as a primary (elementary) schooler. Every day, my best friend would come into class and tell me about the progress he had made on a little game calledFinal Fantasy VII. He would tell me about the enemies he had fought, the characters he had met, and the spells he had learnt. During recess and lunch breaks, we would re-enact scenes from the game, making our own divergent storylines in anticipation of what would happen next. It wasn’t until much later that I would realize that I had lived one of gaming’s greatest narratives vicariously through him in the schoolyard. Despite never having met her, I still remember refusing to believe Aerith’s fate. The first time I went to his house and saw his PlayStation in action, the first time I picked up the controller and ran through dense jungles as Crash, or freed stone dragons inSpyro, I knew I had to have video games in my life.

But I didn’t want just any gaming console. I wanted the best. I wanted my friends to be as bewitched as I had been when telling them of the gargantuan feats I would accomplish with my own gaming system. A few people in the schoolyard already hadPlayStations, so that wouldn’t do. I had played a Nintendo 64 at the local pool before and after swimming lessons, which was great. But, some of my peers hadNintendo 64stoo, so that wouldn’t do either. I remember clearly, during one of our lunchtime debriefs, my friend had mentioned something called aSuper Nintendo. Not knowing anything about it, I assumed that theSuper Nintendomust bethesuperior gaming machine, because – and this is the truth – it wasSuper.One effective naming convention, paired with the fact that nobody else at school had, or had even heard of, theSuper Nintendoput it firmly at the top of my Christmas list that year.

Years later, I would find out that my poor father (Santa, as he was known back then), who was even less knowledgeable than I about video gaming systems, went to a hell of a lot of trouble tracking down a boxedSuper Nintendoto put under the tree for me that year. Due to its age at that point, it was no longer available in stores. My Dad spent weeks scouring the local classifieds for something suitable – driving hours out of town to investigate anything that sounded like itmightfit the criteria. Eventually, he succeeded, as that beautiful box of circuitry and chipboards was awaiting me at my Nan’s house that Christmas. After calling a family meeting to figure out how on Earth to plug the thing in, I booted upSuper Mario World,and my life was changed forever.

Looking back, I muse on my decision to ask for aSuper Nintendoover aNintendo 64orPlayStation.Though many now (including myself) would consider it a good decision, in today’s context is was the equivalent to buying a brand newPlayStation 3orXbox 360and thinking of it as the most cutting-edge machine on the market. Through ignorance alone I had inadvertently precluded myself from experiencing classics likeCrash Bandicoot,Mario 64,orConker’s Bad Fur Dayalongside everybody else. But, in that moment of watchingMariorun across the screen astrideYoshifor the first time, I didn’t care.

My weekends at Dad’s began to take on a whole new meaning. I spent the next several months mastering the ins and outs ofSuper Mario WorldandDonkey Kong Country 3. Though my Dad imposed a strict hour per day limit on my playtime, I developed sophisticated ruses to draw that time out. Frequently, I would wake myself up at 5am and sneak out of bed to play games on low volume while Dad still slept. When he inevitably woke, I would attest that I had only just gotten up and that 55 minutes were still on the clock. When that time had run out, I often protested that there were no save points nearby and then proceed to squeeze another half-hour from whatever game I was playing. Though I’m pretty sure my father had figured out my ploys, he never argued and always looked on while I squashedGoombasor rolled throughKremlings. I still look back on those mornings longingly and do not regret a single minute of missed sleep.

Video games had become my obsession. Every Friday night my Dad would take me to the local video store to rent a different game for mySuper Nintendo. Each subsequent Monday, at school during show and tell, I would recount to my class the worlds I had visited and the giants I had toppled. I now had my own stories to tell, and my own scenes to re-enact on the playground. When I was younger, I resented having to rent games rather than being able to build up a collection like my friends. Looking back though, I am now grateful for the breadth of different types of games I was able to experience that way. Games likeSuper Adventure Island,Goof Troop,andAladdinrotated through mySuper Nintendoeach week, whisking me away in the process. I’ll never forget banging my head against the first boss ofSuper Mario Bros. 2,Birdo,for weeks on end. As a kid, I was so consumed by the need to conquer him that the solution to the puzzle came to me in a dream (you jump on her damn eggs and pick them up mid-flight). Needless to say, I pulled myself out of bed that minute and defeated the pink turd.

Perhaps my favourite gaming memory of all came later, when Dad drove me an hour out of town to take me to the midnight launch of theWii. As with theSuper Nintendoyears before, the anticipation leading up to that night and the feeling of excitement that comes from being on the cusp of something new were palpable. I was transported back to that beloved Christmas evening whereMariohad once changed my life.

For me, that is the true value of video games: their ability to transport you back through time. Through video games I can once again feel as though the world is rife for discovery and give my imagination over as captive. They connect me to a special part of my childhood where enthusiasm was freely given and things werecoolfor cool’s sake. Although video games have outgrown the image of being toys for kids, it would be a travesty to overlook their potential to make usfeellike kids all over again.