My Videogame Life Pt. 1

-The 8 And 16-Bit Era-

From as far back as I can remember there was always a videogame console of some sort in our house. My dad,unlike most people his age,kept up with the times when it came to technology. Whether it was the latest computer tech,or more recently,technological advances in the realm of E-Cigs (Electronic Cigarettes),my dad was always at the forefront. And it was all because of me.

My dad was the kind of person who was probably one of the first in line when Pong was released.
Since the eighties was an era in which school systems were starting to employ home computers as an educational tool, and since it was also the time in which I was born,my father figured the best thing he could do was buy one and learn how to use it for my sake. Probably so I wouldn’t look like a dummy when I went to school and there were these TVs with letter-button-boxes,of which everyone but that stupid Josh kid could use. At the time,I was only concerned with the games you could play on the old Tandy computer he ended up buying. Sure,I had the Intellevison (a poor man’s Atari 2600) and a Texas Instruments cartridge loader thing,but the games for those systems were akin to Space Invaders. You know,stuff with one screen that you’d just play until you got bored. Kind of like Angry Birds. Yes,I just burned Angry Birds. But in all fairness,I have Angry Birds on my Android. And yes,I play it… until I get bored and decide to play something more substantial.

Around 1988 or ’89,my dad bought a Nintendo Entertainment System. Most people called it - or anything else that played videogames in the good ol’ days –a “Nintendo.” I called it the NES,thanks to my life-long,handicapped,friend who was sixyears my senior,Nic Weymouth. Some of you may know him from such shows as The Clone Cast and The Inner Dorkdom. You may also know him as the guy that posts copious amounts of pictures of his child on Facebook in which the pedophiles of the world are probably having a field-day. That was a crude joke and I apologize. But hey,if any of you know him and are friends with him on the FB,you probably just nodded your head and said,“Uh huh.”

It was a joke,people. Calm down.

The NES was nothing short of amazing. See how I just jumped right back on topic? No warning,no second chance,just right back in there! Moving on… The first real videogame I ever played was Super Mario Bros. Up until that point, myself and most everyone else that played games were used to the aforementioned, “static screen,” style of games. With SMB, you started at point-A and moved to point-B (a flag pole),all the while jumping on the top of Goombas (which I’m quite sure I heard somewhere is some kind of racial slang),flushing yourself down drain pipes, and being constantly told that,“the princess is in another castle.”

You know who made it to the second level first? My dad. I remember asking him to get me to the second level just so I could, “play in the blue world.” He wouldn’t do it. Not because he was a jerk or something, but because he thought I should do it myself. He realized early on that videogames (at this point,at least),were based on challenge. If I was going to get to the second level of the game,I would have to face the trippy obstacle course alone. Finally getting to “the blue world” a few days later was that much sweeter because of it.

Funny side-note: Before my dad remodeled the majority of our house,my room,and my parents’ room were side by side. Many times when I would go to the bathroom in the middle of the night,I’d hear the familiar sound of ducks flying around,falling to the ground and being presented by a hound dog as a trophy of accomplishment. I’d peak into my parents’ room (where the NES was),and see my dad sitting up in bed,calmly aiming the NES lightgun at any unlucky duck in his sights. I’ll never forget that until the day I die.

Throughout the NES’ lifespan,I acquired a slew of games for the console. One in particular that had an impact on me was a game my dad rented from a grocery store: Ninja Gaiden. NG was a game that not only focused on getting from here to there while slashing folks,monsters and demons with your sword,but also on story. In between every stage or two,the player would be presented with a cut-scene explaining why he/she was speedily doing all that slashing and jumping. Back in the day,people were only concerned with getting high scores in games like Donkey Kong or Pac-Man,but here was a game that made you want to play it just to see the next story moment.

A good story would play a huge role in most videogames in the future. Can you imagine playing a game like Metal Gear Solid or Final Fantasy if it were about nothing more than “getting lots of points?” It would be pretty boring,I’ll tell you that. Imagine sneaking around a military base, taking out soldiers for absolutely no reason.

Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Not very interesting,huh?

While I’m sure Ninja Gaiden wasn’t the first game with a story progression throughout it’s entirety,it was the first one I played that did. The thing is,NG set a standard because even as a little kid I always thought that Ninja Gaiden stood out from the rest of the games in my collection. It gave me a reason to play and fueled my imagination in a way that most games couldn’t.

When I was informed by my Nintendo Power (yes kids,this is before the internet, so getting our videogame news came from these tiny-volumed things called, “magazines”) that there was going to be a new Nintendo console,I was ecstatic. It was called the Super Nintendo. Holy crap! SUPER Nintendo! You automatically knew that this thing was gonna be the balls simply because it had the word “super” in front of Nintendo. The Nintendo is already awesome,so the SUPER Nintendo must be SUPER awesome!

By this point,Sega’s Genesis console was fairly new,but it pretty much went under the radar for me for a long time. I knew that a friend of Nic’s had one,but that was about it. Of course,I knew who Sonic was, and yeah,that looked like a pretty fun game,but I wasn’t nearly as impressed with it as what I saw with SUPER Mario World. I mean,how could you go wrong with a Mario game that had the word “super” in front of it?

Needless to say, I had a Super NES shortly after Christmas of the year it was released.

The 16-Bit era of gaming brought forth a lot of gaming goodness for me. Most of this is due to a little game that Nic introduced me to called Final Fantasy II (IV in Japan). I was not exactly new to RPGs (Role Playing Games). I had played The Legend of Zelda and The Adventure of Link (both action oriented RPGs),but I had also played Dragon Warrior (Dragon Quest in Japan): a free game that I received from Nintendo Power back in the day. See kids, it paid in those days to have a subscription to those magazine things. Sometimes they sent you free stuff. What website sends you free games? I’m really starting to sound old here… Anyway… Final Fantasy and other RPGs of the 16-Bit era concentrated more on story than ever before. And for a kid that always had an imagination bigger than his gut,RPGs were right up my alley. I poured over games life FFII,III,Chrono Trigger and a lot of other games produced by Squaresoft. If you saw that logo come up on the screen,you knew you were gonna get a quality title full of epic goodness. Ironically,Squaresoft would also be the company that turned the tide in the videogame industry for better or worse, depending on your point-of-view.

To Be Continued…
*Que the Back To The Future fanfare*