Do you remember your first time? The anticipation. The nervousness. Putting it in and waiting for that sound. (The cartridge you filthy swines)
My first time was when I was about 13-14. I’d saved some money from my evening paper round and also added a Sunday morning paper round. I’d initially saved to buy a Sega Master System but found myself with more money due to my birthday and decided I’d go 16 bit rather than 8 bit and treat myself. I went into Bradford with my mum and my brother and parted with my hard earned cash in exchange for a Sega Megadrive.
What I hadn’t considered was that I had just about enough money to buy myself the console but it didn’t come with a game. I borrowed some cash and got Sonic The Hedgehog as reviews had been positive and it looked great graphically. My first proper console was bought and I couldn’t wait to get home and try it out.
I’d previously had an Atari 2600 with games like Keystone Cops, Decathlon etc but that was years ago and the games and graphics now seem terrible. I also had a Commodore 64 when others had an Amiga and had enjoyed games like Yie Ar Kung Fu back in the day. Gaming was moving on and I didn’t want to get left behind. I’d played on both the master system and the megadrive and had loved games like Golden Axe and wanted my own console rather than getting a go occasionally at a friends house.
I got my console home and had a quick look at the instructions. Power lead in, aerial lead into the back of the TV, (might have been a scart lead back then) and controller plugged in the front. Cartridge inserted. Power turned on and that magical sound of “SAY-GAR” as the blue writing appears on the screen and confirms you’ve set it up right and managed to not blow it up.
I had hours of fun on Sonic, smashing through walls and finding all those hidden areas. Having battles with Dr Robotnik and losing all your rings by landing on a crab. I look back at those days with fondness and reflect on how much computer games and arcades played a part in my childhood and continue to do so now as a fat, old, 41 year old (supposed) adult.
I never bothered with the original Nintendo but I did have a Super Nintendo and spent hours arranging tournaments with my friends on Street Fighter 2 and Super Mario Kart. I even opted out of R.E at school in favour of a module on Charity Work and arranged a Street Fighter 2 tournament at school to raise money for charity. I charged people to enter the tournament and then charged the spectators a small entry fee to watch during lunchtimes. The tournament was won by a kid in my class called Aaron Hutchinson, who was the best SF2 player I ever had the privilege of watching.
Street Fighter 2 was amazing and was one of the first times it truly felt like the arcade was being brought to your living room. I’d spent money and time at local arcades in Bradford called Ideal (Manchester Road) and Galaxy (underneath the Acropolis cafe in the town centre) but now the hadoukens and spinning bird kicks were on my TV in front of me.
It’s a shame both arcades no longer exist and arcades in general are hard to find. With young people having nowhere to go, a lack of youth clubs locally and not much for young people to do, an arcade could offer that sanctuary where people meet, socialise and play games together. I know these days you can put on a headset and socialise with your online friends but not leaving the house is isolating and not good for anyone.
In terms of consoles I added a Mega CD to my Sega Megadrive but there were only a handful of decent games ever made for it and both still exist in a cupboard at my parents house. I also had a Nintendo 64 and it was between Nintendo and Sega that I got into what was J League Soccer and then International Superstar Soccer that later led to me playing games like PES and FIFA. I’m not a big fan of first person shooters like Call Of Duty but one game I absolutely loved was Goldeneye and that was a classic at the time.
My brother had a Dreamcast that I never played on much and I had the original first Sony PlayStation that seemed to be taking gaming to another level. I’ve stuck with Sony since, through the PS2, PS3 and now PS4 eras and never owned an X Box of any kind, despite liking the console and the controller.
I think my favourite one player game of all time has to be Resident Evil 4 and I recently bought the remastered PS4 version to re-live it all over again. Who can also forget that first Resident Evil when a eerily creepy silence is broken by a doberman jumping through a window and trying to savage your face?
We have now re-entered the realms of Virtual Reality headsets that never really took off first time around and I’m not sure how consoles can improve to the next level when we’ll be looking at a PS5 and a new X Box but I’m sure they’re already past the planning stage and with the emergence of Ultra HD 4K definition TV’s the future will be bright, brighter than Plasma or 1080p.
Just to touch on the social/anti-social side of gaming for a minute there are people I chat with online through Play to Enjoy forum on the PS4 chat parties that I’ve never met. Some of them I’ve only ever known by their online username and might not ever meet but there is still a social aspect to gaming forums, leagues, competitions and online party chats. We even get special guests like Ozmazster dropping in now and again. Urban Legend suggests he’s a 7ft black guy with ginger hair that likes Pot Noodles, Rustler Burgers and stealing sat navs in the Warrington area. Maybe he’s just a myth and doesn’t actually exist? (How you doing lads?)
I also think you can create a community online if people feel valued and you’ll find people willing to donate time and money to help run the show. Everyone pulling in the same direction, helping out with admin etc and all with the same goal.
Back on tangent now and a question for everyone else. What was your first console? Did you buy it? Was it a gift? What games did you get with it? What are your favourite games of yesteryear? How do you think gaming can go forward in terms of technology?
We are seeing gaming going down the streaming/Twitch route and the growth of E-Sports is huge. Young people would have previously watched shows like GamesMaster on TV and who could forget the lovely, lisping Violet Berlin. These days they’ll tune into some guy playing COD or Fortnite and watching gaming is becoming as popular as playing it.
There will always be the narrow minded that claim gaming is just for kids. Tell that to the 50 year old Hammybiggs, currently sat in his Y fronts, drinking Horlicks and moaning about Konami scripted goals. (Only joking Biggs) I don’t see why gaming is ever seen as age restricted when you’ve got games like GTA and Red Dead Redemption that aren’t exactly ideal for kids.
Some consoles seem to be aimed at a younger audience, based on the type of games they release whereas others seem more aimed at an 18-35+ market. Gaming is changing, sadly a lot of it seems profit related. Release half a game, charge punters £50 and then release the other half 6 months later and charge them a season pass for the content.
FUT and MyClub are aimed at getting you to spend real money on fantasy players and then games like Fortnite are offered for free but then parents log into their online banking to find their little cherubs have spent £200 on outfits, harvesting tools and dances for their characters. There’s a real difference if a 10 year old tells you they’re getting a new skin than if a 16 year old is getting a new skin (probably from the pharmacy for a date).
I’d love to see a reemergence of arcades and I’d love to get involved with arranging live gaming tournaments so if you know anyone looking for that someone put them in touch. For now I’ll be on my PS4, getting my arse kicked on PES and I’m sure pretty soon a group of us will be hopping onto our horses and crewing up on Red Dead.
Let me know your favourite consoles, games, arcade games and retro memories. Hope this can generate some discussion.