Tuesday, June 21, 2016


As you may already know, I'm a gamer and have been for the vast majority of my life.  I don't remember the first video game I ever played, but whatever it was, it triggered an obsession that has never gone away.  It's not my favorite pastime---that is and will always be reading, of course---but I enjoy the ever lovin' shit out of it.

Anyway, as I was stuck in traffic during my morning commute, for some reason I began thinking about some of my favorite video game memories and decided to write a blog post about them.  I will do my absolute level best to avoid spoilers.

These are not in any kind of chronological or preferential order.

  • When I was a kid, we lived about a mile away from a shopping center that for many years was my favorite place on earth.  There was a laundromat with an old-fashioned Coke bottle machine (the kind with the built-in bottle opener) and an Eyes cabinet (total Pac-Man ripoff and creepy as hell, but fun), Scotty's Liquor (where I bought my Archie and Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld comics in addition to assorted snacks; they had Space Invaders, Donkey Kong, and Q*Bert), and Casey's Arcade, which needs no further introduction.  During the summer, I would walk to that shopping center almost every day with a pocket full of quarters, and I would not return home until every last one had been spent.
  • I got caught in a MASSIVE lie and my punishment was no video games for a month, which was the second worst punishment my parents could have (legally/morally) given me.  The first would have been no reading, but who's going to tell a kid they can't READ?
  •  I got a Colecovision for my birthday and it was one of the best presents I ever got.  It came with Donkey Kong, but over the years I amassed a few more cartridges:  Mousetrap (Pac-Man ripoff), Berzerk, and Ladybug (yet another Pac-Man ripoff).  I'm sure there were more, but I cannot for the life of me remember them.
  • In the late 80s, arcades began dying out and it was rare to see anything other than the occasional faded Pac-Man cabinet in a bar or something.  But when the Playstation came out in 1994, it spawned a resurgence that is still going strong to this day.  I didn't get a Playstation until 1996, for reasons I will explain shortly.
  • When I was about to start college in California, my dad got transferred to Minnesota.  The timing was, to say the least, not ideal, because it meant my family would be 2000 miles away as opposed to the 100 they originally were.  He had to be there about 2 weeks before I had to be at school, and we were in a bit of a pickle because I had all of my stuff and nowhere to keep it, and it was too expensive for me to go to Minnesota with them and then come back 2 weeks later and try to get to school with all of my shit and no car.  Fortunately, my dad had a colleague who lived about a half-hour away from my college, and he agreed to let me live with him and his family and then take me to school when it was time.  (I still have no idea why on earth they were willing to do this, but I have always been grateful.)  The parents were at work all day and their 8-year-old son was in school, and oh my god, my days were BORING AS FUCK.  There was a shopping center about 2 miles away, but they were nowhere near as exciting as the one I mentioned earlier, so I watched a LOT of bad daytime TV, flipped aimlessly through the mother's terrible book selection, and napped on the patio with their cat curled up by my side.  But about halfway through my stay, we went to Best Buy to get a Game Boy for the son's birthday, and that kid made the mistake of leaving it in the living room at night and when he was at school.  I don't know how many hours of Tetris I played on that thing, but let's just say I spent a LOT of money at that shopping center buying batteries to make up for the ones I kept killing.
  • In 1996, I was working as an assistant manager at Blockbuster, and we had a demo Playstation for customers to abuse.  I don't remember what game we had in there, but one night when it was blissfully slow and all of the cleaning duties had been done an hour in advance, one of my coworkers asked if we could take out the demo game so he could play something else.  I was a cool manager and said yes.  I started putting tapes (yes tapes, goddamn it, I'm fucking old) away, and when I walked past him about ten minutes later, I said, "Oh man, what is that?"  He said, "It's called Resident Evil.  You're in a mansion with all these zombies and it's really awesome!  Do you want to try?"  Dear reader, I did, and my dormant video game obsession flared up again hardcore.  I bought a Playstation of my own (and, of course, a copy of Resident Evil) the very next day.
  • My friend T and I spent a very drunken New Year's Eve in a hotel room playing Bust a Groove.  My favorite character, to no one's surprise, was Kitty-N.
  • Playing Resident Evil 2 and falling in MAD love with Leon Kennedy, who is still my favorite male video game character of all time.  (His costar in RE2, Claire Redfield, was my favorite female VG character of all time until Ellie from The Last of Us came along.) 
  • When I heard that Resident Evil: Code Veronica was a Dreamcast exclusive, I bought a Dreamcast immediately.  That turned out to be false, but I never regretted buying a Dreamcast because it had some of the most weird and wonderful games I've ever played.  Seaman was a sim game in which you raised a strange fishman creature through his evolution into a strange frogman creature.  It came with a microphone peripheral, and you could talk to him and answer his questions.  Obviously, the voice recognition left something to be desired most of the time, but when it hit, it HIT.  Once Seaman asked me if I lived alone, and I said, "No, I live with my dad."  A couple of days later, Seaman asked me just as my dad came into the room, "Hey, how's your father?"  My dad said, "What the fuck is that?!?  How did it know?"  Other classic Dreamcast games included Illbleed (survive a horror-themed amusement park while dodging traps; included some of the sickest humor I've ever seen in a VG) and D2 (your plane crashes in the Canadian mountains and you have to survive by hunting food and killing aliens; includes a scene in which you shoot a vagina-shaped supercomputer while it moans, and that's not even the weirdest thing about it).
  • Playing Resident Evil: Code Veronica for over 8 hours straight, with only short breaks to refill my water bottle and use the bathroom.
  • Resident Evil kicked off my survival horror jones, but Silent Hill cemented it.  The original is still the scariest fucking game I've ever played, and Midwich Elementary is still the scariest fucking area in any VG of all time ever and I hope nothing else is ever as scary in a VG to me or it might literally kill me.
  • Calling in sick so I could play Silent Hill 2.
  • Turning down a date so I could play Devil May Cry.
  • One of the first things G and I bonded over was our mutual love of video games, so when Resident Evil 4 came out, you know we snapped that shit up pronto.  We played through the first insane fight, and when Leon said, "Where's everybody going...bingo?" and the title screen came up, we actually cheered.
  • When G and I first started playing Dead Rising, we got so frustrated that we almost sent it back to Gamefly.  But something kept me from sealing up that envelope, and when we tried it again and realized you were SUPPOSED to die and just keep trying until you were sufficiently leveled up, it became one of our favorites.
  • Hearing those horrible bird monster things in Dead Space 2 and saying to G "I can't, that is the most horrifying sound I've ever heard in my life, I am LOSING MY FUCKING SHIT."
  • G and I went out to lunch and were going to see Iron Man 2, but when we stopped by my place, I had Heavy Rain waiting in the mailbox.  We skipped the movie and played Heavy Rain in almost one sitting.  It's still my third favorite video game of all time.
  • I have to remain vague here, but giraffes.
Those are some of the highlights of my gaming life, and I'm looking forward to many more.  They'll have to pry the controller out of my dead, cramped up hand.