Sept. 12 is National Video Game Day, so we're all getting together to talk about the very first game that got us hooked.
No one comes fresh out of the womb a gamer. Gamers are made! These days, there will probably be a lot of gamers who get their start following lines on their phones or launching some Angry Birds, but it wasn't always like that. We used to have these dedicated machines specifically for gaming. Consoles, we called them. If only those still existed ...
Oh, right. They do. And, naturally, there's the PC Master Race to contend with, too. In fact, between all the consoles, Steam, phone games and all the other indies and AAAs out there, we're living in a time where there are more games than ever.
But sometimes you gotta go back and look at what got you started. So, that's what the gang here at Blastr did today, and we're sharing the stories of the very first games that made us into serious gamers.
See if any of our stories feel familiar, and let us know -- what was the first game that blew your mind?
My first console was an NES, and while I certainly had fun with Super Mario Bros. and running Bo Jackson all over the field in Tecmo Bowl, something really clicked for me when a cousin loaned me the NES version of Star Wars. Suddenly, after a few years of wishing I could be Luke Skywalker, I was Luke Skywalker, rescuing R2-D2, teaming up with Han and swinging my flickering lightsaber in a series of broad, clumsy arcs (kid had no technique back then). It was the first time I really felt immersed in a game, and several Star Wars titles that followed (X-Wing!) kept that feeling going for me.
I had an NES when I was a kid, and played my fair share of Sonic the Hedgehog at a neighbor’s house on the Genesis, though I never really got into gaming until the original PlayStation hit the market. I was intrigued by the irreverence of Crash Bandicoot, and the solid EA Sports offerings, so I finally took the plunge in my teenage years. But it wasn’t until Solid Snake started sneaking his way into Shadow Moses that I became a full-fledged gamer. Metal Gear Solid absolutely blew my mind, and though the chunky polygons are woefully outdated by today’s standards, Hideo Kojima’s magnum opus showed me just how awesome the videogame medium could be. From the cutscenes to the insanely ambitious gameplay and awesome weapons and tools (i.e. cardboard box), it was the first game I’d ever binged on and found myself completely immersed in. To this day, it remains one of my absolute favorites.
In the Bergenfield, N.J., Roller Rink, there was a little arcade space by the bathroom. After little kid me skated around to corny '80s music for a while, ate some cheap pizza and inhaled some Slush Puppy, I'd roll my way over to a dizzying selection of modern and classic coin-ops. After playing Narc, Burger Time and maybe a little Arkanoid, I always inevitably found myself in the greatest coin-eater of them all -- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It was maybe the best brawler of all time. Forget Streets of Rage. Who cares about Final Fight or Golden Axe? TMNT had easily some of the most fun stages, the best boss battles and just one of the greatest multiple player arcade experiences of all time. Despite the fact that I owned a NES and played an Atari before, this was the game that made me feel like I would be a gamer for life. And all these decades later, I still am. Cowabunga!
I had played videogames on and off since I spent the entire summer of 1983 playing Space Invaders on my Atari. And although Myst excited me, I didn't feel like I could call myself a gamer until 2000, when my husband and I played through Discworld Noir. Yes, the graphics were underwhelming, but the story -- written in part by Terry Pratchett -- was absolutely fabulous. What solidly placed me in gamer territory? Knights of the Old Republic 1 and 2 (yes, 2), I got to be a Jedi, explore more of the universe I know and love, and use Force Wave on an unsuspecting enemy. Games are fun. I'm glad I play them.
Being a proud videogame bum of the amazing '80s and shelling out rolls of dirty quarters at the Gold Mine Arcade in the Fashion Island Mall in California, my pride and joy was an authentic stand-up cabinet TRON game by Bally-Midway, made in 1982. After playing it as a teen until my fingers were numb, I located a secondhand unit from a videogame repairman 15 years later while living in Colorado. It was a glorious behemoth of a game, weighing as much as a refrigerator and needing three grown men to maneuver it up tight stairs and into my den. It had the classic see-through joystick and black light effects, with a booming sound system contained in its thick pressboard case. Gameplay was broken down between four sub-contests: An I/O Tower puzzle, a Tempest-like MCP Cone test, Pac-Man-ish Battle Tanks and a sweet Light Cycle race. All for the price of one quarter! Or a gentle flick of the trip lever inside the coin box. That cabinet was enjoyed for years before ending up in a storage unit I eventually abandoned it. I'd like to believe that, somewhere, the shrill electronic buzz and purple glow of the black lights are still illuminating someone's happy face.
I'm probably dating myself when I say Pong was the first videogame I ever played (you kids get off my lawn!), but it wasn't until 1981's Tempest appeared and devoured all the quarters I could get my hands on that I was well and truly hooked on this whole gaming thing. Its Color-QuadraScan vector graphics are incredibly primitive by today's standards, but at the time it was the first game to truly make me feel like I was being transported to another world. That seems really silly now, given that technology like the Oculus Rift has come around, but hey, in '81 blue tubes and geometric shapes were what we had to work with. There's a bar near me that has a working Tempest machine, and every once in a while I'll trek over there to pump in a few coins and reminisce about a time when the game's colorful, hard-edged horizon offered up a window into a future spent exploring strange, wondrous digital environments ... and zapping the hell out of everything that lives in them.
What was the game that first grabbed your attention? How are you celebrating Video Game Day? Let us know in the comments, or tweet at us at @blastr!