My gaming story does not begin with an Atari, or Nintendo, or Sega, or any other console for that matter. It does not begin with text adventures, MUDs, or point-and-click adventure games on the PC, either. It doesn't even begin with a Game Boy. It begins with my dad and a little RTS called Total Annihilation.
When TA came out in 1997, I was six years old. I used to love spending time just watching my dad playing computer games, shouting out what I'm sure must have been very sage advice like "Make a Krogoth! Make a Krogoth!" If he played any other games at the time, I can't remember anymore. None of them mattered as much as the one where he would build ridiculously large armies of giant robots and send them in against the AI's ridiculously large armies of giant robots.
My go-to strategy? INTIMIDATORS EVERYWHERE.
A couple years later, Unreal Tournament came out. Around this time, I think, was when I started playing games myself on our other PC. The only two games I played were Total Annihilation and Unreal Tournament, and I never got bored with them. I also didn't get to play very often, instead watching the Discovery Channel or reading books or magazines about science; I was a very nerdy child.
When I actually started to love gaming was when I started playing those two games with other people. My dad worked with a bunch of other techies at some place where they did techy stuff with computers (my memory is rather fuzzy on this), and every Friday he would pack up his PC and monitor and take everything back to his workplace to have a LAN party with his coworkers until very late at night.
I still remember the first time I got to join him at one of these. I was so excited I'm pretty sure I was visibly bouncing up and down. I was going to get to play with other people! I was the weird nerd kid with no friends. Even if I had had friends, everyone else was playing Nintendo, so I wouldn't have had anyone to play with anyway, so this was a first for me.
I helped my dad pack up the family PC, he packed what our family referred to as his "frankenmachine," we piled it all into the back of his Nissan 240SX, and we were off. I even got to ride in the front seat! So cool!
I loved my dad's little 240.
When we got there, I got to meet some of his co-workers, none of whom seemed to mind me being there, which in hindsight is pretty awesome. I let my dad set up the computers because I had no clue what was going on in that mess of cables behind the computer, made even messier with the presence of giant network cables stretching from desk to desk to desk. Meanwhile, I got some snacks and something to drink. I'm pretty sure I talked at length to anyone who would listen just how awesome Total Annihilation was.
After some time, I started my first match of TA multiplayer. I knew I was good at the game from my hours and hours of playing it on easy, with a massive resource handicap, and with the entire map and all units on it revealed. I had never lost a match before, so I was going to be great!
I wasn't. I lasted half an hour maximum before what seemed to be a thousand tanks rolled straight through my base, demolishing everything in their path. That night, I learned the meaning of the word "humility".
Next up was Unreal Tournament, which I did significantly better at, even playing on maps I had never seen in the base game. I didn't win, but I had a lot of fun. All of the little tricks I had learned to confound the AI bots didn't work anymore, so I had to improvise, and the sense of accomplishment whenever I actually did frag somebody was amazing.
The sniper rifle was so OP. CTF Face was just a headshot monster kill waiting to happen.
I played UT for the rest of the night, until I got really sleepy shortly after midnight. I took a nap on a couch and woke up the next morning in my bed. We went to those LAN parties often together, and every time I would fall asleep there, only to end up in my bed at home the next morning. Those are my fondest memories of my dad, and my fondest memories of gaming.
These days, we don't get much time to play together due to our conflicting work schedules, but we still find time to jump into Borderlands or Supreme Commander every now and then. And yes, we're both anxiously awaiting Planetary Annihilation.