I had never heard of Video Games right up until the day that I played one. Not to sound old, (but really it's a massive guilty pleasure), but in those days days it was totally possible as a kid to miss out on global trends. Except Pokemon and Digimon on TV. This was when you didn't have to have loads of emotions to get across what you mean. I've only written a few lines and I've already had to resist using the skid mark on good writing that is the exclamation point.
My parents and I were driving to the south to visit some family friends. They live in the southern part of Ireland, whereas we live in the west. I remember the car traversing this stupidly narrow path (no way in hell am I calling this a road) up the side of this huge rise with a drop caged behind a wall full of holes and ivy. I don't remember much of the details. I wasn't blessed with the ability to regurgitate the temperature, humidity and difference in sea level, but I can recall the important bits. I remember that breathtaking view of the country side as a mesh of greenery as we inched along this mountains blood vessel, trees to our right nothing to our left.
There was this pit of nervous tension in my stomach that only got worse as the several hour journey carried on. I had never meet these people before, I had no idea how to act. Naturally when I arrived, I balled up and said nothing. They were nice, but that wasn't opening my mouth.
Classically, I was out of place with nothing to do. I was brought upstairs by their kids and they sat me in front of this black box under a TV and handed me a controller. Then turned this stuff on.
This two tone digitized chorus said something. I didn't know what it meant.
I was quickly told how to "Punch" and "Move" using the controller.
Then they booted up Streets of Rage.
The sombre electro-funk music that's ludicrous now worked it's way into my head. The scrolling text informed me of the city and the vast repository of assholes that needed a beat-down.
Needless to say to a kid that had grown up watching the trash that was original Irish programming, this plot was Shakespearean.
I picked the white guy and then proceeded to walk/swagger/ strut from left to right offering hoodlums a punch the chin or a pipe to the head for the next few hours.
I had visceral reaction to interacting with the (terrible) drama on screen.
This was strange. This was illicit. This was new.
Of course, now it looks pretty crap, and that art direction is like someone drank some ink, carrots and threw up on the design brief. But making that man move up, down, left and right was exhilarating. This feeling of responsibility was heady, intoxicating. I was wincing with each blow they placed on my characters head, recoiling like I was in the midst of the fight myself.
If there was anything that my Primary School morals had taught me; it was that violence was bad. But here, it was fun, cool even.
I spent the evening in that womb like state, playing through that, Golden Axe, and Sonic the Hedgehog.
I didn't even realize that the machine itself was old and outdated. I was born in '92. The first time I played a video game was when I was 6 or 7. So far so normal, but, the console was a Sega Mega Drive.
My childhood friend had a SNES and I don't know know how many hours we lost to that playing Mario and Mario Kart. To this day, I still feel right at home in 2D.
Fairly shortly after this I got a Ps1.Imagine my surprise when I learned that games now could operate on a 3D plane. It was astounding.
When I got back I quickly graduated to having my ass kicked in Tekken 2 by my Teenage cousin. But then I got better. To be honest, I'm fairly sure that most 90s kids had a pretty similar experience; we've played through countless patches, invisible walls, bullshit plot devices, level rehashes, palate swaps and people making questionable remarks about my mother.
I haven't looked back.
My father has a an anecdote of my Mother beating my Canadian cousin at Street Fighter 2 when I was a year old whirl we were on a visit. Apparently she button mashed her way to victory. My father still enjoys enacting the kid's face reddening, contorting with confusion, disbelief and rage that he lost to his aunt.
Perhaps it's a family thing.
On another point, what was with the Japanese obsession with fighting, fighting no less, in the Streets?
I know why. It's awesome.