Life in a low income household sucks. When you're an adult, it means you worry about every single thing, your expenses, your budgets. It just sucks.
As a child in the year 1998, it meant I saw how stressed my parents were. I also - more selfishly - saw how much of a horrible thing it was that I couldn't even get the Nintendo 64 console. Now, I know it's a little sad, but I was 4 at the time.
After seeing adverts and hearing what my friends had to say about it, I really desperately wanted the Nintendo 64. I'd never owned a video game console in my life. Hell, I'd never even played a video game. It was a pretty tragic existence, I suppose.
Sadly, I never got the Nintendo 64 console I so desperately wanted. That doesn't mean this story has an unhappy ending, however.
See, at the age of 4 and with Asperger's Syndrome, I really couldn't say too many words. I could never pronounce the number "64" so I always just said "Nintendo." I really wanted that "Nintendo."
About half a year later, a family friend comes by. This was a man who ever-so-frequently went to garage sales to pick up whatever stuff he could. He was almost like a hoarder, except he did go on to resell a lot of the stuff he picked up. Anyway, he found an old NES console. And hearing about how much I really wanted a "Nintendo," he decided to give it to us. That and a nice collection of games to play.
And I know some children would be disappointed, getting an older and less powerful device than what they wanted, but I was absolutely thrilled. It was still a Nintendo console, therefore it was still a "Nintendo" I so very much wanted. I couldn't wait to pick up the controls and play some games.
The first game on the pile was Super Mario Bros. I'd heard good things about Super Mario 64, so I was very excited to be able to play a Mario game.
Everything about the game made me fall in love with the console. It was gorgeous, so simplistic yet so fun. The music was ridiculously catchy, the controls were nice and responsive. The level design was just brilliant. I loved gaming from that point on.
But my story doesn't end there. One of the next games I played was Castlevania. I was interested in it because it just sounded cool. Not much reasoning there, but I was 4. You can't trust 4 year old children to make very rational decisions.
Needless to say, I was quickly hooked. To this day, I still think Castlevania has some of the best video game music I've heard in my life. Not to mention the gameplay was fun and the art style was pretty decent. It also helped out that I had an interest in monsters, for which Castlevania delivers in excess.
Sadly, about a year later the NES died. I don't really know what happened, but it was a tragedy. A horrific event.
My family, like wonderful people, went out to look for a new NES console. Just as a replacement. They were pretty old consoles, so the price wouldn't have been too extreme.
Unfortunately, we never found another NES. But at least we found a Sega Genesis (or as it was called here: the Mega Drive). I picked up the controls, which I quickly noticed had much more buttons on it than my old NES, and started playing some Sonic the Hedgehog. Unlike Super Mario Bros, this game was a lot more fast-paced and chaotic. It was enough to keep me interested, and I did have a hell of a lot of fun playing on the Genesis. It was definitely a fun console and I still have nothing but good memories of it.
I think though, the first time I was ever truly blown away by the visuals of a game would be when we managed to pool enough money together and pick up a brand new (this is when the console was fairly modern, too) PlayStation 2 console as a Christmas present for the whole family. One of the first games I got for it was Ratchet and Clank. It was a pretty big jump, to go from a Genesis to a PS2, and I didn't know what to expect. I had never played a PlayStation console in my life, and I had very little experience playing a Nintendo 64. There was just nothing for me to go by.
Suffice to say, my jaw literally dropped the moment I saw Metropolis in Ratchet and Clank. After playing very two-dimensional games where it was so easy to discern the game from reality, where it was so painfully obvious that you were in a game, this was the first time I actually felt like there was a whole other world within my television.
Everything looked so lifelike. It was so hard to believe. This was the moment when I came to appreciate how far technology had advanced. The moment when I saw games as a gateway to another place. Instead of sitting in front of a TV with a controller in hand, I felt like I was exploring a whole new world.