This is me, age four.
The last pieces of the Berlin Wall were being carried off, Chernobyl was some years in the past already and I was playing my first videogame. I took the Competition Pro, my dad popped International Karate+
into the AMIGA and wooo~sh. It happened. videogames had captivated me.
See, when I started thinking about when I started loving videogames and I would say, this was the moment. But then I realized... there were several moments through time. It was like getting reborn. The old gamer-me melted down into a skin colored puddle, lying on the floor, and a new me would crawl out of it the way a zombie climbs out of his grave. The gamer I am today exists because the former gamer-me died, as I started appreciating games for different things. Some games even had a very important impact on my being. The moment I realized that I knew... I can't restrict myself to ONE moment. I can't. It's not right. It's like asking "What person you loved from the bottom of your heart was the most dear to you?". At some point you loved them all, they were all important.
Like I said, the first videogame I played was International Karate+
on my father's AMIGA. It blew me away. I loved it, although I never made it through. At some point it just got so hard. You had to beat two opponents with kicks, punches and jumpkicks. Inbetween you had to do little tests of skill. For example you had to block balls flying at you from four directions. It was a simple game, absolutely, but I sunk hours into it. I played other games on the AMIGA of course. Turrican
were other great time sinks for me, but IK+
was my first videogame ever and I will never forget it.
Fast forward a few years: I had my first own console, the SNES. I started saving money for months just buy one game and if I had to choose I would say that the SNES was the game with the most games I really like on it. But one game is standing out between the crowd. Secret of Mana
The tale of three heroes who have to go and save the world, it was maybe my first game with a real story in it. or something that you could call a "real story". I just loved everything about it. The graphics, the soundtrack, the way to play it. I played it with my dad, something I couldn't imagine doing nowadays even for five minutes. But back then it was awesome. I played the main hero, he played the girl and the dwarf. We defeated zombies, knights and bosses, one after another. No matter how hard the battles were, at the end it was us who were victorious.
It was Secret of Mana
which introduced me the coop play (something I enjoy tremendously to this day) and to story driven games, even with a tear jerking final cutscene because one of the heroes has to die to save the world. There was no way around that, I had to kill indirectly if I wanted to beat the game. That was a total first for me, too. Actions with consequences. Of course you can't compare it to what is possible today, but it was something special.
Fast forward some more years again and I was introduced to Baldur's Gate
, a RPG that was based on the Dungeons & Dragons
This was my first really big, huge game. My own character creation in which I had to consider what kind of character I want to play, a real story with narrative, sidequests, decisions that would really have impacts on the way the game goes on - it was all there. It blew my little mind away. Suddenly games could have somewhat adult topics and quests, long winded conversations and speech trees. You had a reputation, you had to consider the attitude of your party members for them to get along. It was overwhelming. And again: I just loved it.
From that point on I was really hooked on games with freedom of choice and with a lot of story. I imagined the wildest things that I could find in the next area and found things completly different. And I loved that I could play an evil character. I would rob the whole world blind, while also saving it. My character's motivation, so I imagined, was to save his own hide. But because of the imminent thread he would go out of his way to be a thief.
In the same year something else happened. A nerd with a crowbar clobbered aliens to death in Half-Life
This was the first time I actually came in contact with censorship in videogames. If you take a look at my blog here you can already tell that this was a really, REALLY important moment for me. The german version of Half-Life
was heavily censored and edited, going so far that shot humans didn't die - they sat on the floor and started shaking their heads. This was the moment my awareness for uncensored versions awoke and it hasn't gone back to sleep ever since. I doubt it ever will.
Of course I enjoyed Half-Life
too and thanks to a friend I was able to get the censored version, but the awareness of censorship in german versions was really a huge influence on my life. I spent a good amount of time already to compare censored with uncensored versions and before I buy a game or a movie, I check that I get the complete product. It has become a bit of a tedious habit at times, since people find it hard for example to give me a game or movie as a present, since they have to ask themselves if it is the version I would want to keep. But I wouldn't want to miss it.
Besides that Half-Life
would also introduce me to the world of mods. Sure enough I played Counter-Strike
and to this day I prefer PC versions, because the power of mods is unbelievable. How the work of fans, that they publish for free, can improve a game is beyond words and if you still haven't taken a look at mods, I can only urge you to do so. You most likely won't regret it. It was also Half-Life that really developed my love for shooters, which were my preferred genre for years.
Then there was a long time of nothingness. Don't get me wrong: I played new games, I got new consoles, and I had a lot of fun. But there really wasn't anything impacting me. I was in awe when I saw the sprawling worlds of the 3D Grand Theft Auto
-iterations, my jaw hit the ground when I first played God of War
, I cursed the enemies in Need for Speed: Underground
and enjoyed the solitude of Fallout 3
. There were many good games, even a lot of REALLY good games, but looking back they were just chewing a meal someone else had already eaten. They all had their right to exist, without a doubt, but they were just lacking the "special something".
And then I started my apprenticeship. I moved in with a now good buddy of mine, who showed me a game. An old game, even. Here I was, in the year of 2007, playing a game from 1999 - Planescape: Torment
Once more, I was totally blown away. I have a hard time putting into words how this game affected me. It touched so many really deep and adult topics in so many ways, while having a fascinating story. There were so many unique ideas in this game, like the Brothel of intellectual lusts, where one would go to trade a story for example. You tell a story, your being told a story. You can have a mage who is constantly burning in your party or a flying, talking skull. It's a game with a question in it's center which is simple and yet so complicated: "What can change the nature of man?
This is the kind of game for you if you like thinking about things. If you like to philosophy about stuff, like to thing about ethics and alike. It's a RPG like no other I ever saw and I can only urge you to play it. Don't mind the old graphics or lack of voice acting, just get it and play it. Make a char with high intelligence to get all the dialog options and play away.
Whenever I recommend this game, I give out the quote that stuck with me the most. It's a little tale:
An elderly man was sitting alone on a dark path, right? He wasn't certain of which direction to go, and he'd forgotten both where he was traveling to and who he was. He'd sat down for a moment to rest his weary legs, and suddenly looked up to see an elderly woman before him. She grinned toothlessly and with a cackle, spoke: 'Now your third wish. What will it be?'
'Third wish?' The man was baffled. 'How can it be a third wish if I haven't had a first and second wish?'
'You've had two wishes already,' the hag said, 'but your second wish was for me to return everything to the way it was before you had made your first wish. That's why you remember nothing; because everything is the way it was before you made any wishes.' She cackled at the poor berk. 'So it is that you have one wish left.'
'All right,' said the man, 'I don't believe this, but there's no harm in wishing. I wish to know who I am.'
'Funny,' said the old woman as she granted his wish and disappeared forever. 'That was your first wish.'
So far these were my "incarnations", so to speak. All of these games made me love videogames again and again, always in a different way. They made me appreciate videogames in new ways, way I didn't know even existed.
All of the games I named here I still play from time to time. Right now I am playing Secret of Mana
with my girlfriend. I know she will never love the game the way I do and that's okay. I still hope that some of the magic rubs off to her. Looking back I wouldn't change a thing. The way the dice fell were completely alright and I noticed that I was going through different incarnations with many of my other hobbies too. Be it the movies, music or writing. I always had my episodes that ended when something new and special came up. So why should videogames be any different.
I already had my fair share of lives, in a way. I hope there will be many more.