Do you see that? Just staring into your soul...
Yes, the man who graced the cover of innumerable pulp romance novels and helped convince the world that imitation butter simply couldn't be believed helped bring me into gaming.
Truly a man to be admired.
Like most things in one's early life, habits are rarely formed through one's own volition. I certainly didn't learn to brush my teeth because I wanted to.
The first real induction I had to gaming wasn't even a moment I can call my own. Being too young to do much besides slobber and form nonsensical utterances, I simply took up space as an ornament. Like R.O.B.
, only batteries were more expensive, I was a gaming accessory. Wow. Reading that back really explains some issues I had with Harmonix.
...Moving on. The game I was primarily a cash dump to was none other than Wizards & Warriors for the NES.
I swear this isn't a blog about sexy muscle men.
This was a game my mother had recently begun using as form of escapism. She handed me the number two controller (for a 1-Player game, clever b-err, lady) and let me get carried away with bright pixel violence and childish gratification.
With her "help" I saved several distressed damsels from the clutches of a mad wizard, growing boner skeleton, a flying, disembodied giant skull, and Those-The-Orkin-Man-Fear. Pretty good for a whelp who couldn't write and was too stupid to understand the significance of wired electronics. Obviously, this didn't change the life of a flesh-bag that could be enamored with the lights of a Ferris wheel, but as any decent opium farmer will tell you, the harvest needs to be planted before you can expect sprouts.
I may not have wrapped my greedy, childish mind around a hobby then, but my tastes had been irreversibly altered. Movie rentals didn't hold my attention unless there were swords. Or Wizards. Jason and the Argonauts enthralled me with its use of skeletons, and I wore out the tapes of Excalibur and Conan (both). Also, Legend rocked, and if you disagree you can promptly fuck right off.
I also began a shift in my outdoor play. Eschewing baseball as well as Cowboys and Indians, I preferred toy swords and shields, though I lived in a time where those always fell apart quickly. Kids have it easy these days.
During this time period, several changes forced their way into my life, and I began spending summers with my maternal grandparents. This is where my Uncle took his turn corrupting me.
Let me start that one over.
This is when my Uncle introduced me to his love of fantasy. He had been a child of his time, playing AD&D, collecting nearly every Conan comic published, watching the movies I mentioned and then some, and most recently, Gaming. He had his own NES, and I was able to sample his collection, which seemed magical, partly due to my naivete and mostly because it could shift due to the local rental place. I was introduced to many new games, as well as some I had viewed already from my lofty position as decor. Kung Fu, Mario, and Metroid tickled my fancy before I knew what the hell that meant.
What really blew my mind though? The Legend of Zelda and Castlevania (which I quickly owned afterwards). These were basically everything I'd come to love in physical form, and Zelda in particular gestated a thrill of exploration that would take up a significant amount of my weekends.
However, I soon found something that called to me more strongly than all the others.
Look at that tail!
The mere imagery caused my brain to flare with excited memory.
This was the point I was training for. All that running around in fake capes beating other kids with fake swords had trained me for this.
This was also the point where I learned to say "Fuck this game!"
Deadly Towers appealed to me, and I loved the adventure, but damn, that thing eats souls.
I developed a serious fear of jello (it makes sense when you play it) and bells enraged me for years after. I may have attacked an Ice-Cream man. Repressed memories don't count anyway.
Despite that... trauma... there was now a hold. Time at school was spent doodling favorite characters, and I read Nintendo Power like a craving addict. As another result, every other weekend spent with my Dad's side of the family, time away from my precious NES, I learned that text adventures and Nintendo's Child Addiction Publication had helped develop a love of reading. My Librarian Grandmother had helped nurture that, in fairness, and somewhere around the third or fourth grade my father had tossed Frank Herbert's Dune my way, creating a love of Sci-Fi. Addiction is the link to that story, if you were unfamiliar.
I also began to scratch an itch that a green-clothed elf boy had given me.
No, not that, you sick fuck.
I began to exercise me need to explore. Wandering into the mountains of my family's backyards, I disappeared into the mountain forests, hiking. Enjoying the thrills of nature, and stepping in animal dung, I found I could spend hours in isolation, simply enjoying the sights of the world away from the city (and annoying people). It wasn't long before I learned that taking myself deep into the woods with a book was my defined paradise. Well, it was my fall-back, since I couldn't turn into a dragon. I loved monster movies, shut up.
This was the point in which an expedition to Toy "R" Us netted me with a copy of Final Fantasy.
See? Not a glute, pec, or phallic symbol in... Shit.
My love of fantasy settings. My love of Adventure. My Love of Text. My Love of exploration. It all came together. I spread the packaged maps out before me. It looked exactly as pictured. In my mind. I may have used steak knives and Halloween decorations in actuality, but I was living the dream.
I sat down with my Adventure Props, and a notebook of graph paper to chart my own way, and set off to destroy Mind Flayers and Ogres. Who Molested me. Then I learned to manage my resources and spells more efficiently. I still died in "Ogre Corridor" though.
There was a lot of death in that, actually. It took some time, but eventually my Knight, Ninja, Red Mage and Black Mage defeated Chaos, and I was left with a startling realization.
I had no idea games could engage me so thoroughly.
It was shortly afterwards that I found something else that drew me in to fantasy and adventure.
Something that called to me across time.
"Iron Sword" is not suggestive in the least!
Holy shit. There's a part two?!
It's not often you get to relive an early part of your life, so naturally I snatched this up. I was inundated with nostalgia and excitement. I had come full circle, only now I had control. And it was plugged in!
It wasn't exactly the same naturally. There was now a "Quest" mechanic, one of my earliest lessons on bribery
, and a story built around the elements, another callback to my time with Final Fantasy.
Returning to the role of Kuros destroyed the last bastion of ignorance in my mind. The fog cleared. I knew my journey of life would have games integrated throughout, and I also realized how exciting that was. To be in control of a character, not just watch them, but live their ordeals with them. Finding treasures, exploring, slaying, rescuing, it was a different, yet familiar world. A world introduced to me through a warrior.
A world solidified by his return.
Plus there was some sexy guy on the cover, you may have heard of him.