I know what you're thinking. You're thinking a Family Ties game would be amazing, and you're right. I'm making a note to send that idea to TellTale Games. "Alex will remember that."
That's not what I'm here to talk about though. I want to talk about what gaming has given me over the decades. Yes, I wrote "decades" because I am rapidly approaching middle age and have been playing games for almost 30 years. During those years, there has always been one constant involved in my gaming world, and that is the element of family.
I started off on a Texas Instruments console playing super basic games like Hunt the Wumpus and what I think was some port of Defender. I was around 3 or 4 at the time, and I would sit with my older brother (3 years older) and we would freak out as were being attacked by the Wumpus. Our parents would sit back and have a good laugh at us and encouraged us to perservere and overcome the fear and the challenge. It sounds kinda weird when I say it out loud, but it led to my family's long-lasting love affair with video games and created solid bonds between brothers, mothers, and sons.
After our Texas Instrument days, we moved into the NES era. This was a particularly monumental time for us. I can remember playing countless hours of Super Mario Bros with my brother, but not quite being hooked on games yet. We still had time for G.I. Joes and M.A.S.K toys, and time to skateboard, ride bikes, and be little hooligans. One day, however, the bulk of our interest shifted towards video games in a major way. We were playing in the garage and our mom was in the living room doing something; we weren't paying attention because we were kids and in some imaginary world state of mind, as most kids tend to be. Then we heard it. We heard the opening theme to The Legend of Zelda. We dropped everything and ran into the house exclaiming, "What is that?! What is that?!" and our mom just smiled and started playing.
We couldn't believe it. First of all, the music was better than anything we'd ever heard come from a video game. Secondly, she was playing as a dude with a sword who was able to walk in any direction at all, from screen to screen, and attack in any direction at all. Sure there had been games before that let you attack in any direction, but this was something else altogether. This was a proper adventure.
From that point on, my brother and I would spend hours discovering every little secret the game had to offer. Keep in mind that this is ages before you could just look up walkthroughs on the internet. That was the joy of it all, just firing up The Legend of Zelda with my brother and finding new things every day. We would watch each other and take turns bombing walls systematically until we found that new secret or burning every bush in sight until we achieved the same goal.
The NES ended up giving us a plethora of gaming experiences together. We would watch my dad play Platoon and get mad at the game because--in case you haven't played it--you basically have to map out the first level in your brain like a super genius, or on actual paper. We'd play Bases Loaded and try to outsmart each other with crazy pitches and stupid moves. My uncle bought us Tennis, which doesn't seem that great, but it was actually really awesome and just great that he was taking part in it as well. We just had an incredilbe time with that era as a family.
Eventually we moved onto the SNES and this is when things really took off. I remember the Christmas we got the SNES. Our parents had given us all of the presents and were acting like they were wrapping up for the day. "That's it" we thought. "Christmas is over and no SNES." But all of a sudden, they handed us this note. It was a clue. It led to other clues all over the house that eventually led us right to a SNES in a cabinet at the end of the hallway. We nearly messed ourselves with joy.
The SNES eventually led us to this:
See, my brother and I had played Street Fighter 2 before at a 7-11 a few blocks down the road from our house. We were enamored with it, but at some point, you had to decide if you were going to buy that Slurpee and those Shock Tarts you came for, or if you were going to play more Street Fighter. When Street Fighter 2 released on the SNES, it marked the beginning of a life-long rivalry (friendly mind you) between me and my brother that has spanned every entry of the series.
If there has been one thing that has remained pure and untouched in this world, it is the bond my brother and I share over Street Fighter. I know it may sound silly, but it's no different than the bond two people might share over baseball or football. In some ways, I believe it is a much deeper and important bond. We learned how to almost read each other's minds, and we also learned how to give each other feedback on our skills and our moves and how to grow from that. It really has been a super important part of my life to this day, and I thank video games for this. I believe, for me, there is no other medium out there that can offer this level of camaraderie and mutual respect, while simultaneously offering an entertaining, engrossing experience.
Let's fast forward quite a bit to wrap up this story so it doesn't turn into TL;DR situation for you short attention span folks out there.
Here we are in the present day. My brother and I, now 33 and 36, still play games together as often as possible. We've tried everything. We always try out every co-op game we can find and strive to find that perfect experience, but we always seem to fall back on Street Fighter and that bond we formed there.
What's awesome now though, is I have a son to share this passion with. He plays tons of games with me and I have been able to share my favorite games with him. I have played through FFVII and FFVIII with him. We shared the experience of Dragon Quest VIII together and I even got to introduce him to his favorite series, The Legend of Zelda. It just feels cool that it has, in a way, come full circle.
To this day, we all still play as a family. My brother, son, mom, myself, and my uncle all play Minecraft on our own server together. We have our houses all decked out and we share supplies with each other, bring each other gifts, and even protect each other from time to time, even though we all live 100+ miles apart.
Video games have given me the gift of amazing family experiences, and for that, I am truly grateful.
Thanks, vidya games.