We all have our reasons for gaming. Some play to escape the drudgery of an otherwise stressful day. Others might play because they want to enjoy the game as a work of art. Many do it just for the fun of it. But for me, I was raised on it for more than my part.
Video games have always been a huge influence in my life. Whether theyíre aware of it or not, there are also many people in my life who served to further my interest with electronic games. Throughout my life, in one way or another, people have seemingly contributed to my appreciation of games far more than other factors ever could.
This one goes out to my Grandfather.
I couldnít tell you when my Grandpa was born or what his childhood was really like because him and I never discussed it and admittedly my memory isnít perfect, which in hindsight I really regret. If there is one thing I will always remember about him, itís that he got things done and encouraged the same quality in me.
When I sat down in front of the Atari 800XL in his office, he showed me how to put the disc in, the commands to boot it, load the game and make sure the controllers were connected so I could play. He showed me once. That was always his thing.
He only spoke once.
If we were running through the house pushing each other near the top of the stairs, Grandpa would gently stroll out of his bedroom, look each one of us in the eye, hold up his index finger and ask us what it meant. We would giggle, but he would remind us that he only spoke once and to knock it off. We never did find out what the consequences were.
I tried to stay out of as much trouble as possible though being attached to that Atari by the controller. I played so many of my first PC games on there that they still remain tattooed on my brain to this day. The first time I was ever exposed to classics like Ballblazer and Archon, both of which I still remember to this day thanks to my Grandpa.
As time went on though, technology evolved compelling Grandpa to purchase a PC. It was a 386 - laughably slow by modern standards - but my Grandpa was never too busy to sit me down and show me how to navigate Windows 3.1 or a DOS prompt. Iím still convinced to this day that I ended up a system administrator because of his patience in teaching me. But as always, there were the games.
Being of early age, I was exposed to the normal round of games. Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? is probably still one of my favorite titles to this day. Additionally, in conjunction with the time-traveling incarnation in the series, my Grandpa made me fall in love with history, geography and the many varied cultures of the world. The man made me enjoy learning and I didnít even know he was doing it. Yeah, age does have itís points of wisdom.
As I played through the games haphazardly fast, there was one game I constantly went back to and the game I single-handedly blame for my lifelong love affair with puzzle games. The Castle of Dr. Brain wasnít the greatest puzzle game ever created. All the same though, it was still damn fun exploring the castle and solving the different puzzles that actually require you to be somewhat intelligent. I canít even begin to describe how many times Iíve beaten the game on easy, medium and difficult, but if there is anything Iím sure of, itís that Iíve played through that game at least once a year for the last eighteen. In doing so, Iíve downloaded Dosbox countless times so I can emulate the game on whatever latest PC I happen to be running at the time. If you want to play it nowadays though, you may have to find the image of the code sequencer grid. Back in the old days before DRM, thatís how it was done and heavenís knows Iíve hunted for the copy of that damn grid more than once. Thankfully though, my Grandpa made multiple copies for me.
Once Sega released the Genesis, ever kid on their block had to have one and my Grandparents did eventually buy me one for Christmas in 1989, but there was just one problem, I was young and broke. If there was one thing I came to realize about games is that there were always too many and not enough money for me to buy them all. However, there were always chores to be done.
I will say this right now, anytime I hear someone complaining about cleaning a house, I just ignore it. After cleaning my parentís house and then my grandparentís for the sake of earning whatever money on top of my allowance, itís hard to get any sympathy from me. Every time a new game would come out, I would work for whatever money I could get my hands on after begging them to just outright buy it for me failed. That and it was always a sobering experience when one of my graphs depicting the Ďfun over timeí I would be having wasnít exactly selling them on purchasing the game for me. More than once though, Grandpa would just take me to the store and buy a game for me and I would quietly owe him.
When it came time to get the Christmas decorations out of the crawlspace, the boat to get cleaned in the spring, leaves needing to be raked, dishes had to be washed, and lawns needed to be mowed. Believe me, my Grandfather worked his ass off all his life and there was nothing he was quicker to impart into my brother and cousins than the value of a dollar.
The last game my grandfather bought for me before I was deemed too old for toys and games (I would just get cash for my birthday, Christmas, my theoretical bar mitzvah that never happened because Iím not Jewish) was Mortal Kombat. My family didnít object to my owning this title for two prime reasons. First, they all spent enough time with me to know I wouldnít go and tear someoneís heart out. Second, my grandparents would be keeping the game at their house. It was an insurance policy. But the first time my grandmother beat me as Sonya, that was a rude awakening (She can actually still hand my ass to me in Columns, my point is, be wary of the elderly).
Some days, my Grandpa would just come and sit on the couch next to me as I played. It didnít matter what I was playing, but he would still ask me about it and listen with a smile while I told him that Turok had to kill the raptors, shaman and hunters because that was what Turok did. He would listen to my ideas about why games were great or why they were stupid and allow me to have an open forum with him. He was the first one to really listen and at the very least try to understand where exactly I was coming from.
He was like my first community blog, except he never trolled.
The only thing he ever asked in return from me was to work hard and do my best in all things.
My Grandfather was an amazing man and what Iíve written here isnít even a tenth of the influence he had on my life. I just wish I couldíve told him that before he passed away last week.
In the meantime, I remind myself that doing my best is exactly what heíd want me to do.
That's why I game.
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