‘Sorry, no money, no ski’
We all, at some point, played our very first video game. Maybe you remember it well, perhaps it’s all a blur. You might’ve been six, or 16. In the ’80s, the ’90s or even just a few years back. We all started on this rocky road of time-sink titles somewhere.
I don’t remember exactly when I played my first game, but I know for sure what it was. It was on the ZX Spectrum +2, the first computer I ever owned, and it was Horace Goes Skiing by developer Beam Software. The sequel to 1982 Pac-Man clone Hungry Horace, …Goes Skiing was released the same year, back when you could bang a game out in a matter of weeks.
So I began my journey to gaming infamy with this hard-as-nails title, which sees everyone’s favorite amorphous blue blob, with holes for eyes, deciding to join the Aspen Elite. Unfortunately, Horace must first cross the world’s busiest road just to make it to the ski shack, before crossing back over for his skiing “fun” (Why they didn’t build the shack at the top of the slopes is never asked.)
A straight Frogger clone, the road-crossing section is disproportionately tough, Horace cannot stand still, running like a madman until you change his direction, or a speeding vehicle changes his ability to walk. Horace also cannot die, with a game over occurring when his medical fees mean that he cannot afford ski rental. This is why we need the NHS. Fuck the Tories. Should Horace finally make it back to the slope, he enjoys a much less entertaining tree-dodging slalom down the mountain. Upon reaching the bottom of the slops, it starts all over again.
I still own my original cassette of Horace Goes Skiing. I have played literally thousands of video games since, many of which have fallen out of my aging brain, but the memory of Horace and his death-wish love of skiing will remain with me forever.
My family bought our first NES when I was three-years-old. For the first few years, it was kept in my parents’ bedroom, sitting high atop their dress along with a small television. We didn’t have many games for it at first. The Legend of Zelda, Mega Man 2, and Contra would come later, but in the beginning, all we had was the pack-in game: Super Mario Bros. & Duck Hunt. It honestly a toss-up between which of those titles I played first, as I have ancient memories of playing them both, but I feel in my gut that Duck Hunt would have been the first game I tried. After all, we had the NES Zapper and, as a child of America, I came out of the womb ready to hold a gun.
Duck Hunt was in the news a couple a weeks ago because Seth Rogen apparently blew people’s minds with the fact a second player could control the duck. Well guess what, Green Hornet? I knew you could do that before I learned the multiplication table or who this guy Ronald Reagan was. How? It was all in the manual. Perhaps you should have listened to Kunta Kinte when he said to take a look because that information was in a book. #ReadingRainbow #TheMoreYouKnowShootingStar
The first game I ever saw was Dig Dug. The first one I ever played was City Connection. It was a fairly simplistic driving romp from Jaleco that was sort of progenitor to the Cruis’n games, complete with wacky Mach Five-esque jumping cars. Amazingly, although Jaleco went defunct in 2014, the spirit of City Connection lives on through a company with the same moniker that holds Jaleco’s old IPs.
As for my experience, I played them all in the same day actually: I was brought over to my cousin’s house and marveled at their shiny new NES and their Atari 2600. That was a weird day. Not because of anything my family did, but due to the sheer state of confusion after looking at the moving pictures on-screen. You could…control them? From there on my life was changed.
According to legend (read: my mom) I badgered my parents for an NES and forwent any gifts until I had earned enough cash to get it on my own. Like CJ I immediately played Duck Hunt, then Super Mario Bros. as part of the two-pack cartridge (man that rocked), and sent away for a free Nintendo Power copy of Dragon Warrior.
The rest is history.
My first video game is a pretty common one among players my age: Super Mario Bros. Since the NES was still relatively new when I was born, my parents still had one in the house when I was finally able to formulate memories. One day, my father decided to break out the NES and let me try it out. What I can remember is walking into the first Goomba and my dad deeming me not worthy. After that, I started to gravitate towards video games and you know the rest.
I had a lot of fun with the NES in my youth. It always felt like a treat coming home from school and spending tons of time on it. I probably spent too much time playing games, but they always tickled a part of my childhood imagination that school never could. While that isn’t necessarily true anymore, I do still enjoy video games for their ability to transport players to different lands made from pure imagination.
Still, Mario was the one that ushered me into this wonderful medium. I will always have a respect for that series, even if it hits some weird low points.
It might not be the very first video game I ever played (Don’t get old, kids. Your brain will rot and turn against you…), but Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters for the original Game Boy is the earliest one that I can recall. I didn’t own a Game Boy, but my sister did, and I’d beg her to let me play constantly. I’m assuming our dad must have gotten this particular game on sale or something because there is no way he saw it and thought she’d love it.
She got a copy of Tetris too, but Kid Icarus had a dude with a bow and arrow on the cover, so that was the one I was all about. I never read any instructions, so I was forced to guesswork my way through it. This was not an effective strategy for five-year-old Kevin, who was much too stubborn to ask anyone for help.
Instead, I’d just replay the very first level over and over again. Once all of the enemies were gone, I’d restart the console and do it all from the beginning. I did this for fucking hours. I was very easily amused. Months later, on a particularly long car trip, I finally made it to the second stage and, of course, immediately died. This was the first time I realized that there was actually more to this game. It was a revelation.
Unfortunately, I never did make it further than the third stage. That certainly didn’t stop me from trying though. If nothing else, this Destructoid Discusses prompt has reminded me that I’ve still got a grudge match on the back burner. One that’s been 25 years in the making. It might take me the rest of my life, but I think it’s about time I finally knocked this one off my backlog.
This is a tough one to recall with clarity, as I was probably two or three when it happened. I know the console was the Atari 2600, and I know that it was dark, but I don’t know exactly where I was or what I was doing there. Was this the home of friends of the family? Was I at a babystitter’s house? Had I been kidnapped? Did my parents even know I was missing?
I’m not sure of the answer to any of those questions, but I do know that Combat was involved, and even at my tender, inexperienced age, I knew that it was mediocre.
Memory can be a pretty fuzzy thing where what you remember vividly doesn’t always match up with what can actually be confirmed.
As such, while the timelines don’t quite add up on further examination, my earliest gaming memory is of playing two-player Battle City with my elder sister on our old Famicom. We would also play Bomber Man with my father (he was pretty good at boxing us in with the bombs), and Balloon Fight against each other.
Pixie The Fairy
Okay, this is really going to be showing my age but on my fifth birthday, I got my parents to take me to an arcade for the first time. It was an Aladdin’s Castle at Hanes Mall in Winston-Salem, NC and that very spot in the mall is now a post office.
Anyway, it was that night I first met Pac-Man and his wife, as well as a giant ape that was giving an Italian plumber and his girlfriend some trouble. I also shot at some space bugs and one of them stole my ship. I’m pretty sure between those games it was Pac-Man that I played first. Probably because I had heard so much about it and there was even a pop single. I later begged my parents to get that single for me and was the first record (yes, record) I ever owned.
But it was that night I had found my passion. I loved the colors, shapes, interaction, and sounds of video games and I’ve not shut up about them ever since. It was also the first night I was dragged out of any place kicking and screaming. I really wanted to keep playing Pac-Man but the place just had to close.
It would be the first of many times I was dragged out of arcades like that.
The very first game I owned and play would have been a very unknown amiga game called Fly Fighter! My games obsession really started there with various games for the European powerhouse of a computer (at the time).
But for the very first video game I played, I would have to go back a little further, to a family friends residence and back to their Atari 2600, which was ancient even back then. And then I got to play one of the worst ports of a classic game ever made (though I didn’t know that at the time). Yup, my first game was also Pac-Man!
Funnily enough, the game didn’t really leave too much of an impact on me. I thought it was super cool that I could control this thing on the screen in front of me but it didn’t leave me clamoring for more. The Amiga 500 was the system that threw me into the rabbit hole and the Game Boy and NES later put me into free-fall. But we should never forget the firsts, even if they aren’t significant in the long run.