A History of Violence.

As promised, today I’m going to talk to you about my history with the world of video games. I was born in 1979, which means that by the time I was 3, the video game blitz was well underway, and I was young and impressionable enough to be totally mesmerized by it. Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Dig Dug, Asteroids, Robotron, Wizard of Wor, Star Wars and a million others. Arcades were the stuff of my fondest dreams at that age. Next to Toys R Us there was no place in the world I would rather be than an arcade.

The advent of home gaming was probably the most exciting thing that I could conceive of when I was a child. There was only one thing standing in the way of my 4 year old zeal for video games: My parents. Now, it’s not that my parents were against video games, it’s that my parents had a gift for making poor decisions in the arena of video games. Not always their fault to be sure, but unfortunate for me never the less.

When I was 5 years old my parents bought me a ColecoVision. At the time, this was the finest video game system on the market, in possession of superior graphics and add ons which allowed it to play Atari cartridges. Sadly, we got the ColecoVision during the video game crash of ’84. Within a month of buying the console, ColecoVision discontinued making games. Sure I had the sweetest system going but with no games to play on it, that didn’t mean a whole lot. Still I have many happy memories of playing Donkey Kong on that machine. It was awesome and I still rue the day my parents gave it away to a family that already had a few video game systems, leaving me with nothing. Yeah, I’m bitter, sue me.

The years passed and the market recovered. This time there was a new player on the field: Nintendo. They hit the scene hard with a powerhouse entry into the home gaming arena, the Nintendo Entertainment System. This was THE machine that truly launched the modern era of home gaming. How bad did I want one? Just look at this commercial, and you tell me.

Yeah, that’s right, I wanted one REAL bad. A lot of my friends had the NES, but my parents were wary of getting another system after the whole ColecoVision debacle. Eventually they caved, but alas my input was not sought, and this lead to disaster. Christmas of 86, the best Christmas of my life. My mum went to K-Mart to get me a video game system. Being a complete technophobe, mum sought the advice of one of the “helpful” salesmen in their electronics department. Tragedy followed.

Now, I can only speculate as to the motives of this salesman. Perhaps K-Mart had an arrangement with Atari, perhaps he truly felt that the NES was a mere flash in the pan and that it was the good money to stick with the proven name in the field, perhaps he just wanted to ruin some innocent kid’s Christmas. Whatever the reason, this salesman impressed upon my mother that Nintendo was not to be trusted, who the hell were Nintendo anyway? No, you want to stick with the name we all know: ATARI. And look! Atari has a brand new system out! The Atari 7800. What Luck! Take it home lady, your kid won’t even remember the name Nintendo once he opens up this bad boy!

I’d like to take this opportunity to say FUCK YOU to the salesman who sold my mother that steaming pile of bullshit, and then sold her the Atari 7800 immediately thereafter. yeah, Atari folded not long after I got my “incredible” 7800. And none of my friends scoffed at the games and graphics of that machine.

The next chapter of failure in my epic journey through the history of video games is my own damn fault. I spent the night at some kid’s house in ’87. I don’t even know who this kid was honestly, We had gone to his house for dinner, our parents were friends, or at least our fathers were. I was having such a good time that we convinced our parents to let me spend the night.

So, the stage is set. This kid had a Sega Master System. This was Sega’s response to the NES. Technically speaking, it was a superior machine. Better graphics, better sound, more options. I was blown away, and I went out of my way to impress upon my parents how epicly stupid we would be NOT to buy one of these machines. Yeah, whoops. Now, this isn’t to say I didn’t like my master system, I did. Problem is there just weren’t that many games available to me, and no where in town rented them. Eventually Sega abandoned the Master Sytem, and I was once again in possession of an unsupported system.

By this point my parents were tired of the game. 3 times they had tried, and three times they had failed. I can’t say that I blame them, I was plenty discouraged myself. However, that didn’t keep me from saving my money until I could afford a used NES of my very own. It was 1989 and the purchase of the NES started me on the road to successful console ownership. After years of failures, I was now on board for the big win.

Around 1992, we were confronted with the next “Next Generation” consoles. I think we’re into Generation 7 right now, but lets not get too far ahead of the game. The Super Nintendo Entertainment System was fresh on the scene and it was the greatest thing since sliced bread, sliced bread having been invented the previous fall. It was incredible and I was so ready to keep riding the Nintendo bandwagon.

Alas, it was also expensive and it seemed unlikely I would get one from my parents or save enough money to purchase one on my own. Luckily, I got tonsillitis. I was in the hospital to have my tonsils removed, and a family friend Polly got me a comic book. This comic book had an entry form for a contest: Create a James Bond Jr. Villain! Yeah, James Bond Jr. sucked hard, but I had nothing to do so away I went. And lucky me, I won the big enchilada. Honestly, to this day I can’t believe my good fortune. I spent many happy years with my SNES, and it’s still one of my all time favourite gaming consoles.

The years passed, High school carried on. I picked up a Sega CDX, a spiffy combo console that combined the Sega Genesis and the Sega CD in one unit. I also got my hands on the Nintendo 64. Fun systems both, but neither delivered the sheer entertainment of the SNES.

Eventually I found myself working at a Video Game store, The Video Game Exchange. Still the best job I’ve ever had. It didn’t pay much and the lady who owned the place was a little bit cuckoo for Cocoa puffs, but it’s still the happiest I’ve ever been in a job. I got to work with Mike, who remains one of the coolest people I know and who I am now working with yet again at my new job (albeit in different departments).

Sega was struggling at this point. In their efforts to beat their arch rival Nintendo, they stretched themselves too far and too thin. Eventually this lead to Sega’s demise in the home console field. It seemed impossible back then. When I was growing up, Sega and Nintendo were IT. The two juggernauts of the video game world. It was unthinkable that anyone else could even enter the arena. Then along came Sony.

When the Playstation hit my first thought was “No way, Sony is out of their depth.” but I ate those words once I tried the system. It was like a return to the heyday of the SNES for me. It was great to have a system that had so many inventive titles and was so much fun to play. Sadly the Nintendo 64 would fail to live up to that standard.

Time rolled on as it consistently does and along came the PS2, the X-Box and the Gamecube. Each with their own strengths and weaknesses. If I were to nominate one of them as the clear winner of the generation, it would be the PS2. Nintendo hung in there, but was clearly bringing up the rear. X-Box was a strong first entry by Microsoft but needed time to mature.

Now we’ve reached the 7th generation of gaming. the X-Box 360, PS3 and the Nintendo Wii. Great systems all. I currently own both a PS3 and a Wii, and intend to pick up a 360 sometime within the year. Currently, I’m loving my PS3. The one thing I miss though, is the old style gaming. 3D is all well and good, but I miss the simplicity and inventive level desgin of the classic 2D games. I’ve long felt that with the power of the “next gen” systems that a truly awe inspiring 2d platformer could be made, but no one has really taken advantage of that. Until now.

To me this looks like a “proof of concept”. Bionic Commando has a strong cult following, but it never became a franchise for Capcom like Mega Man did. I suspect that if this is successful we will see a similar treatment for Mega Man. Honestly, I can’t wait. I hope more game designers return to their roots and bring us a slew of great 2D side scrollers. Bring it on baby, it’s time to get back to basics.

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~ by Pagz on March 9, 2008.

One Response to “A History of Violence.”

  1. Oooh, what villain did you make?

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