Rebecca and I have a couple of days together and for once we’re not running around doing tons of stuff. In fact yesterday, aside from a quick trip to the local shops or essentials (fuel, HRT and food),we stayed in and relaxed. So what did we do? I spent most of it playing Diablo 3 and Rebecca wrote at length about her history of gaming as it’s something she had planned on doing for a while now.
For those of you interested there’s her thoughts on things, a good and fun read too. Of course we got chatting, sharing memories and so on about gaming and how it’s run through our lives in one manner or other. It’s also something I’ve been getting back to in the past year after not really doing all that much for some time now and realising how much I’ve missed it.
When I think about it, gaming for me anyway invokes a lot of happy memories involving family and people I hold near and dear to me who are no longer here, and that will become clear as I go on with this. I may as well begin from my earliest memories and go from there really.
The first memories I have are at school actually. I was five years old and the school I went to had a computer room. I can’t remember ery much though, other than the fact whatever education game we were using ran off of those huge old floppy discs and was made by the BBC.
(Ah, old tech, got to love it)
I wasn’t at that school for every long in the end as my parents were in the middle of moving back to mum’s home town where she lives now, though my next school also had PC’s and games. Anyone remember Granny’s Garden? I loved that game but the wicked witch terrified me.
Yeah, that’s the one, with the creepy as fuck 8-bit music that went with it. The game itself was a RPG of sorts and you had to solve puzzles to progress and find the missing children of the king and queen, while keeping out of the way of the wicked witch. It’s very basic by today’s standards but as a wide eyes five year old? It was something else.
It was around then (and looking back probably on the back of dad’s nostalgia for games) I was given a C64 for Christmas. Not the full blown rig, but the main bits, keyboard/processor, tape deck and joystick and was able to be plugged into the TV. Games back them mostly came on cassettes which took a good ten minutes to load, depending on game size, though there were a few cartridge games too, which started up almost instantaneously. Of course, being a five year old with attention span issues, these were a boon. In amongst the various tapes we got, dad found a set which had the old arcade games, such as Space Invaders, Galaxians and Pac Man , which he and mum played extensively when they were arcade games in the 70’s, and got me and later on my sisters into as well.
Other games I remember was Dambusters (you could pilot an Avro Lancaster Bomber, be pilot and bomber while evading flak and fire over occupied Europe and try and relive the famous raids of WWII. (Spoiler alert: I sucked at this).
The Captive was played a lot because it was a tape that only took five minutes to load up. It was also pretty weird as a game. You’d escaped from somewhere or other and went through an abandoned and haunted town where ghosts would kill you, finding various items for quest progression, though I never found out what the actual quest was. You could gain abilities such as swimming and flying a helicopter. I also remember a time limit factor where after spending so long, arrows would fall from the sky and try and kill you. There were other items you could pick up, some useful, some not so. There was also a booby trap. You could pick up a magic mushroom but for frak sake don’t use it because this happens.
Your character would flip sideways, float up and off the screen and it would be game over. A novel approach to teaching the perils of drug use, eh?
Bullseye (remember that darts game show?) got in on the act and released a game. Bully’s Sporting Darts. You used a joystick and controlled a disembodied hand to throw darts. You played the classic darts games, as opposed to the game show format, so you’d have 501 and Round the Clock. Some clever person figured out how to play a dartboard based version of cricket, tennis and snooker, mad as that sounds. This was one all the family played, even my grandparents, albeit it not so well. Words don’t do the game justice so here’s a video.
High tech stuff there, from the age when internet was the preserve of a lucky few and most of us made do with Teletext (I loved the artwork people came up with on that thing)
Dad tried to encourage me to get into coding when I was 8 years old or so on the C64. He got hold of a couple of books where you basically typed in a load of stuff, record it onto a blank tape and in theory you’d have a game at the end of it. Little miss ADHD here tried a couple of the shorter ones, which required a mere three or four pages of input to do this and grew frustrated as it failed each time. Dad got involved, first watching and proof reading my attempts and then had two goes himself, but nothing. The books were forgotten about and a possible future as a programmer died there and then.
The future beckoned and it came in Megadrive format. Yup, dad brought two in the end, one for the family to share and when he realised he couldn’t get a look in got one for himself. Sonic the Hedgehog were the games of choice for us then, all of which were great fun, aside from Sonic 3D, which I never got the hang of because I could never judge where to aim for in a 3D layout. Dad had his golfing games and we also had the Lion King, which we used cheat for to go through in the end. Dad got cheats off of a friend of his and introduced me to that side of easy, risk free gaming.
I also bought a game or two. I remember a friend flogging Sonic 1 at school for a fiver. No box or manual, just the game, which I promptly raided my piggy bank for. I really went for the Sonic series as a kid and poured an awful lot of time into the games trying to get all the Chaos Emeralds and so on. I remember playing in the mornings before school, sneakily leaving the console on and paused and hoping mum wouldn’t see the little red light that indicated the thing was on and turn it off during the day as you couldn’t save your game until Sonic 3 rolled around. Fun fact, mum still has the Megadrive and games. The grand kids play it occasionally and my dad’s duplicate purchase means we still have a couple of working controllers and working TV lead after all these years.
(Those bright colours and crisp graphics that look pretty good even today if I do say so myself.)
By now I was in secondary school and being taught how to use a computer properly as this was now a thing. A room full of 486’s that ran Windows 3.1 was what the future looked like, and those who were more tech savvy than I was had great fun trying to worry around the filtering system put in place to access restricted and probably pornographic content during lunchtimes.We had a pretty good teacher too, Dr Wilcox, though we all called him Moses because of his wild and grey bushy beard he’d grown over the years.
Back at home and seeing the future, dad, who was now self employed and now needing a PC to do his admin work and quotes for his interior design work, and changing with the times did two things: Bought our first home PC and our first internet connection. The amusingly named Mitsubishi Apricot came into our lives, complete with Windows 95.
Specs are in the link for the curious, though most of the page is on Japanese. A 166mhz processor, 16mb RAM, 1.7 gb hard drive were the main specs, a pretty good machine for it’s time and within no time it became the latest family gaming hub. For me I was often playing the early Worms games on there, Rollercoaster Tychoon too, as well as the Shareware version of Doom. Shareware back then was you got part of the game for free, on a floppy disc. If you liked it, there were details on how to purchase the full game. With Doom I ended up doing so, albeit with parental help as it had a 15 rating at the time. Demonic carnage ensued when I should have probably been tying up some homework. It was much more fun with cheats and going around with infinite BFG 9000 ammo. There’s a group that’s modded the classic Doom and done all sorts of amazing things to update the game. Brutal Doom if you’re curious enough to look it up. You can even flip off demons in that and watch then take offence now.
A Playstation 1 also came into the house in the late 1990’s, another dad purchase. I remember playing Bust a Move with him, trying to beat him at the game and more than once staying up till midnight trying to beat him in a Best of 20 match. Crash Team Racing with my youngest sister got played a lot too because it was fun and quirky and we had great fun setting up booby traps that became impossible to pass without driving through and so on. Truth be told, I didn’t get too much into the Playstation as I was more of a PC gamer and this happened a couple of years before I moved out anyway.
I also got a Game Boy Colour for my 15th birthday and spent a fair chunk of time playing Mario 1 and 2, Warioland 2, Bomberman, as well as the early Pokemon games. Revise for GCSE’s? Nah, too busy trying to level my sixth Mewtwo to level 100 without using Rare Candies so I could unleash a devastating team upon anyone daft enough to link up and battle me. Pokemon Red/Blue were seriously broken, game mechanics wise. A level 100 Mewtwo with Psychic Attack, Amnesia to boost it’s power, recover to heal and Substitute to hide behind while setting up was unstoppable. Having a team of six was just obscene.
A couple of years after our first PC, dad bought a more powerful machine for his work, with the side effect that it could run newer games and in among various things, I got a little game called Birth of the Federation.
I had other Star Trek games, most notably A Final Unity, but this one really grabbed me. I don’t play too many games, they either grab me or they don’t. But if they do grab me I really throw myself into them, reading up all sorts, trying new things and develop a minor obsession, as Rebecca has seen with me and Diablo 3. Anyway, this game, you can be the Federation, Klingons, Romulans, Cardassians or Ferengi. You start with your home star system and a couple of ships and you go forth, terraforming or conquering other star systems and build up an empire. There’s micromanagement involved so you can set up star systems to focus on research or intelligence, or ship building and you can go to war with the other A.I controlled empires. Or you can just sit back and let your intel agency sabotage and gut them that way, if you’re so inclined and you have built up right. Beware the Random Events though. The Borg are one of them and they can decimate a game quickly. Oh, multiplayer was an option too so if you were bored creaming the A.I you could go try and cream some player sitting in a faraway land thanks to the magic of the internet.
This is one of those games that has followed me from system to system and I still play occasionally now. There’s a community out there with it’s own forum and more game mods than I can count. http://www.armadafleetcommand.com/onscreen/botf/
This game is 20 years old and people still play, do multiplayer, mod and chat.
Even I had a go at modding the game a few years ago. There’s a lot of resources and tools to help on the site so even an idiot like me can get her head around basic hex editing and so on to create something. I even released a mod there, called All the Ages, thanks to a lot of help from a guy called Thunderchero who pretty well runs the forum.
It took several months to do and it helped me focus on something during some dark mental health times. It also drove my ex nuts as I was putting so much time into doing this.
After leaving home and moving in with Richard, the gaming quietened down. I carried on with Birth of the Federation, as I’ve already mentioned, but aside from the odd game, such as the later Worms games where I played to the point I could launch grenades as well as the hardest A.I could so so that was it. He couldn’t stand games, and like so many things, if I don’t have someone to share an interest in things that I like, I kind of lose heart and drift away. All he was interested in was re-enacting, which I suppose is an RPG of sorts, albeit with real guns and uniforms and whatnot, but a decade of that left me so physically and mentally broken I never want to do that ever again.
The last couple of years I did have something of a resurgence.I got a few of my old games back from mum and dad’s while they were preparing to move house and I had a big fit of nostalgia. I looked into emulators and found a Megadrive one for my PC and then laptop and played some of my old favourites. I also found a Game Boy emulator for the Pokemon games and a community which dabbed in modding. This time I was content to just play mods rather than get my head around doing it myself. I had other things on my mind, namely coming to terms with being transgender and gaming was a support. Being able to choose the female character, to escape, to dream was a release at the time. I ended up at a place called the Nuzlocke Forum.
Basically place where people who wanted to make the Pokemon games more of a challenge congregated, but discussed other things as well. Modding and game mods, and there was a community spirit there too. People could also post their game runs, turn them into stories and all sorts as the games are essentially RPG’s to begin with. It was something I did myself at one point, partly as a release while struggling with my own identity before coming out and getting on with things, and also when I was dealing with my dad’s illness and eventual passing from this world.
There’s even a section where various members who were LGBTQIA hung out and discussed their various identities and supported one another. Needless to say this was a very useful place for me and helped me with coming to terms, figuring myself out and then getting up and going with this transition business I’m doing right now.
With my relationship with my ex coming an end and having moved in with Rebecca my gaming interests have been rekindled, thanks to the fact she’s a gamer herself and we can play things together, have discussions and she’s noted how I light up with I’ve got an interest in something and chatting about it. She’s show me all sorts of games and got me into the Final Fantasy series, something I’d seen but was never properly introduced to. Thanks to her getting me up and going on Steam, I went through FF7 and cried my eyes out several times over and tried a few other games as she’s got a dozen different consoles and games spanning a couple of decades floating about the flat.
Right now my present gaming obsession is the Diablo series, again something I’d seen in passing years ago but wasn’t really introduced to. Diablo 3 is often on the go here, we can play together or on your own, though I do prefer playing together, it’s just more fun that way and I’m doing my usual thing of reading up on different ways to play, trying different things and really throwing myself into the series.
Going forward from here, who knows what’s next? I am interested in the FF7 remake, though slightly wary in case they make a mess of it. For that I may well need a more powerful machine than my present laptop. I can just see me and Rebecca someday building our own gaming PC’s for future games. As for right now I’m off to go try and drive demon forces back into the Burning Hells, allied with my usual witty commentary as I try not to suck at the game and die repeatedly.
Have a good day everyone 😀
(Diablo 3: Where while battling the hoardes of Hell you can pick up a wand that trolls you when you die)