I played my first video game in 1985, when my parents went to Service Merchandise and purchased the heavily discounted failure of a console known as the Atari 5400. I sat captivated as I rarely got past the first screen of Defender, but obsessively tried anyway. The 5400 was supposed to be the successor to the Atari 2600 that would save the struggling company from the 2600’s shovelware doom.
In the beginning
Instead, a small pachinko and arcade game company from Kyoto decided to bring out its own home console and rewrite the whole game. My uncle actually got one of the release Nintendo Entertainment Systems, which even included a R.O.B. that we never got to work even once. As I sat captivated as he punched his way through Kung Fu, I obsessively read the user’s manual for Super Mario Bros. and waited my turn.
I got my NES in ’87 and was an original Nintendo Power subscriber, and was all about that Nintendo life. I had friends whose dads worked in the newborn information technology industry, so I got to see glimpses of DOS and Apple gaming, but the Nintendo was perfect because I could afford it.
That all changed in 1994 when I came home to an IBM PS/2 with a huge 170MB hard drive and something called “Windows 3.1”.
Talk about a game changer.
The PC Master Race was struggling to pull itself out of the primordial ooze, but thanks to games like Myst, Doom, X-Wing and well, Minesweeper, PC gaming established itself for the first time in the mainstream.
I saved up my lawn money and bought a CD-ROM to replace my 5.25″ floppy drive (goodbye B:\ hello D:\), a Creative Labs Sound Blaster sound card, and some cheap speakers. Finally, I was able to play these games I’d heard about but never got to play. My CD-ROM came with the amazing Return to Zork. I fell deeply in love with LucasArts’ X-Wing. I tried and failed to beat Wolfenstein 3D.
Then one day in 1996, Command and Conquer: Red Alert came out, and I found my calling. It was packaged with its sound track, which I listened to religiously. My best friend and I would transport our entire setup over to each others’ house so we could play over a serial connection. It was the greatest period of my life. Life was good.
Fast forward two years, and I have upgraded to a Intel 533Mhz custom built tower with a network card in it! Now, through the careful packing and transport of my rig, I could attend LAN parties and play StarCraft.
StarCraft opened my eyes to the true potential of real time strategy, and with the release of WarCraft II, Age of Empires II, Rise of Nations, and eventually WarCraft III, I never thought the genre would die.
Then it did.
For me at least. College and real life made time and money scarce, and I just couldn’t keep up with Moore’s Law while baking cookies for Great American Cookie Company. My computer quit being a gaming console, and instead became a report generating workstation.
So, I went crawling back to Nintendo, and walked away from Wal-Mart with the GameCube. That little cubicle console with its mini-DVD discs and lack of proper third party support got me through enough years that I started making real money and could cast a lustful eye at PC gaming once again.
Much had changed; The Sims had come and gone, and, for the most part, folks were playing World of Warcraft. I resisted for years because the monthly subscription seemed like a ripoff. Around the time of Wrath of the Lich King, my cynicism had worn off. Millions of people were not just playing a game together but actually participating in a societal microcosm.
What an amazing outlet for an introvert like me! I could be whoever I wanted, I could set my own goals and accomplish them, and I could even make real life friends.
So I fell into the World of Warcraft hole and only emerged to sleeplessly to play the Civilization and SimCity games. Oddly enough, it was Blizzard Entertainment that convinced me to stop playing World of Warcraft and instead play StarCraft II, then Diablo III, then Hearthstone, and finally Heroes of the Storm (pictured above).
I’ve flirted with League of Legends and Destiny, and even own a PlayStation 4 to almost exclusively play Rock Band 4. I’m not just a Blizzard fanboy, but I am one. Unabashedly. I am loyal to those games that got me through tough times. I am grateful for the designers and programmers and composers who have added this interactive richness to my life. Hell, I still play SimCity 4, even though it is 14 years old.
Gaming is a part of me. I’m a big guy with big hands, and gaming is a big part of who I am.