The first game I ever played was likely one of those £4.99 handhelds that featured Space Invaders and made the most annoying beeping noises ever. My parents were known to randomly throw it out the house/lose it accidentally and looking back I can see why they resorted to that as the constant beeep, b-b- beeep must have done their head in. I really count my first forays into gaming via the PC and console, and have decided to share them with you here.
The first one: Alex Kidd and the Enchanted Castle
This came pre-installed on the Sega Master system 11, which I bought for the pricey sum of £34.99 from Toys’R'Us. If I remember correctly I think a good portion of the price was paid for in pennies,with my Dad tutting in the background and saying it was waste of time. I couldn’t afford any games, so all I played was the pre-installed Alex Kidd and grew to love and despise the pixelated character. An hour of gameplay could vanish with one lecherous swipe of a monkey/ octopus and as there was no save point it was straight back to the beginning if you ever messed up. Don’t think I ever actually completed the game due to this annoying factor, but many hours were spent acquiring extra lives to allow Alex to make it to the next level.
The friend one: Prince of Persia
I’m talking about the PC game, not the console version which had a distinctly annoying Arabian Nights style tune in the background. You had to manoeuvre the tiny character across a landscape of snake charmers and floating carpets as a barefooted hero. The aim of the game is to foil the evil Jaffar and rescue the princess. The reason this I’ve titled this ‘the friend one’, is that this is a game I didn’t actually own. Everytime I went round to my friend we’d sit at her old school computer taking it in turns to play, and because it was her game I always died really quickly and had to wait hours for a go whilst she happily fought her way across levels. I was intrigued by this game, and it also gave me an incentive to actually own more games, so I wouldn’t have to put up with the indignity of watching someone else play for 20 minutes straight. Fun-times on that play-date, eh?
The PC one: Worms 2
The first fully fledged game I ever owned that required more than a rubbish console was Worms 2. This has now advanced to Worms gadzillion squared but the original version was far more basic (and in my eyes) and effective. You took charge of a team of Worms and equipped them with arms, funky names such as Sir KillsAlot and landed them into the various landscapes of the game. You then hd to bombard the other team (PC or friend) with bombs, bazookas etc, with the aim being to destroy them in any way possible, even sacrificing your own team-mates if necessary. The pitiful cries as they died and the little worm angels floating up to heaven all increased the fun, as did the strategy involved in making sure you bombed surrounding ground so they died by drowning.
The game allowed an incredible amount of adjustments, as you could enter ‘Sudden death’ mode, set delays on weapon availability and change how often healing patches would be parachuted in. You could also adjust the sink rate of the landmass, which was very amusing.
The slightly embarrassing one : Dancing Stage Euromix
Way before the Wii existed there was one type of game that was based around human interaction- that of the dancemat and Dancing Stage combo. I had a cheap £9.99 mat that I hooked up to my PS1, and would spend around half an hour a day practising on it. I wasn’t aiming for a record, or even attempting to take on those Japanese kids at the Trocadero, I simply liked the music and regarded 30 minutes as a reasonable workout- hell, I sweated a LOT. The game had a rather flawed calorie counter, and you could programme yourself to do levels of different difficulty as well as work through the songs provided. I can never here ‘When the rhythm starts to play, stay with me..’ (now a Pussycat Dolls cover song) without slightly tapping my feet now, and I’m still pissed that I never quite mastered the half step (bad co-ordination). I eventually moved onto more dance games (Britney’s Dancing Stage-rubbish, EuroMix 2-pretty good) but the original Euromix version will always hold a special appeal as it reminds me of my clumsy 17 year old self. My dream at the time (along with owning a Mazda MX5 and dating Leonardo DiCaprio) was to have one of those metal dancemats with the flashing lights.. one that I may now realise. Long live the Dance Mat!
The one where I lost a summer/ My first RPG game: Baldur’s Gate
It was a fairly hot summer, with ice cream trucks making regular deliveries and hayfever sufferers filling the airwaves with grumbles. I missed most of it however, stuck in a dimly lit room squinting furiously at small figures on a screen. Baldur’s Gate was my first introduction to RPG’s and the irony of it was that I hadn’t even wanted to play- my boyfriend had the game and asked me to try it. I did, and subsequently took it from him (despite protests) and began expanding my band and working my way through the world. At the time it seemed like magic, as the grey area of the landscape were filled in as you discovered them and working my way through the mines and fighting seemed such a natural procedure. I carefully chose my band and spent a fairly long amount of time outfitting them and choosing suitably mystical names and then concentrated on the hardcore gameplay. I’d played Final Fantasy before and had been really unexcited, so the fact that I was drawn into Baldur’s Gate meant that it was something very special. Before I knew it September had come and I realized 3 months of my life had passed in a blur. Nowadays I tend to stay away from RPG’s and MMORPG’s as I think I lack the willpower to turn off the computer and have too much going in on my life to get addicted to Warcraft.
The one I ruled: Tekken 3
I’m not sure whether it was the amount I was smoking as a teen or the fact that I was living on my own and had just got my first TV, a huge (well, it was back then!) 21 inches and a brand new PSone that made Tekken 3 the first game I’ve ever truly ruled at. Like seriously. Boys, girls, teams, I pretty much killed everyone I ever played at this. I went from button basher to combo queen and enjoyed playing a variety of characters. I especially liked learning the moves of the least popular ones- as anyone can kill with Eddy or Nina but playing with Anna and Gon was harder. This is the one and only game I’ve ever completed free from any help, and mindless hours were spent honing my skills. It was also a very social game as the button bashing potential element meant rookies could pick it up and play so it was great for a gathering. In fact Tekken is the one reason I want to make the move back to a PS3, as despite owning two Xbox’s and now enjoying Soul Calibur, my heart still yearns for Jin’s right hook and Yoshimitsu’s combo moves.
The one that made me love platforms: Crash Bandicoot
Gaming has always been a social medium for me, long before the like of online playing or XBOX Live and Crash Bandicoot provided that format for me. Crash and Coco, were interesting characters and I loved learning and expanding on their different powers. It was a fairly easy game to get to grips with, as there were five stages per level, which consisted of scenarios where you had to collect boxes, jewels and fight people. It required hand eye co-ordination, awareness of obstacles, and sometimes a real attention to details- if you wanted to crack the Time Trial and get the jewel collection bonuses. The colours were bright and the landscape was highly detailed. Each level had a series of mini games which included things like racing or flying and each level ended with a boss.
Crash Bandicoot was bought on a whim one summer and my friends and I proceeded to get very obsessed with it, mainly as we’d reached level 2 and had a game impasse. We managed to crack the game in a way which involved tenuous jumps and awkward moves, and only when we’d completed it did we realize that we’d actually snuck through hidden trails in the game, as we’d hitched on to some code that wasn’t meant to be there. Had we been more meticulous in Stage one we’d have had no problem getting through the levels, but due to laziness/impatience we hadn’t got all the gems so had to work our ways through the levels via the backdoor. It felt really fulfilling to see the little marker light up with 20/20 and the stages were short enough that you didn’t feel like you were stuck in them forever.
You may notice this list of games doesn’t contain any driving, sports or first person shooters. That’s because apart from a few exceptions- Micro Machines, Resident Evil, Mario Kart- I don’t tend to enjoy them that much and find them less involving. I also am a big fan of co-op games and other platforms such as Spyro and Rayman, but again I’m dealing with the seven defining games of my youth, and not expostulating on the other ones I enjoyed.
I’m interested to hear what 7 games shaped you though, so please comment below and let me know which ones you enjoyed growing up.
PS. I did consider including Telextext Bamboozled and Snakes 2, but decided they weren’t enough of a ‘game’ to meet my criteria.