Saturday, 8 June 2013

My Life at the Controller

The Joy of Gaming – My Life at the Controller

It may come as no surprise to you that I have a certain passion and love of gaming. And that passion and love comes years of gaming, and being a part of a family growing up that appreciated the joy of gaming as well.

I have so many different memories growing up in a gaming household, it’s not a fucking wonder that I’m a gamer myself!

Firstly, with my Dad. There was a game back in the day that I loved. Bear in mind, I’d have been about 3 or 4 I think. The game was on the PC, on MS-DOS, and it was a QBasic game called Gorillas. Some of you might not have heard of it, some of you might go “SHIT ME!!!! I REMEMBER THAT!!!” Chances are though, that you’re one of the former.
Gorillas QBasic.
The game was as basic as it comes, but also required a degree of skill and logic. Picture the scene…2 giant gorillas, angry with each other for some reason, climb to the roof tops of some random city, and try to kill each other by throwing exploding bananas at each other. And that was the game. Basic – yes? Complex – actually, a bit yeah, you see to throw your banana, you had to punch in your angle and velocity, and take into account wind direction and speed!

Now after doing a slight bit of digging, it’s good to see that it’s still knocking about and you can still play the game online or even on your smartphone. How far we’ve come.

The experience of throwing virtual bananas and hitting the target against my Dad was – I’m pretty sure – my first computer gaming experience, and it was a multiplayer one! It taught me basic physics, healthy competition, how to take losing as well as winning and the fun of blowing things up in a virtual world.

Moving on to my dear mother. Bless her. To look at her, you’d think what a lovely lady, she’s a writer (pretty awesome short-story writer, check her bloggy out here) she’s a small woman (just over 5ft), she’s sweet as sugar, and a loving, doting grandmother to all her grandchildren. Not to mention an avid animal lover, and a person who always put the needs of others before her own. Awwww.

Until she gets on her computer to play instead of write…

Then she transforms from the lovely lady I described above into…a ferocious gaming pioneer. Seriously. A mother fucking pioneer, bitches. My first experience of the new wave of computer games, branching on from basic Yahtzee and Gorillas was watching my mother break free from…Castle Wolfenstein. In fact – again I hope I’m getting this right – my Mum was one of the first people outside of the US, shit outside of Mesquite, Texas to play the game, with my Dad ordering our copy of the game direct from iD Software which at the time consisted of 4 programmers (Messrs A + J Carmack, Hall and Romero).
But yes, the cult classic Wolf3D was played extensively by my mum, and being only a little boy at the time, I’d sit by her and watch her playing the game for what seemed like hours. And I’d sit there, memorising as much as I could. So when she played it again on a harder difficulty, I’d be there, letting her know when the harder guards were going to turn up, or where a secret passageway was.

To be honest, my mum is still quite the gamer, it was by no means a 1-game-wonder. She later got the newer versions of Wolfenstein along with some other games like Sanatorium and Phantasmagoria. And has always retained a good interest in video games, and has supported my interest in them to this day!

I couldn’t write a blog about this sort of stuff though and not mention my siblings – my older brother and sister. Now the age gap was pretty big, nothing like them already being grown up or anything, but big for kids. I am 6 years younger than my brother and 9 years younger than my sister. Fortunately for me though, as computer games became more prevalent, I would watch on and feel all grown up and whatnot!

I’ll start with age before beauty, and let you know a little bit about my older sister’s gaming habits, before I delve a little bit further into the pair of them…the rapscallions.

I’ll illuminate 2 games that my sister used to play, or at least what I can remember my sister playing quite regularly. The first game, is SimTower. A seemingly simple game which is a lot more complicated that it’s first appearance – especially if you want to actually complete the damn thing! My sister was bloody great at that, and I’d love sitting by, watching her tower grow. Or just checking in to see how many more floors her tower had since last time! The other games were a bit heavier hitting, it was Rise of the Triad: Dark War or ROTT for short. A game that was originally meant to be called Wolf3d II: Rise of the Triad, but changed was a first person shooter which I don’t think got the recognition it deserved, because it was released in the mid 90’s when if the FPS you were playing wasn’t Doom or Quake, then what the fuck was the point?
Rise of the Triad (Original)
Fortunately for my sister and those who were fans of ROTT there is due to be a rebooted version coming to Steam and courtesy of another rebooted company – Apogee. Just make your way to for more information.

Then we move on to my older brother, now I used to watch him playing games for hours on end, it’s probably no surprise that I learnt a lot from him. Now a couple of the games I’ll mention are these: Panzer General II and Grim Fandango. Both brilliant games, and both very different games as well.

We’ll start with Grim Fandango – considered to be one of the greatest games ever made. An old school LucasArts point-and-click adventure surrounding the events of Manny Calavera as he tries to make his way in “the Epic tale of Crime and Corruption in the Land of the Dead”. I wont say too much more, but know that it’s an amazing game with a fantastic film-noir-esque storyline.

Panzer General II might have slipped you by, and you almost certainly won’t have heard of it if you’re a gamer of the Naughties. But it was a brilliant tactical game where you controlled the tanks and armies of the Third Reich, and if you did well enough – you’d be able to invade the UK and sack Windsor Castle or invade the USA and steal their plans for a nuclear warhead. Suffice to say, I learned a lot about tactical gameplay and story-driven gameplay from the older brother.
Maniac Mansion 2: Day of the Tentacle
Then there were the games us kids would play as a family. I say we would play as a family, firstly I mean the games I would watch my brother and sister playing! First, I remember vividly them both playing Maniac Mansion 2: Day of the Tentacle, an absolutely amazing classic old-school LucasArts point-n-click adventure, and they played it against each other in a way and I for a time was a messenger between the 2. If my brother got stuck on a bit that my sister had completed, I could relay the information upstairs to him and visa versa. It was good, but I don’t remember much of the actual game thinking back now…

The other game that is definitely worth a mention is Doom II. Back in the days of the mid-90’s multiplayer pretty much consisted of playing split-screen games sat next to each other. Then Doom II came along and blew our minds.

We connected the PC’s up on a home LAN, and fired Doom up. My sister would listen to Stevie Wonder, and I’d watch her, my brother and my brother-in-law playing Doom II together…while I’d watch.

It was all good, and I still can’t listen to Stevie Wonder without thinking of Doom or play Doom without thinking of Stevie Wonder. Weird huh?
While googling an image of Mr Wonder. I laughed hard.
Anyway it seems that I did a lot of watching as a child, but this all put me in good stead for when I would start gaming properly as a teenager and adult. It meant that I had patience beyond my years on games, had the ability to play games that were of a higher level than my age would suggest. And as an adult, I play games mainly for fun and as a form of escape – not to compete like making sure I get X many more achievement points than other people or to make sure I win every game I play online, I mean yeah it’s good to win and I complete to win, but I’m never gonna kick myself or think I’m a shitty gamer because I lost 20 games in a row. Fuck that shit, life’s too short.

The pleasure I get from gaming, is the same that film buffs get from watching those black and white film noirs with a smelly Frenchman in it, or a wine buff gets from sampling the finest wines from the world, or an avid reader gets from finding an author who captivates them from first page to last. And I owe that pleasure in no small part to my family.

I grew up in a gaming house…it’s no wonder I grew up to be the man I am today.