Thanks For The Memories: Grove Street. Home.

There’s a quote that I’ve seen doing the rounds on the Internet over the last few years, which I can’t recall word-for-word (and, typically, cannot find now that I need it) which goes something along the lines of: “Growing up doesn’t mean that we have to stop playing games, it just means that we now have the responsibility of paying for a house to play games in” – and who would have thought that time would come around so fast when it feels like just yesterday that I was sitting around the tiny cathode-ray tube television with my brother, hiding our faces behind cushions while we watched our dad fight the tigers on the first level of Tomb Raider 1 on PS1 (and then listening to Dad get in trouble with Mum for letting us watch “scary” games)… I guess, as they say, time flies when you’re having fun.

I’m Layla, I’m 23, I’m new here, I’m a PC gamer and, as you can probably tell, I’m the queen of clichés and quotes that make you facepalm. I grew up in England in the ‘90s, raised by PC games on floppy disks, and the various consoles of that time.

Bart vs. The Space Mutants

Bart vs. The Space Mutants

My mum tells me that at two years old I would climb onto the dining table where we kept our computer (back when there was one computer per family), insert the floppy disk, and load and play my games. My earliest memory of gaming is a Simpsons game which I had on floppy disk – Bart vs. the Space Mutants. I don’t remember much of the game, just that I never really understood what to do and so never got far in it, but I really enjoyed playing it.

My dad was, and still is, a big gamer, and so a lot of my childhood was spent watching him play games like Tomb Raider, Alien Trilogy, Ace Combat, Quake, etc. and then, when we were old enough, teaming up with my brother to compete against our dad in games such as Age of Empires (2, of course!), Command & Conquer, and Worms Armageddon… and then listening to mum tell dad off for not letting us win.

While all of this was definitely the foundation of the life that being a gamer has brought me, I think that my real addiction began the day that I first played The Sims 1.

I had seen the ad on TV many times – you know, the one where the kid comes home with a llama (was everyone else disappointed that you couldn’t actually have a llama?!), and the parents are kissing which makes a baby appear – but unfortunately for me my parents had also seen it, and deemed it inappropriate for a child to play. I begged them for weeks, months, to let me have The Sims – “I’ll buy it with my own money”, I would plead. But the answer was always no.

At this time, my dad had a friend who sold pirated copies of PlayStation games for a living. We always bought the latest games from him, and looking back through my collection now, I realise that probably 98% of our PS1 and PS2 games were pirated. This same guy is the one who “chipped” our PS2 so that it could play PS1 games – remember those days, and how cool you were if your PS2 was chipped?!

Bob & Betty Newbie - The Sims 1

Bob & Betty Newbie – The Sims 1

One day in our usual delivery of pirated games, to my surprise and to my parents’ horror, there sat The Sims. And I swear, as I held it up, a ray of light beamed down from the sky onto the disc while angels sang and danced, and harpsicords played. Ok, there’s the slightest possibility that maybe it didn’t quite happen that way, but that’s how I choose to remember it. Because (here’s another facepalmy cliché) it was the beginning of the rest of my life.

I spent all of my free time playing it (when I was allowed to, and when my dad wasn’t using the computer) and eventually for my 9th or 10th birthday my dad called from work to say that he’d be late home because he had to pick up my present, which he told me was “small and can fit in a little box”. I was sure that it was jewellery, and did not have the slightest idea in the world that I would be receiving my very own computer for my bedroom. And then my life was all downhill from there… just kidding. But it did begin my addiction to my computer which, to this day 15 years later, I still haven’t shaken (and have no plans to!).

As time went on and I got more into computers and the Internet and whatnot, I eventually joined the forum for The Sims 2, where I posted regularly and became reasonably known, and made some absolutely incredible friends who I still speak to every day more than 10 years later, some of whom I have met up with in real life. Though we all lived on different continents, we grew up together.

Fast forward a good few years to my late teens where I found San Andreas Multiplayer (SA-MP). Forget everything I said about the Sims, this is the game that changed my life. And I mean truly, physically changed my life.

SA-MP is, as the name suggests, a multiplayer modification for GTA San Andreas on PC. It is one of the most popular 3rd party modifications for any game ever made, and I wish that more people knew about it because it such a fun time, even though San Andreas is such an old game.

After trying out different game servers for a few months, I finally found the one where I would stay, and which would later become one of the biggest parts of my life – San Andreas Cops ‘N’ Robbers (better known as SACNR). Through my time at SACNR I have met some absolutely incredible people who are now my real-life best friends who I fly to NZ regularly to hang out with, and a few of whom I moved in with for some time. And now that I think about it, I have absolutely no idea how I managed to convince my parents to let me stay with some guys that I met on the Internet in a different country for two weeks, when I had never been away from home for more than a couple of nights…

San Andreas: Cops 'N' Robbers

San Andreas: Cops ‘N’ Robbers

As my NZ friends are all technically-savvy, it is because of them that I learned skills that have helped me in my work life and my personal life, such as programming languages, network/server administration, website development, etc., and that I am currently considering a career in this field.

As we live in different countries we only get to hang out every few months, but I am so thankful that I met them because none of my local friends share my gaming interests and so when I hang out with my Aussie friends I don’t get the chance to present myself as who I truly am.

I make up for it when I’m in NZ by spending the entire time playing LAN games with the boys, and reliving our individual childhood memories. We play anything from SA-MP, to CS:GO, to DayZ, to Unreal Tournament, to Age of Empires, to Red Alert, to RecWar… and although my childhood memories of gaming with my family are my favourite childhood memories, these game nights with my best friends are, so far, my favourite adulthood memories, and the ones that I think will stick with me for life.

It’s by chance that I met the DYEGB guys in a Facebook group while trying to advertise SACNR, and was asked if I’d be interesting in writing for the website. I have always had a passion for writing, dating back to my school days where I was very much into creative writing, but never really had anywhere to do it, and so I was very excited to be presented with this opportunity and am incredibly grateful to Zach for the chance to be here, working with these guys.

To be true to my style and finish this article with a few last clichés: I truly believe that everything happens for a reason, and I cannot imagine what my life would be like had I not received The Sims that day. Thanks For The Memories that I have because of it, and Thanks For The Memories that I will make in the future because of it 🙂

Where my Internet friends live

Where My Internet Friends Live – Created by Layla White (idea from Internet)

If any of our readers have similar stories about people you’ve met up with who you met on a game, or even people you’ve become good friends with but haven’t physically met up with (I have a lot of those too!), then let me know in the comments below as I’d love to hear about it!

Gamer, dog-lover, emotional wreck. You will either find her hugging a cute dog, or losing at any game she tries to play (though she will tell you she's good at it). Most frequently plays SACNR and CS:GO, though generally plays whatever she is told to play - just like a good woman should ;-). Get around her on Twitter @loveandlag