Looking back on your gaming history, you realise just how much of an influence it had on your life. The relationships with family, friends and companies all strengthened or weakened by gaming in some capacity. It’s funny how the gaming industry has evolved over the years; although we’re more connected than ever through online services, gaming itself has become a rather isolated activity. Gone are the days when you could ride around to your mate’s house and sit on the same couch, playing on the same console, on the same TV against or with one another while giving each other shit about how theirs or your mother sucks dicks for bus money but still walks home (although you can still do this online, it never gets old. Sorry Mum). It makes you appreciate just how special and important those times were, as well as the people involved.
With that in mind I wanted to talk to you about some of my earliest and cherished memories with video games and what effects they had on me then and now.
My earliest memory of video games was Christmas of 1992, when my Mum and stepdad (who for the record is as much of a father to me as my real father) got me a Sega Mega-Drive, with Streets of Rage 2, Altered Beast, Sonic and Columns. Oh man. The love evoked on that day was seismic. A bond had been formed. My stepdad and I fighting our way through Mr X’s minions in Streets of Rage 2, and for the first time I was man of the house! I’m sure in some way for them it was a nice distraction from the hard times that dominated our lives at that point.
At the time we were living in Queensland (originally from Tasmania), due to my newly born brother battling health issues. In a way it was a good thing having the digital world to keep me from truly understanding the severity of the situation, because although I knew what was happening around me, I couldn’t process the full extent of it.
Now I only remember snippets of those times, but mostly all of the non-vague memories involve gaming. My first ever experience with a Super Nintendo was at the school the hospital had. The school was for children that were either at the hospital themselves or those that had family there. I was enrolled there for over a year and every now and again we got to save Princess Toadstool in Super Mario World. I also remember hanging out with my uncle, occasionally he and I would play his Super Nintendo and I remember hiring out Bubsy and experiencing what is known as rage quit for the first time. In fact it was more just rage, because we didn’t have a choice in the matter as the game froze on us.
Probably one of the most significant memories I have is sitting on my brother’s bed in hospital telling him that when he gets better and gets to come home that we have to play Streets of Rage 2 because it was so awesome. Thankfully my brother and I were eventually able to play Streets of Rage 2 together and from there we had some great times playing NBA Jam, NBA Live ’97,Tale Spin, Super Baseball 2020, Zool, Battletoads, Mortal Kombat 2, Desert Strike and many others.
In 1995 we ventured to my mother’s homeland, New Zealand, to visit some of the family that side of the Tasman. This trip is especially memorable because it introduced me to the sporting team that would in a way change my life, the San Jose Sharks of the NHL (Ice Hockey). Now up until this point all I knew about Ice Hockey was the Mighty Ducks played it, the flying V, the bash brothers and that Connor Banks was a gun.
So my cousin, who unfortunately is no longer with us, owned a San Jose Sharks hat and I decided that I would be claiming that hat for myself. Thankfully he was willing to part with it and it made its way back home on my head.
Fast forward a bit to 1998 and we were now the proud owners of a Sony PlayStation. I also obtained another brother (3 years old now) but that wasn’t as cool as having a PlayStation! My first memories of this console are watching my stepdad play Final Doom and Tomb Raider, while my mother and I played cheerleader, and playing Abe’s Odyssey with my Dad and stepmother, who enjoyed the Mudokon farts just as much as I did. But let’s be real, who doesn’t love those Mudokon farts? One day our lovely mother allowed my two brothers and me to hire some games and movies, what a gem. My middle brother and I chose NHL 98; life would never be the same.
From that moment on I have been a passionate, sometimes borderline obsessive ice hockey fan. There was a period from about 2000-2007 where I knew every single player in the NHL, their names, their jersey numbers, country of birth, position and which hand they shot with. I had San Jose Sharks players plastered across my school exercise books in years 7-9. I even managed to get my local in-line hockey team to change their name to the Sharks, wearing Sharks replica jerseys. My love for that hockey club eventually spawned a family trip to America, in which we visited San Jose to watch the Sharks play.
In the year 2000 I started high school. It was the year I got my first NHL game for the PlayStation, NHL 2000. It was also the year that I met my best mate, Jason Shegog. Now some of you are probably thinking, “cool story, bro,” but this is a significant landmark in this memoir.
NHL 2000, is probably the most played game in my gaming history. That game brought out a fanatical and meticulous side of myself I had never seen before. Here is what I used to do: Play twenty minute periods, because you know, I wanted it to be like a proper NHL game. So yes, each game went for an hour or more. I did this for all 82 regular season games and all playoff games. I used to have manual line changes, so instead of players coming on and off automatically, I was in charge. Which doesn’t sound overly difficult, but managing their stamina levels and so on over an hour game was no easy task. I would create players for a lot of teams, players whose names were based off my favourite athletes from other sports (like Anthony Franchina), athletes I had crushes on (Anna Kournakova) and…Pokémon (Mewtwo). Looking back, probably the most identifiable reason that I had a problem was that I used to write every single stat down after the game. Team stats and player stats, I wrote them all down. I had display books filled with pages of stats from games throughout my “dynasty.” Why did I do this? I have no idea, but damn I was proud of it.
This carried over into NHL 2001 and 2002, except I gave up on writing the stats down from about the middle of my 2001 season. Eventually the 20 minute periods and the 32-0 wins became boring, so myself and Jason begun playing seasons as other teams together. We’d smash out a season over a weekend, binging on Red Bull, Cadbury Black Forest and steak sandwiches. We had chemistry on the rink, whether it wasthe PlayStation or the in-line rink; we just knew where each other were going to be. Sort of like a Patrik Elias/Petr Sykora circa 1999-01 connection. It was at that point our gaming lives became one, fused together by a bond of adolescent brotherhood. In fact, from thereon, there weren’t many games we didn’t play together. One of my favourite series, and a placeholder in my top five games of all time, Onimusha: Warlords, was completed by both of us. I was generally the muscle and he was the brains of the operations.
When we weren’t winning Stanley Cups in NHL, our go-to sports game was FIFA. Honestly, FIFA 2006 was my first time playing FIFA andprior to that I didn’t support any English football teams. I had a loose affiliation with Chelsea, simply because they were known as the Blues, like my AFL team Carlton. Having no real knowledge of the teams except for the big names, I decided to choose a team with the same name as the last name of the singer from Breaking Benjamin, Burnley.
From that session on I have been a passionate Burnley supporter, riding every promotion, relegation, celebration and heartbreak moment. After Burnley beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge I convinced myself to get a Burnley crest tattoo. Naturally some of you are thinking that it’s cliché or a crap idea for a tat. But aside from being a sign of my devotion to the football cIub, it was a reminder that nothing is impossible. A small town club whose entire team makes less than one Chelsea first team player, without being given a sniff of hope, can go to Chelsea, a powerhouse of European football and knock them out of a tournament. It was a moment that made me proud to support an underdog club. I had developed a following of the same ilk as my support for the San Jose Sharks, I even convinced (forced) my mates to go to Burnley and watch the mighty Clarets play during a Eurotrip in 2014. They managed to lose only three games that whole season and of course, I witnessed one of them. I owe many thanks to Mr Shegog for bringing Burnley to me.
From there being an adult started to take centre stage. I moved to Melbourne with a lad called Rhys Martin, and out of that blossomed another friendship that I will have forever. The pieces started falling into place when I purchased a Nintendo GameCube and FIFA 2007. We created our own club, affectionately known as DogRat United. We were in the English Premier League and we were average at first, but as the seasons went on our cash flow increased and we were able to buy better players. This led to our eventual domination of European football. However we never managed to sign David Beckham, despite offering him one million dollars a week, his little ticker never got off the ground and his agent simply told us to come back when we were serious. Turn it up, mate.
In one of DogRat’s final seasons we decided to do an MVP award, voted by myself and Rhys. We got a money tin and after each game we wrote down 3, 2 and 1 votes for our players, folded it up and put it in the tin till the end of the season. At the end of the season we decided to go all out and throw an awards night (not even joking). During the awards night we dressed in suits and counted all the votes that we had in the money tin. The player with the most votes won the Golden Dog Turd award. Yes, this really happened. After that we did up a season report book, with editorials from coaches and players, all the matches had their own reports and a chart of the votes. I had way too much time on my hands.
It wasn’t until I had my PS3 stolen from my house that I realised my interest in gaming had become stale. I had no real urgency to go out and replace it (I probably couldn’t afford it), and the gaming world carried on without me. Eventually Father Christmas brought me another one, but there was a period of about three years where I hardly gamed at all, and when I did I played FIFA. To be fair that period of time I was completing a Uni degree.
As you get older gaming becomes less of a memorable experience. It becomes a hobby, an escape from the daily grind (unless you play Destiny) or apart of your occupation. Time inevitably restricts your access, as families, jobs and bills all become priorities. This allows you to reflect and cherish the good old days, when gaming was something that turned school yard friendships into life-lasting bonds or something that brought a family together. Or when gaming helped you discover another passion in your life, like it did for me with ice hockey and football (soccer). But as you get older you also discover a new appreciation for gaming, which is why a bunch of mates decided to start this site. You could say this opportunity to write about my experiences has reinvigorated my gaming. It’s given my gaming a new perspective from which to form new memories. But I’ll never forget where my gaming passion started and how it shaped who I am today.