Thursday, 4 July 2013

5 Games That Define My Childhood

I've been a gamer all my life. My earliest childhood gaming memory involves me deftly leaping over crocodile infested waters in the first true 2D platformer 'Pitfall', which went on to be the 2nd biggest selling game on the Atari console (4 million); second only to the legendary Pac-Man. Other memories involve me standing behind my cousin and watching in awe as he commanded an army of 'Lemmings' on his PC, spending all my pocket money playing the 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' arcade machine with friends and spending countless hours bonding with my father as we played 'A Boy and his Blob' together on NES. It's these memories and more that make me smile when I reflect back on my younger years.

Games have always been a big part of my life and now the simple mention of a specific title can instantly evoke a number of nostalgic memories, all hinged on strong emotions. It's powerful stuff, even more powerful than other forms of media. Sure I remember dancing on my bed and trying to imitate Michael Jackson whilst watching him tear up the screen in the 'Black or White' music video and I will never forget the time I saw 'Jurassic Park' with my Dad at the movies.... but games... I hold them high, higher than everything else. You form a bond with games... a bond that is personal and unique. This is because everyone plays games their own way. You choose a path, go on a journey and come out with your own story to tell.

With that said, inspired by Mark Serrels from Kotaku, here is a list of 5 games that define my childhood...

1. Resident Evil 2 (Playstation)

I like to think of myself as a daredevil. As a child, I wasn't scared of anything. I grew up as a seemingly invincible kid. I would get injured every second week and my hospital file is now referred to by my parents as a tome. The first time I can legitimately say I felt true fear was when I played Resident Evil 2 in Big W. I remember gripping the controller with sweaty palms and looking around the store nervously, hoping nobody could tell that I was freaking out (and hoping staff wouldn't kick me off for breaking the 15 min time limit). From that point on, I was hooked. The adrenalin rush of opening a door and fearing the next room would contain flesh-eating zombies was addictive as hell. No game had ever made me feel like that before. 'Survival Horror' has been my favourite gaming genre ever since and I can honestly say that no game has ever even come close to toppling it from the pedestal I've put it on. I hope blood and gore splatters across my screen until I'm old and senile enough to resemble one of the zombies I so love to kill... with deadly accurate head shots.

2. All  4 Wrestling Games (Nintendo 64)

World Tour, Revenge, Wrestlemania 2000 & No Mercy

I have to group them because in my mind they all blend together to form a huge chunk of my childhood. Collectively, they were the games that inspired a young Goose to perform many stupid backyard maneuvers, like leaping off the fence into a pool whilst doing Eddie Guerrero's Frog Splash and trying to Rock Bottom a friend through a folding table. I would spend countless hours button mashing with my best mate in what can only be described as some of the most epic and brutal multiplayer encounters I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing. Winning one of these matches was like winning the Heavyweight Championship. I'd get up and prance around the room, taunting an invisible crowd and elevating myself to greatness. To do this day I've never had a more satisfying gaming "win". While I'm admittedly no longer a massive fan of wrestling, there are still remnants of a boy who once dreamed of being a wrestler residing somewhere deep in my psyche. One day, when someone really tests my patience, there's a Stone Cold Stunner just waiting to happen.

3. NBA Jam (Arcade & Sega Genesis)

Young Goose could never play basketball. He was too short and uncoordinated... and nothing has changed. What he could do (and still can do) was annihilate anyone and everyone in NBA Jam. That may sound cocky and arrogant, and it is, but I wouldn't make such a bold statement if it wasn't true. You see, I'm the first person to admit when I suck at a game. I will forever be a certifiable noob when it comes to hardcore shooters like COD and football games like FIFA. However, give me some Jam and I'll spread your remains all over the shiny court. NBA Jam was the first game that made me legitimately feel like a gaming God, and that felt bloody good. I loved this game so much my parents went out and bought me a real basketball ring, not knowing that I absolutely sucked at the real thing and felt like a complete loser when I tried to play. Somewhere along the line I was given a mini-basketball ring that I put up outside, near my dog's kennel. I would shoot hoops and jam that thing to oblivion; all to the delight of my dog Snowy, who would look at me strangely whenever I'd shout 'Boomshakalaka' at the top of my lungs...."Is it the shoes?"

4. Diablo & Diablo 2 (PC)

That frustratingly hard-to-kill, red-skinned and horned abomination of gaming has taken up more hours of my life than any other game. Who ever thought clicking a mouse over and over again like a drone would be so much fun? Diablo holds a special place in my heart. It made me fall in love with how games are crafted. It made me realise that games are an art form. Diablo also used to make my old high-school IT teacher (Mr. Ellis) scream out in uncontrollable fits of rage... which, in my mind, made him look like a real-life "end-of-level boss". For a couple of years at least, our IT class consisted solely of playing Diablo and Quake. Which is why it still baffles me that I managed to come 1st in the class every year! We would play secret LAN games behind the teacher's back, giggling every time he nearly caught us and softly swearing every time we got killed (remember the ears?). Diablo was also the first game that hooked me like a drug. Prior to Diablo, games were just mindless fun you played here and there. Diablo consumed me and haunted every waking moment of my life. Parents, school and friends were just obstacles in the way of me finding more loot in Diablo's many realms (long live the cows). Yes... Diablo basically ruined my life. Thank you Blizzard.

 5. Battletoads (NES)

There are two words that strike fear in the heart of every true gamer... "Turbo Tunnel". Battletoads is, without a doubt, one of the toughest games of all time and represents the relentless grind that all gamers go through when finishing a level becomes your only goal... when the primal human needs for eating food and going to the bathroom evaporate and the only thing you can focus on is getting to that next level or reaching that elusive checkpoint. I don't think I ever even finished Battletoads. Has anyone? Seriously. I remember spending countless afternoons after school hiking up to my friend's house to play Battletoads with him and his brother. All 3 of us would sit in front of his TV for hours, while his Mum delivered us a constant stream of nourishment. It was like going to work. It was like a job. This could have been the end of my gaming days. Battletoads could have left a sour taste in my mouth for gaming... but it didn't. Like sucking on a sour warhead, getting past the game's brutal exterior was all part of the fun. Battletoads taught me that games are better when they are equal parts fun and challenging, which is why I only ever play games on 'Hard' these days.

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