I’ve played a lot of video games over the years.
The first were simple word-based games on the Commodore 64, like Oregon Trail; you oftentimes found yourself in a situation, like a haunted house, and had to assemble the clues to escape or merely survive. These games lived in the theatre of the mind.
Around the same time were the block-graphic games of the Atari 2600—game boxes with impressive artwork that never resembled the game within. My favorite was Adventure, where you guided a knight/block through a castle to discover treasure/block and fight a dragon/block. It was a game that lived up to its name, if you let it.
One of the first computer games was on the Atari ST. I remember playing The Bard’s Tale, one of the first Role-Playing Games. It captured my attention and I remember it fondly to this day. I also spent all night keying in the code to create a video game where a guy ran and jumped over a log. All night. It was so disappointing that I never again wanted to become a computer programmer.
At the arcade, my friends and I poured quarter after quarter into Gauntlet and spent $5 beating Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
In Junior High and into High School, Nintendo ruled the day. Contra, Mega Man and Icari Warriors were some of the best ever.
College brought Bill Walsh College Football ’92, where Hershel Walker ran over everything, and NBA Live ’95 dominated the Super Nintendo—where Latrell Sprewell and Chris Mullen shot the lights out. My roommate and I drafted our own teams and tracked our win/loss records over the course of a summer. It was epic and the greatest basketball game of all time.
Post college brought a rash of games for the Playstation, like Siphon Filter and MLB 2001—another game where a roommate and I held a draft and played each other non-stop all summer--and the Nintendo 64, with Goldeneye and Super Smash Bros. The Xbox brought epic games, like Gladius, and the greatest college football game ever—NCAA Football ’06, the year of the race for the Heisman.
Today, I mainly play the occasional game over an internet connection with my friend on my Xbox 360—gone are the limitless days with limitless free time; responsibility has muscled its way in. I still enjoy a good sports game, but the shoot ‘em up games are where it’s at—lots of excitement, lots of challenges, and lots of missteps to make me look like a N00b, despite my years of playing experience.