What better way to start a blog (introductions aside) that stems from my gaming experience, than recounting my history with games? While World of Warcraft is certainly the game that I’ve played for the longest stretch at a relatively consistent pace, it was by no means my first. Thus, this post and the one following it will be devoted to my gaming experience pre-WoW.
Let’s jump right into it: Cliche as this may sound, I grew up playing video games.
My first conceptualisation of a game being anything other than playing Freeze Tag, Frisbee or moving little plastic pieces on top of cardboard boxes to exchange for fake currency was at the age of 3 when I watched my father play the original Monkey Island. Up till then, my understanding of computers had been limited to “Mysterious glowing object”, and “Do not touch”. Suddenly, I was fascinated: What was this mysterious phenomenon that captivated my father’s attention, sometimes for hours on the weekends? How was he able to derive enjoyment from what appeared to be random colours and odd shapes flashing on the screen? And why did it seem to take so much effort?
Ironically, the answer to my final question is the easiest to answer: Because at the time, the game he played was split across over nine of the original 8-inch wide floppy disks, and took several hours to install on his ancient computer. Contrast that to today’s world of digital downloads and high-speed internet, both of which heavily characterise the type of gaming experience we’ve come to expect.
Although it would be a few years before I was able to fully understand enjoy what Monkey Island had to offer, the seed had been planted: I wanted to get a taste of this experience, whatever it was!
My next memory centres around my first experience actually playing a video game on a cousin’s old Sega system: Sonic the Hedgehog 3 was my first foray into a 2-D fantasy world, and I couldn’t get enough of spin-dashing, collecting rings and popping enemies! Everything about the experience enthralled me: The music, the graphics, the environmental details and, of course, the way in which I was able to interact with this world.
For my 5th birthday, I received a 32-bit Sega Mega Drive (known to some as the Sega Genesis II) which delighted me to no end. Indeed, one of my earliest and closest friendships began when I offhandedly mentioned to an acquaintance at school that I couldn’t wait to get back home and have another go at Sonic and Knuckles. His interest was immediately perked, and he proceeded to excitedly ask me whether the game cartridge also “opened at the top”, which it did. That afternoon, my new friend brought his autosaving version of Sonic 3 over, and the rest was history. I’ll also mention that the autosaving aspect of his cartridge was nothing short of an epiphany to me- I could actually save my progress and not have to start from scratch every time I booted up my system!
I’ll take this opportunity to step away from the chronological account of my gaming history, to touch upon some other aspects of my life that were instrumental in shaping my future interest and involvement in games.
From a very young age, reading and its importance were drilled into me by my family. In retrospect, I realise that I was extremely fortunate to have parents who took an active interest in how I spent free time and what I spent it on. While indulgences such as my Sega were allowed, they were tempered with strict rules about play time, schoolwork and, above all else, the importance of reading. At a time when many of my peers demanded Playstations, Nintento 64s and other “advanced” consoles that were to replace the Mega Drive, I found myself largely content with my “old” console in exchange for being plied with dozens of books to read.
While I could probably extol the benefits that reading so prodigiously, at a relatively young age brought to my life for hours, I’ll focus on what made this relevant to my gaming experience: I gained a deep appreciation and respect for complexity in games. Storylines, strategy and detail began to matter greatly, as part of the immersive fantasy world in which I liked to lose myself for hours.
This in turn meant that I could never be satisfied by something as “boring” as “Shoot ‘Em Up”-style games (replete with graphic depictions of blood, gratuitous violence and all sorts of objectification), which seemed to be all the rage among my peers at the time.
My own parents were wise enough to hone in on this, and encouraged me to combine my interest in games and reading by buying me educational software around the time I had turned 7. This included titles such as Knowledge Adventure’s Jumpstart series, Math Blaster and even Microsoft’s Encarta Encyclopaedia series to name a few. I particularly recall spending countless hours playing Encarta’s MindMaze game, which tested the player’s general knowledge based on encyclopaedic content, math and typing skills, and even observational skills with memory and pattern association- all in a medieval setting.
Game-wise, my path was now clear: I could never get what I craved from consoles (or rather, how I understood them at the time). I would have to continue my exploration and involvement with games on a computer- one that I had finally been entrusted to use!
Next time: A further account of my journey into computer gaming, along with some fond recollections of some of my favourite games up till WoW.