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A Life in Games

I do talk a lot about the games I played when I was a kid. There are countless classic titles that I just like to sit down with, from time to time, for the purpose of blowing through something quick and familiar. With today's culture being steeped in nostalgia - everything  demanding everyone's attention has that 'old-school' feel, it's a freaking epidemic - it's always fun to think back to the way things were when you were a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed mutant squirrel child opening a brand-new SNES game for the first time. Wait, you weren't born with a tail, just me? Well, shit.

Kings Quest Box Art

So, anyway, my childhood spent gaming is still pretty vivid to me, primarily because I wax poetic about how it was back in the day with the sole person responsible for my obsession with gaming: my dad.

Back when I was way too young to understand what a video game really was, my dad had a Tandy 1000 with King's Quest installed. I was immediately fascinated, and would sit there for hours just watching him command this small blocky dude on the magic box through what was (at the time, anyway) a lush, colourful landscape. When I was finally old enough to be allowed to play the games myself, that was pretty much the end of going outside to play unless forced.

When I was just about six years old, we got our first home console. Now dad, bless him, has historically been a technophile, but he has made some truly strange choices on what was worthwhile to bring home to us (I'm pretty sure he actually bought a Betamax). So instead of a Sega Master System or an NES, dad bought a TurboGrafx 16. It's about as obscure as it gets as far as defunct systems that you could still find in used game shops go. The system was expensive. The games were expensive and it didn't have Mario or a second controller port.

Turbo Grafx 16

All the same, it was a video game system, so I was ecstatic. Less so when it turned out it was actually for my brother, not me. My brother was never the gamer. Out of (I guess) pure spite I would park myself in front of the TV and destroy his high scores. Bonk's Revenge? I can speed-run it now. Darkwing Duck? Easy-peasy. China Warriors? I knew the cheats, bro. I think my favourite, though, was Final Lap Twin. You could race, but you can also play a story mode in which you wander through an overworld, randomly encountering racers who want to challenge you; if you won, you got money, and you can upgrade your car... wait, I think this was technically my first RPG. Cool!

As silly as a system it was in retrospect, I still see it fondly and it sits proudly on my shelf as a sort of trophy. It still works, too, that beautiful bastard.

Final Lap Twin Screen


At this point, right around my next console, my family and I moved to BC, but my dad didn't. My mom never really bought into that whole video game thing, and really saw them as the distractions and time-wasters that clich├ęd parents usually did. I remember right at the beginning there was when we received the first console that was designated for both my brother and I (so it was contractual that my brother and I had to share), the SNES. Oh glory, the SNES. Super Mario World was then and there my favourite game of all time, and I would dedicate whole weekends and useless homework time towards getting all of the secret levels. The first time I discovered the Star Road was like that first hit of crack. Video games have secrets now? Well, hell, I'd better go back and try to find EVERY SINGLE ONE.

There were a few real gems that came into my collection over the years, like F-Zero, Battletoads in Battlemaniacs, and Uniracers. There were, however, the "mom picked this out" games, like Mario's Time Machine. Don't make me try to learn, mom, I'm just going to reject it like that time you tried to make me play soccer. I know your ways.

Battletoads in Battlemaniacs

Dad had his ways as well, though. I remember the first summer I went to visit at his house after he got the Sony PlayStation. Oh man, was I hooked. I loved my N64, I truly did, but I had never seen games like Final fantasy VII before. That was part of the most glorious summers of my life: me and my dad, passing controllers back and forth, me watching him play Fear Effect, and him watching me play Final Fantasy VII. The year I got my PlayStation 2 for Christmas solidified Sony has a perpetual favourite, even though all I had to play on it until my birthday was Myst III.

Though there were definitely some times over the years that my dad and I didn't speak so much, our love for the industry remained. For me, it has also helped steer my career path. If I hadn't been exerted his influence on me when I was young, I doubt I'd be able to rattle off the specs of the TurboGrafx 16, fix my own computer, or live in my lifelong devotion to Star Trek, and those are the things that make me awesome.

With the advent of online gaming in everything (and our PlayStation 4's), we now throw down Destiny matches, make plans to join up in Saint's Row 4, and discuss buying the next MLB instalment. Just recently, I took a weeklong trip to visit with him during my birthday, and just spending all that time indulging in our hobbies together was one of the best I've had.

Back in the day, it truly was a rare thing for girls to have an earnest interest in video games, let alone fanaticism. I do consider it a truly great thing that in the shadow of my mother's constant pushing me into more feminine activities like ballet or wearing dresses, since video games were "a boy thing", my dad fully embraced my interests and helped to keep me engaged in them all these years. He helped turn video games from a hobby to a full-fledged lifestyle for me, and without it I would not have any relationship with some of the best people I know.

I guess reading back, this whole thing reads like a retrospective of my life with my dad rather than my memories with video games, but for me they are one and the same thing. It all started with a toddler who wanted to find out what daddy was doing.