I distinctly remember early in my time at primary school seeing Santa at the Christmas party and excitingly conveying my desperation to please, please, please have a computer. I am clueless as to what sparked such a desire or even how I reacted when on Christmas day I unwrapped a ZX Spectrum. I don’t even remember what happened to it but I do remember avidly playing it, hooked up to an old black and white telly, in my room. I recall that many of the games I had were on floppy discs but also that some came on casette tapes and that these games inspired me to try and make my own, that never went anywhere. Despite my vague memory on this console and my time with it, I know I must have enjoyed it because when years later I found some of the games on the eshop of my Nintendo Wii I got giddy with nostalgia and promptly downloaded several of them.
Then came what I consider to be the life changing, and defining point of my interest and relationship with gaming. The Nintendo Gameboy. As a child this was my most coveted item. Year after year I would ask for one and would always instead get a bubble bath one where you had to get the rings on spikes by pressing the buttons to shoot air into the water screen. I was deseprate for this device because many of the kids at my school started getting them and now when I went round to their house they didn’t want to play with me. I was ignored in favour of this small, grey, handheld device. Talk at school started changing to this game and that game and who was excitingly waiting for what. The fervour surrounding the gameboy camera and printer was insane and eventually they were banned from being brought into school. I was always out the loop and I hated it.
Not that my lack of a Gameboy halted my interest in gaming. My focus instead shifted to my Grandad’s PC. Every visit to my grandparents resulted in me playing on it, not there was a lot to choose from but I took what I could get. Eventaully I convinced them that for my birthday I should be allowed to get my own game. This took time because they were concerned about how I would only be able to play it when I visited them but I was so set on a particular game that I insisted it really wasn’t a problem. The game? The Magic School Bus Explores the Solar System. This is something I distinctly remember. It involved a whole day’s shopping trip as shop after shop we went to only had the Human Body Magic School Bus game and I was adament this wouldn’t do instead. It is my first memory of that ecstatic joy that only comes with finally getting your hands on game you’ve been after.
The Magic School Bus Explores the Solar System is also fondly remembered because after I had got it I spoke to my Dad on the phone who informed me that whilst I had been staying at my grandparents he had bought a PC for our house so I could bring it home! Talk about best birthday ever. This started a love affair with PC gaming. My memory here is less distinct, whether the games we had were our choice or stuff my Dad had found and thought we would like I cannot be sure but I know I loved playing all of them. I definitely remember we had a magazine collection that came with stuff to play, the mighty power of vague internet searching has lead me to the fact this was called PC Genius.
Also thanks to the brilliance that is the internet and the fact you can find anything on it I have been able to look up my vague memories of some of the games. I know we had a Thomas the Tank Engine game where you repeatedly bashed a button, space I think, to race down the track. Impressively “90s Thomas Pc game” brought up some immediately familiar images and I ended watching YouTube lets play videos of it, nostalgia is a powerful thing. Equally impressive is that my faint memory of a game involving a knight lead me to disocver that I was recalling “Last Knight at Camelot”. I also remember playing “Jazz the Jackrabbit”, something Indiana Jones and a game based on Ace Ventura.
The next game I clearly remember is “Sabrina the Teenage Witch: Spellbound”. It was on one of our many trips to PC World that I spotted this gem on the shelf and strenuously negoiated with my parents to advance me enough pocket money to buy it right there and then. It took a fair amount of persuading, I think the game cost £10 and at the time I was getting about £2 a week pocket money. I don’t think they believed I could cope five weeks without pocket money. I was sure the game would be worth it though, after all Sabrina was one of my favourite tv shows at the time and I can safely say that it is a decsion I have never regreted. I loved this game. In fact I’m pretty sure I ended up with another Sabrina game later on as well.
For reasons I can’t understand we never owned The Sims. I remember watching other people play it but until The Sims 4 it was never a series I owned. I can confirm though, I do love The Sims 4. What we did have though was Theme Park Builder and Zoo Tycoon. I don’t remember much about building theme parks, except balloons = happy customers and the only memory I have of Zoo Tycoon is the amusement of unleashing the lions on unsuspecting customers.
Oh and I cannot finish this piece without mentioning one other PC game that had a big impact on me early on. Grim Fandango. For, what felt like, years we only had a demo of this game, which was really good. It took you just enough into the story to get you hooked and then like demos are supposed to, it left you wanting more. My favourite thing about it was the way you had different options to speak to characters, and those interaction would influence the game. Some of them progressed the sotry, others were just amusing. I had never seen anything like that before. Given how much I liked this I’m not sure why it was so long before we got the full game, but eventually we did and completeing it was extremely satisfying.
That concludes my early history with gaming, from approximately 1988-2000. I am sorry for the vagueness of it all, I really don’t remember a lot of it clearly and what I do remember is very disjointed. Unfortunately my parents are no longer around for me to ask about such things. I did consult my sibling whilst writing this but as they are younger than me their memory is even more vague on it all. Still I have throughly enjoyed romping down memory lane with this and in part two I’ll be focusing on 2004 – 2009 which was mostly console gaming and I will be able to provide clearer, more detailed recollections, hopefully. Please feel free to share your early gaming memories in the comments, I’d love to know your first games/console/memories.