I bet my parents wonder sometimes whether it was a good idea to expose me to video games when I was little; it was them who offered to get me a console even though I was fine messing about on the computer most of the time! I believe the very first time I got a taste of gaming was when I stayed at my cousin’s house overseas and would bother her to hook up the Sega Mega Drive. I would get hooked on playing Sonic The Hedgehog (it likely explains a lot to know it was my very first game) on her console to the point that she would hide it from me.
That was many years ago, back when I was in second grade. The first time I was actually able to own a console of my own however was about a year later when my parents told me that they would buy me a Nintendo 64 if I was able to get good grades. I do not remember the specifics, but I do remember us going into Best Buy and coming out with the Pokémon Stadium console pack so that we could have two controllers for my brother and I to play together. We absolutely loved the console and it went on to bring the both of us many great memories playing Super Mario 64, Super Smash Bros., and the Mario Party series (which would sometimes end badly). In short, we treasured our N64 and there were many times when my brother and I would try to finish our homework as quickly as possible so that we could go upstairs and play.
When the next generation of consoles rolled around, I was obviously very excited and could not wait to get my hands on a Nintendo GameCube. Since I was subscribed to Nintendo Power at the time, they mailed me a mini disc full of trailers and music from the upcoming games (remember, this was before Youtube existed so you would be hard-pressed to find videos online at a reasonable quality) so I could see firsthand what the little machine would offer. However, I was too young to understand just how much launch-date consoles cost and my father, an ex-Enron employee, wanted to purchase a device that would offer the most versatility. While I was hung up on wanting a “Nintendo,” I still remember being excited the day my dad brought home the Sony PlayStation 2. A console that would offer both the game libraries of the original PlayStation and the new PlayStation 2 games was far more appealing of a purchase to my father as a long-term entertainment device (especially since it could also play DVDs) so that’s what we were given.
Part of what factored into my father’s decision was the fact that his background as a programmer quickly recognized that Nintendo recycled a lot of its game-play assets; since Nintendo didn’t have as many third party relationships back then, it was quite easy to generalize the console’s library as containing fewer “unique” games than Sony’s. Now that I’m older, I can definitely see where he was coming from (and the PlayStation 2 was a great device) but back then I was too young to understand could not let go wanting the GameCube. Don’t get me wrong– once I actually started playing some of the games my brother and I wanted, I had a blast and I am thankful that my dad exposed me to them (as opposed to some brand fan-boys I knew that had not touched a “rival” console until college). Still though, I was too young at the time for the game itself to matter; it was the characters that defined the game for me. My father, being the nice guy he is, eventually gave in to my whining after some months and bought us a Nintendo GameCube as well so that my brother and I had both systems. As I think back, I feel kind of bad for giving my dad such a hard time (especially after his employment was thrown into limbo), but it just goes to show what a kind personality he has.
Owning both systems gave me a lot of perspective to consider what I wanted in games as I grew older; both brought with them their own unique memories. When I grew old enough to appreciate them, I began to play games with more involved storylines and character development which made many of Nintendo‘s characters seem shallow in comparison. As I learned to program, I began to notice just how much engines were reused and how they would constantly remake music from earlier games (the Kirby series is notorious for this). As I became busier in school and my time began to wane, I started to gravitate more towards games that I felt would be worth my while rather than those that would likely be rehashes of games that I had already played; I began to seek out more “unique” experiences for the limited time I had to play. For this reason, when the Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 came out the generation after, I gravitated towards the PS3 and PSP simply because I had lost my interest in watching Nintendo churn out the same games over and over. Despite still enjoying the game play such games offered, I simply didn’t value game play as much over stories at that point; I didn’t have time to play games over and over to become “good” at them. Because of the shift in my preferences, Kirby, Pokémon, Mario, and games such as fighters were out of the picture.
As this past console generation ended, I completely skipped over the Wii and Nintendo DS. When I did get a chance to play a few games here and there, I honestly didn’t have any particular interest in the consoles to warrant purchasing them– most games just seemed like updated versions of the games I played all the time during my childhood with a coat of shininess to make them look “new.” As my time to play further decreased, I began to value handhelds more and jumped at the chance to buy a PlayStation Vita. Once again, between the Vita and the 3DS, I chose the one that I felt would offer me a richer gaming experience. While game play wasn’t as much of a factor anymore (Nintendo had begun to change), I opted for the more technologically powerful system since I only planned to buy one handheld and wanted a device that could offer the most “current-gen” experience. I love my PlayStation Vita and sure enough, it has brought me wonderfully immersive game experiences– just what I wanted.
However, I recently had the opportunity to purchase a Nintendo 3DS cheaply and have found myself more excited over it than I would have expected. Because I skipped a generation between Nintendo consoles, it is fun to see how things have changed since then (while Nintendo innovates, they do so very slowly) since the changes are more apparent than if I had not skipped out on the DS. Having played through some of the demos in the eShop, I can’t help but get a little excited to see classic Nintendo characters again– I feel like I’m being reunited with old friends. Seeing everyone in 3-D and is also quite exciting, and while I cannot say that I have always been a fan of Pokémon games, watching Pokémon X and Y break into the 3-D realm makes me excited about the series. Not only have these games been given ample time to mature since I last played them, the characters have also grown, giving me a new appreciation for them.
I’m not really a person who tends to look through things with nostalgia goggles on (which may seemingly contradict some of the content of this blog). When I evaluate my feelings towards objects and material possessions, I tend to be rather objective because I know that ultimately they are objects being “sold.” I haven’t touched a Zelda or even a Sonic game for a long time. I don’t have as much as time as I used to where I can just sit and mindlessly play a game all day, and I likely never will again. Even so, part of me just can’t help but get excited to see some of these characters again… I look forward to what the 3DS will bring.