I must admit, I don’t have huge amount of game nostalgia prior to the age of 12. Consoles weren’t something I was particularly exposed to as a wee bairn. Yes there were fleeting bursts of gaming loveliness (which I will describe shortly) but, for the most part, the idea of losing an afternoon to a marathon session of Goldeneye was a completely foreign concept.
I think my ‘coming of age’ was in 1999 when my mum bought me a Sega Dreamcast. It was in the aftermath of my parents’ divorce and whilst no amount of technology “could ever numb the pain” (sniff) I must say that Sonic Adventure and Tomb Raider The Last Revelation tried their hardest. Such good times. Of course it was a while before I could afford a memory card to actually save my progress(!) so many of my gaming adventures involved Emerald Coast and Angkor Wat on constant repeat. (These are the earliest levels of these games, for the uninformed – or indeed, those with memory cards.) So it was only later that I was able to venture out into the worlds of Crash Bandicoot, Gran Turismo, Devil May Cry and Grand Theft Auto on the PS2, and of course the amazing Pokemon Gold on the GameBoy Color. A true spiritual awakening if ever there was one.
However, my pre-teenage years were not completely devoid of adrenaline-infused experiences; there were some. I wouldn’t say they made me “the man I am today” but they certainly planted the gaming seeds that would later flourish and grow. Let me tell you about them.
Snapper: BBC Micro (1982)
This is definitely my earliest gaming memory. I would have been about 5 years old and my dad, being a teacher at the local school, ‘borrowed’ one of the BBC Micro machines for us kids to play on during the school holidays. Snapper was the only game that it came with – if my memory serves – and quite how it got released I’m not sure, given that it’s identical in almost every way to Pac-Man, apart from the title. It was lots of fun, but I must admit I don’t go wobbly at the knees with game nostalgia when I think about it. As an experience, its value was in novelty only.
Formula 1: PlayStation (1996)
My family went through a strange period in the mid 90s. My dad and my (then) two sisters developed something of an obsession with Formula 1 racing – a passion I tried earnestly to share but somehow couldn’t. (To this day, the appeal is lost on me.)
Anyway, their enthusiasm led them to renting a PlayStation console from the local video shop, which came loaded with Sony’s first Formula 1 title, developed by Psygnosis. After which, it was as if my family fell into the stranglehold of addiction; ordinary conversations ceased, tempers were lost, the desperation to acquire the next ‘gaming fix’ was palpable. I had an ally in my mother, of course, who joined me in my smug superiority as we chortled at my dad trying to complete yet another circuit in his beloved Jordan. I went off in the pursuit of the much cooler endeavour – that of watching Sooty.
Looking back, it’s funny to think of my dad as an avid gamer, but that’s exactly what he was for that brief spell in 1996. I have this vivid memory of him perched on the end of his bed, desperately turning the PlayStation controller as he tried to guide himself round a tough bend at Monaco – years before the motion sensor in the Nintendo Wii would make such a technique possible. I guess he was a pioneer…?
Aladdin: Sega MegaDrive (1993)
Okay, so Aladdin came out three years before Formula 1, but I didn’t get to play it until 1999. Looking back, this title probably invokes the greatest game nostalgia in me, and sadness; “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” I was in the middle of a difficult period and I wasn’t able to live at home, so I found myself in the midst of this strange new environment surrounded by new people, one of whom was a young girl called Alix, who would later become my stepsister. And she had a MegaDrive. Indeed, she had lots of great titles for it, such as Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Ecco the Dolphin, but the one that really sticks out is Disney’s Aladdin, developed by Virgin Games USA.
Now, I was pretty terrible at Aladdin but Alix was a whizz. For me, the pleasure was in watching her trying to beat the game, and as such it was very gripping – particularly the lava level, where the protagonist tries to escape from a firey tsunami on a magic carpet, whilst dodging boulders! I remember we had a fry-up on my first night in my ‘new home,’ so my memories of Aladdin are closely linked to the smell of fried bacon and hash browns. The game also uses many of the catchy songs from the movie of the same name, and it beautifully captures Disney’s art style and animation. I can definitely recommend it.
Is this game on Steam? I might have to seek it out and see if I can play. (Sausages optional…)
Haha I’ve just looked. It is! Blimey. Okay, I’ll add it to the list. £6.99 though?? Yeahmmmmm…
So there we have it – just some fleeting moments of gaming nostalgia to get those childhood memories pumping. Maybe you had the same experiences as me? Did anyone else play Snapper, or Formula 1? And please tell me that someone out there played Shadow of Memories…?? Share your favourite gaming moments in the comments below.