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My Gaming History ‘Part 11’

Posted in My Gaming History with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 25, 2013 by Mortal Mikey

It has to be said that the late 90s was pretty epic all round for a guy at my age. I was soon to be leaving school, I was also soon to become a legal adult…which meant nothing really apart from the fact that everything I had been doing illegally was soon to be legal and therefore ok in the eyes of the law. We hadn’t had much more controversy over video games since the 16bit era, people had come to realise that video games were now emulating real and fantasy world violence but it was to be Grand Theft Auto that stood apart from the rest of the crowd with a big blood stained knife in one hand and a sign in the other that said “Look at me!!”. Looking back at the first installment of GTA makes you really question what all the fuss was about (No offense guys!). It really goes to show how little the media scum and civilian do-gooders have going on in their lives, when a small, pixelated world of top down criminal activity can become a focal point of a society.

 

Which pixel caused controversy?

Which pixel caused controversy?

Ultimately what you take from a game like GTA is the most important part. Was it that you took someone’s life during a robbery and then were abruptly run over by over zealous local authority? Or do you now think that yes, selling cocaine on the streets, although lucrative, is in fact living your life on a knife edge between becoming Scarface or a shit stabber behind bars.

The minority who complained about the game were often the ones who have never played it and it was the fine upstanding role model, Max Clifford who got the controversy ball rolling. Your background and circumstances obviously play a big part in your early development, not some crooked graphical representation of a city from the view of a pigeon. Before shoddy looking violent video games, the previous generation had been subjected to beautifully composed and well animated cartoons. Young people witnessed a man with a passion for spinach, solve all of his day to day tribulations with simple brutality. Punching and kicking anything that stood in his way, often all for the love of a gawky looking woman. I don’t remember the public outcry to ban Popeye, core values and morals in life are something you may or may not follow depending on your wiring and upbringing. If you are influenced enough by video games to commit heinous acts, the games aren’t the problem. Boredom is a scary thing, never let humans, adults or children, become bored, it leads to awful things…I believe computer games combat this. 

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I remember entering Curry’s in 1998, which for those of you who do not reside in the UK, it is in fact an electrical store, not a food outlet. GTA had just hit the shelves and I went in to shoplift…I mean purchase the game. I had read the reviews, scanned the screenshots and so, I was looking forward to playing the game as it sounded like a riot. For whatever reason though this game received an 18 rating and because of this, the young man behind the counter couldn’t serve me. Saddened by my inability to crack on and sell virtual crack, I politely asked my Dad if he would go in and buy it for me. My Dad had spent many an hour sat with me, hand drawing the maps of DOOM for me as we ran around level after level mercilessly gunning down anything sprite that moved…he knows it’s just a game and he doesn’t give a flying fuck what you do in a game as long as you’re not stupid enough to carry out ‘missions’ in real life. You join to army to kill legally, and carry out missions all in the name of drugs and or resources. I’m far too lazy for that kind of thing and that’s why I play video games.

 

"With this drone it'll be like in a video game, you can bomb natives and keep your little beret on!"

“With this drone it’ll be like in a video game, you can bomb natives and keep your little beret on!”

If Wipeout and Gran Turismo raised the bar for technical and content excellence in a racing game. GTA took RPG/Action/shooter/driver, to a whole new level. Real stereo audio tracks boomed over sounds of a bustling city, as you joy ride to victory doing favours for local drug dealers and pimps. Originally penciled to be a simple cops vs robbers chase game, the small team of programmers and enthusiasts pooled ideas from their favourite films and TV shows to come up with a totally original idea. The big cheeses funding the operation didn’t want it, at times the programmers couldn’t meet the concepts, It was almost canned at every corner but for some reason, it was destined to be brought to life and beamed into our brains to turn us into violent drug pushing thugs.

The PS1 was now on fire (not literally due to becoming violent) with so much great content, Sony were an unstoppable force at this point. GTA along with other great titles secured PS1’s place as top dog.

After well over fifty hours playtime I can’t say I was any closer to stealing my neighbours car and going on a knife rampage, I had a teenage temperament already, which meant I was naturally either hot, cold or horny or all of the above. Drugs had come long before GTA ever did to. I remember it like yesterday (going against any so called ‘reports’ of cannabis leading to memory loss) my friend and I stood under his porch in the back garden, listening to the heavy rain on the plastic corrugated roof, hunched over trying to ignore the cold. He produced from his coat pocket what I saw him roll earlier and said “Try it, it’s like cigarettes only different’.

Exactly

Exactly

Different indeed, I don’t think we stopped laughing for three hours, laughed at the rain, laughed at each other and  laughed some more. We went back upstairs and stuck on the Playstation and a beautiful friendship came to being. I didn’t realise at the time that this was illegal, I guess people can only have fun as long as there is a limit to it, enforced by government.

I was no stranger to physical violence either with over seven years of traditional Karate behind me, long before GTA being released. Karate is an age old Japanese method of practicing how to effectively use ones foot to make an opponent’s eyes pop out of their ears. You enter a room full of strangers and quite often you’ll find yourself punching and kicking each other, occasionally being whipped by a teachers belt if and when you made mistakes. Had I used these techniques in anger? Not really, but I had been able to defend myself once or twice, usually resulting with me trying to put someone’s foot up their own ass.

I’ve seen monks from Asia smash pots on their heads and take kicks to the groin from a man twice their size…those bald fella’s haven’t even got a TV so whatever influences them to practice the arts of inflicting pain is anyone’s guess. I’d say boredom.

Level 10 boredom

Level 10 boredom

 

Smoking plants and playing video games was now what happened between school and eating. It could not have come at a better time as titles that have earned their place in the video game hall of fame, were released within two years of each other. Who can forget the four player split screen romp that was 007 Golden Eye on the N64, running around as Nick Nac while your friend fruitlessly attempts to karate chop you to death with Jaws had me in tears of laughter, not to mention the hilarious animation. Resident Evil 2 stoned was another level of frightening too, with curtains drawn, walking around as a cop who can only move like a cheap educational robot, HI-FI turned up to 11 and the lights off, it certainly tested your nerves.

For me this was a highlight in my gaming history so far. The days when I’d sit with a mate in my school uniform for hours until it was time for me to go, I could take the game home if they let me borrow it and the disc contained the full game.

I still had my Megadrive, I don’t recall when I sold the old girl but I do remember on the odd occasion, slamming in a cartridge for one final blast on California Games, Streets of Rage or James Pond. The sounds, the gameplay and the pad brought on feelings on nostalgia even at such a young age. When I play these games now on emulators, it’s never the same, similar to the thoughts of child hood, it reminds me of how easy going things were back then when compared to the ever maddening, shameless, money grabbing, product placing, non supportive, underhanded, identity stealing, slutty industry it is today.

There are just too many games to mention here, the step into the 3D polygon world of Sony’s powerhouse was only the beginning, but for a lot of us, we were playing reinvented titles of the originals. The Strike games continued with Soviet and Nuclear Strike. We had Micromachines V3 which surprised many as it was just as additive and frustrating as the original. Mortal Kombat was given more content and fighters with the Trilogy, with strong competition in the genre from 3D titles like Tekken and Soul Blade, there were no complaints. The PlayStation, was the first video game console to ship 100 million units, 9 years and 6 months after its initial launch. Gaming was becoming seen as a worthwhile past time and not just the hobby of spotty kids with high scores and corduroy trousers.

In the year 2000, we were going to see what would become the bestselling home console of all time, the aptly named, Playstation 2. It was also the year I left home, had my first house mate and so, the battles continued.

My Gaming History ‘Part 1’

Posted in My Gaming History with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 27, 2011 by Mortal Mikey

Grab a cup of tea, this is a biggie...

Originally written for a gaming website which sadly didn’t go live, due to the developers not seeing eye to eye on a few things. I was asked to write a piece about anything I wanted and as I thought that every review had already been done to death. I went for something a little different. My gaming History.

After a conversation over a few beers with a friend of mine at the weekend, my mind took a stumble down memory lane and I started trying to piece together my gaming history. I say ‘trying’ because at 28 years young I feel I am a by product of a technological, drug and drinks explosion which has left me with an attention span shorter than an Afghan war hero, the vision of a telescope from a Christmas cracker and the memory of a speak and spell.
Getting this down in words will hopefully help me along, when collecting memories, my mind works at the pace of a colour blind litter picker, who has been told to only collect, ‘the blue ones’. So bare with me…

November 27th 1983, 8:45am, I was brought into this world kicking and screaming like a disgruntled Jeremy Kyle guest. Little did I know, I was, at the time, going to be growing up through a new age of home computer entertainment.
When I had stopped crying for weeks at a time, eating a diet of Robocop food and relieving my bowls where I ever I chose. My old man introduced me to the 6th member of the family, the Commodore Vic-20.

For those of you who don’t remember the Vic-20, which was released in 1981, just think of it as the 64’s dumb brother. To be fair to the beige machine, it did sell over 800,000 units within two years, later reaching the 1 million mark, making the Vic-20 one of the best selling Personal computers of the time. It came with 5 KB of RAM, but 1.5 KB was used by the system for various things, like the video display.

To put that into perspective, it had less power than a Glade plug in.

Crank it up to 11

The VIC-20 was originally meant to be called Vixen, but this name was inappropriate in Germany, Commodore’s second most important market, because it sounds like ‘wichsen,’ a German language colloquial word for “masturbate”. ‘Insert generic joystick innuendo here’
I’m not the most knowledgeable when it comes to what makes up a computers organs so I’m not going to pretend. The important thing is, I started playing games on this machine and spent an unhealthy amount of time in front of games such as Donkey Kong, Frogger, Gorf and Choplifter to name a few.

Box art was always misleading

Space Invaders for men

If the dull, loud, monotone noises made by this thing didn’t scare you as a child, the games certainly would.

me, playing with my joystick

Choplifter, for example was an incredibly accurate simulation of a real war, comprising of many poor rescue attempts and lots of collateral damage. You can butter it up any way you like but the black and green images of death are still branded onto my mind, like the first time you see your old man in the swimming pool changing rooms, wearing nothing more than the locker key bracelet.
You control a helicopter on a one man mission to save a entire city of hapless refugees being bombed to Holy hell by the creations of man. On the plus side your dinky helicopter is able to carry around twenty or more passengers at a time who all appear to be roughly the same size as your chopper.
For many hours I probably saved a great many people, avoided the enemy and saved the day (which usually comprised of psychedelic colours and a manic fanfare of music from a cheese dream)

Computer game programmers often create their games to allow the player to choose directions to take, moral decisions and so forth. Similar to when early man learnt to club animals to death for protein, with a solid object. I soon learned that I could choose my own direction in the game, that I wasn’t bound by the main outline of the story or the artwork on the front of the box.
My inquisitive nature as a small boy soon found me with the front of the chopper, nose to the ground, using the blades as a kind of ‘lawn mower of death’, solving my problem of time consuming rescue attempts, while I laughed like a drain at the small pixilated body parts fly all across the land.
And thus began my journey in Computer games.

True Story

As a lad, growing up with TV shows such as Knight Rider, Street Hawk, Airwolf and The A-Team or Animated series like Transformers, Thundercats and M.A.S.K  Computer games were a way of touching a little bit of that action your hero’s come across on a weekly basis. When you look back at titles like Contra (1987) for example it’s hard to imagine now why you were so drawn into the games world, as most of it was poorly animated game versions of fantasy popup books from your local library, albeit incredibly twisted, horrifying fantasy versions, where thirty foot monsters with nine heads fire at you with rockets and tentacles and balls of fire from all directions…IN SPACE!

There was always a little spot where you didn't get hit

If it bleeds...

Strange to look back also at the images that I often went to bed with after insane amounts of sugar enhanced squash and biscuits. Combine this with sleep deprivation from a young age and in a few years you’re looking at possible ADHD, OCD, OMFG, ABCDE or whatever they choose to call ‘a bit odd’ nowadays.
Games not only have had a history of being shoved into the corner as ‘geeky’ but also as a bit sad. As far as I’m concerned there are countless amounts of reasonably intelligent adults out there who would swat any kind of idea that computer games are a window to the imagination, a way of using the brain at dazzling speed while conducting complex brain functions and calculation, when they’d quite happily spent hours on end, playing chess.

No Dad, i don't wanna hear anymore war stories

Chess, a game where by you move a selection inanimate objects on a board of black and white squares, pretending you are making strategic war moves, taking serious amounts of time in-between moves to either intimidate your opponent or see who falls asleep first. When was the last time you saw someone move a small castle tower on the battlefield? I mean the bloody thing is the same size as the horse for a start.

This leads me on to mention my second ever games machine, the Nintendo NES (Nintendo entertainment system). I remember the first time I managed to experience the new and awesome 8bit power that this exotic Japanese lunch box held.

Nintendo used Etcha-sketch to design the NES

I went to visit my best friend one Christmas to find that Santa had his Japanese elves create him the NES, the thing that amazed me first was the look of the damn thing. I was used to having a huge keyboard for one, the Vic-20’s keyboard seem to be modeled on a speed bump. Not to mention the huge power pack and tape deck.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that I was never going to look back at the sun bleached casing of the Vic-20 or the piss poor games that were released for it, because Nintendo had lit the blue touch paper on subject of games.
Unbeknown to me in 1983 the worlds gamers were amidst the ‘North American video game console crash’. It did effect the gaming community worldwide for a time, which had built itself around titles in the 70’S such as Pacman, Donkey Kong and Space invaders. In short, video games and consoles were being knocked together like there was no tomorrow along with games which made you wish there was no tomorrow.
Consoles included the Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Bally Astrocade, ColecoVision, Emerson Arcadia 2001, Magnavox Odyssey, Mattel Intellivision and everybody’s favorite the Fairchild Channel F System II.

Wouldn't look out of place in the hands of Spock, whilst performing surgery.

So, back to the NES. The Japanese had picked up the ball and ran with it. It was the birth of so many genre’s of games and titles that carry on today.
My first experience of the NES was with the Super Mario game that was bundled with the console. At first glimpse it seemed like something similar to what I played on the Vic-20. But then you quickly come to realise in the Nintendo world you have more than 5 colours and music that doesn’t sound like a cheap keyboard with half cooked batteries.
It was also another step towards the 3D dimension where you ran in front of and behind objects in Mario’s world, which had me spooked at first because i spent at least ten minutes running towards a picket fence, then running away again assuming it was in my way.
I imagine the word around the Nintendo design headquarters was that they were after a platformer that would be unique and different to the current competition.
Different is a word for it I guess. For those of you who haven’t heard exactly what Mario’s world involves (Because you are either Amish or you died in the 70’s) here is a brief analysis.
Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of Mario, apparently lived his childhood in a town surrounded by a forest. It is written that he loved to explore, especially the forest, upon which he found a cave. After much deliberation he wandered into the cave and the rest is history. If his games are anything to go by Mr Miyamoto experienced some especially odd happenings on his trips into the forest and into his favourite cave.

Taking the elements from the game Super Mario world on the NES, I’ll explain.
Mario and his brother Luigi are Italian, plumbers by trade. But they exist in a world that makes as much sense as the game Simon to an Alzheimer’s sufferer.
The world is the ‘Mushroom kingdom’ and Mario’s best mate is a mushroom, called Toad, obviously. Their friend Toad, will sometime lend a hand on their quest to save the Princess, which of course is a gorgeous blonde piece in a pink dress. The bad guy? King Koopa. King Koopa is a dragon/turtle/lunatic who unfortunately exists in the Mushroom Kingdom setting up all sorts of things that kill, everywhere.
Because of this, the Mushroom Kingdom isn’t a pleasant experience for Mario and Luigi at the best of times, more like a really nasty acid trip. Its’ full of violent turtles, mushrooms, huge flying bullets and swinging pendulums of fiery death. But Mario and Luigi keep on smiling and jumping…in their luminous red and green dungarees…collecting huge gold coins and colour changing mushrooms. Which make them, taller.
So in brief, it’s weird but for some strange reason it became one of the biggest selling games of all time.

And that concludes part of my time wasted/spent whatever you want to call it, on video games.
Coming next in Part 2:- The 90’s gaming titans go head to head. Still loads of squash involved, biscuits and retina damage!