Pizza Hut. My obsession with video games began in a Pizza Hut located in a small backwoods city in Minnesota. I must have been four or five years old. We were there for dinner – my sister, father, mother, and another family of four we knew well. I don’t know if I was misbehaving, or if my mother picked me up to see the arcade machine, but before I knew it, I saw a white triangle shooting dots at large floating blobs. I saw Asteroids, and as soon as I realized that triangle was a spaceship and those blobs were asteroids, my mind was blown and hasn’t recovered since.

My mom told me it was a game that was incredibly difficult to play, but that she would give me a quarter to try it after we ate. Our table was in viewing distance of the machine, and I’m told I grew increasingly concerned every time a random person would walk over to play it – like each use would eventually lead to it not being playable any longer.

When the pizza arrived, I took two or three bites of a slice and confessed I was full. My parents countered that I was full of it, which led to a horrible tantrum. I just wanted to play the game.

When dinner was over for both families, my mom kept her promise. She gave all four kids at the table quarters. We raced over to the Asteroids machine, and I made sure I was the first to play. I must have shot one or two asteroids before my game was officially over. I had no idea what I was doing, but those few seconds of confusion completely changed my life. I became obsessed with games – both at home and in arcades.

Every significant gaming "first" after this defining moment is a haze. Atari 2600 was my first gaming console, but I have no idea what I played on it first. I also don’t know any of my other firsts, like the first high score I logged, or first game I completed.

In the five years I've enjoyed being a father to a ridiculously cool daughter, I’ve been keeping extensive notes for everything she does in life, especially the time she spends playing games. I urge all of you parents or soon-to-be mothers and fathers to keep a notebook handy to catalogue their life events. If our kids end up being gamers, I’m guessing they’ll love seeing these silly, little lists decades from now. Here are the "firsts" I've tracked, written as if I am talking directly to her:

First Game Seen

Assassin’s Creed III

Age: Three weeks
Note: You were wearing a Cubs beanie. You looked at the screen intently for roughly 20 seconds before losing interest and napping again.

First Game Played
Darksiders II

Age: Eight months
Note: You made a character named Death walk. You also turned the camera a bunch, making an “uh” sound each time you hit the analog stick. You also touched the keypad a bunch, but it didn’t do anything. This held your interest for minutes.



First Game Completed
Unravel
Age: Three and a half
Note: We played this game together for two straight weeks. I did most of the playing, but you were able to run and jump. You didn’t have the dexterity to use the shoulder buttons to control Yarny’s more sophisticated moves.

First Game Purchase
Cynder from Skylanders

Age: Four
Note: For about a week, you were really into Skylanders. You enjoyed controlling the characters in the hub world, and making them perform their special abilities, but you never used them against an enemy. I showed you how many Skylanders toys were available for purchase at Toys R Us. You found Cynder and insisted we buy it. You played as that character for about 20 minutes. Cynder then became a villain to go against your My Little Pony toys.

First Time Jumping
Super Mario Maker
Age: Two
Note: I created several nonviolent levels for you in Super Mario Maker. The first level just consisted of running from left to right and jumping on the flag. That was your first jump. You were so happy when you were able to do it correctly. The second level had you running from left to right and need to jump three times. The third level was filled with jumps. No enemies were in any of these stages.

First Time Walking in on Daddy Playing a Violent Game
Uncharted: 4 A Thief’s End
Age: Three and a half
Note: You snuck up on me while I was playing Uncharted 4 for review. I didn’t know you were there until you said, “Daddy, why did you hurt that man?” You scolded me and said, “Don’t hurt people.” You didn’t like what you saw. I was playing as Nathan Drake and shot an enemy three times. We hadn’t had the talk of death yet, so you thought he just fell down and needed a Band-Aid.

First Gaming Death
Yarny Drowning
Age: Three and a half
Note: While you were running Yarny across the screen, you came across a deep puddle. Yarny splashed around and laughed intently, but then he got too deep and met his maker. You looked at the screen perplexed, and then shot a similar look my way before breaking out in laughter when Yarny respawned. You must have sent him to his death in that puddle a dozen times before jumping across it.

First Game That Turned You into an Annoying Backseat Driver
Lumo
Age: Four
Note: For reasons I will never understand, you LOVED watching me play Lumo. I’m guessing you enjoyed giving me directions more than anything. “Daddy, you need to jump over the fire, not into it!” “Daddy, why do you keep hitting those spikes?” “Daddy, it doesn’t look that hard.” We finished Lumo over the course of a week. I uninstalled it when you weren’t around, hoping you would quickly forget about it. You did.

First Game Played as a Family
Viva Pinata
Age: Four and a half
Note: Mom loves the Viva Pinata games, and we had a great time passing the sticks to each other as we built a colorful and joyous garden. Mom did most of the work, but you got a huge kick out of moving across the garden to talk about the animals within it. You were obsessed with the idea of getting a horse to live in your garden. We went well out of our way to make sure a horse showed up and became a permanent resident.

First Time You Rage Quit a Game
Snoopy’s Grand Adventure
Age: Four
Note: When you watched me control Snoopy, you thought it looked easy. You insisted you play it yourself. You made it across a few platforms before plummeting into a chasm that required backtracking to the beginning. You fell in the same spot numerous times before getting irrationally angry. You cried, kicked your feet in the air wildly, and said, “I’m not going to be your friend” when I asked if you needed help. You never played that game again.

First Game You Thought Looked “Bad”
Telltale’s Guardians of the Galaxy
Age: Four and a half
Note: You walked in on me playing the first episode of Guardians of the Galaxy, and were quick to critique it saying, “Daddy, why does that guy look weird?” You were pointing at Starlord’s face as he talked. I told you the animation wasn’t great. You responded with “Play something else.”

First Game You Thought Was Too Scary
The Last Guardian
Age: Four
Note: When I was at E3, a coworker named Kyle Hilliard purchased a stuffed animal of Trico for his daughter. I wanted to do the same thing, but I thought I should show you the game first. On the day I arrived back in Minnesota, we ate dinner and then played The Last Guardian. You were intently into it, but the tension was too much. You were worried beyond belief for Trico, but were also scared of his sheer size. You hid behind a pillow and told us to turn off the game when Trico was freed of his shackles.

First Arcade Game
Ocean King Fish
Age: Two and a half
Note: On a vacation to Wisconsin Dells, we stopped into the arcade at Kalahari Resort. We played a few games before heading to the water park. The first game that drew your eye was called Ocean King Fish. You won some tickets for playing it, and exchanged them for a plastic spider ring.