The lights are on
Power Member - Level 10
First off, a disclaimer.
I am not going to sit down and tell you "my first experience with a video game was..." I'm not one of those people with such uncanny powers of recollection.
Honestly, I don't remember what my first game was. My brain is a virtual warehouse of random trivia, but when it comes to organizing my own memories, it's often more like stumbling drunk through a darkened wine cellar in search of that particular excellent vintage. A lot of bottles look damned similar in the dark; pinpointing the one you're actually looking for can be quite the challenge.
So unfortunately I can't tell you the magical story about how I first picked up that NES controller and it transformed me. But I do have a number of bottles that at least bear some resemblance to that one, so we'll have to settle for those.
At first, my experiences came in fits and starts. There was a scattering of old green-text Apple computers around school in my elementary days, but it would be a while before I realized what computers were really capable of. In those days I was all about the NES, which I'd gotten from some cousins after they upgraded to the Super NES. I had my own little collection of slate-gray cartridges, packed neatly in their specifically-designed, slotted gray plastic container.
1942, Baseball, Excitebike, California Games, Contra, Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!, and of course the inestimable Super Mario Bros. trilogy. I'm sure I had a few more, but these are the ones I wore out, the ones that introduced me to the worlds of possibilities that gaming could offer.
On the PC front, the clouds parted just right to synchronize my arrival in middle school with the advent of the internet. Now, we had a brand-new computer lab, complete with: Windows! 15-inch color monitors! Dial-up internet connections! Exciting times indeed, and I made the most of them.
Oregon Trail and Flight Simulator were staples, but my favorites were only to be found on the super-secret, super-special PC set up in the classroom everyone seemed to overlook, which was where the gifted program at our school met for class. Here, in this secluded grove shrouded in mystery, real magic lay waiting to be discovered.
SimCity, King's Quest, The Secret of Monkey Island, to name a few. These were more than simple games. These were places; these were stories. I lost myself for many an hour in these worlds, to the perpetual detriment of my schoolwork.
Back at home, the console still reigned. I grew out of the NES and into a Sega Genesis, and even though I didn't own a Super NES, I still managed a good amount of time with it thanks to my cousins. The 16-bit era would usher me into some of the most memorable of my early gaming experiences, and the twin cornerstones of that age were Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Mario World.
These were different sorts of creatures than the ones I encountered on PC. Less story, for one, and more jumping. Life on the PC—at least in those days—seemed to me a leisurely thing, built for calculated strategy and gentle unfoldings. Consoles, on the other hand—particularly in the 16-bit days—presented vibrant little worlds filled with pop and flash, movement and speed, coins and rings. Different beasts; equally enticing and equally beautiful.
This dichotomy would come to define my beginnings in gaming, as it did for many a young gamer growing up in the 90s. As the later part of the decade approached, the contrasts between console and PC gaming would only grow sharper.
But that era of my gaming life would mark the start of another transition for me as well, as a handful of games on both console and PC—remarkably similar yet remarkably distinct—were about to open my eyes to the potential of video games not only as base entertainment, but as a legitimately powerful storytelling medium.
That, however, is a bottle for another time.