Guest Writer: First Gaming Experiences

This article is a guest submission from NemesisN1derboy.

I’m a person who likes to write. When I’m bored, feeling down or feeling stressed out, I like to sit at my laptop/PC and write about something. The other day, I was thinking of something to write, but I had a case of writer’s block. Then something clicked, the penny dropped and I decided to write about this. The following article is about a story and situation very close to my heart and it may be distressing to some.

I’m going to talk about how I got into gaming, and what gaming really means to me.

Not many of you will know this, as not many know me, but when I was young, about 6, my second sister was born. It was a joyous occasion for all, as you could imagine. Unfortunately, she got sick. Really sick. It took the hospital about a year to figure out that she had childhood AML. For those who don’t know, AML stands for Acute Myelogenous Leukaemia and is a cancer of the bone marrow. It is possibly the worst form of Leukaemia a person can get. Due to it taking so long for her to get diagnosed, and because AML is the fastest progressing form of Leukaemia, she was given a 10% chance of survival.

As you can imagine, a lot of time was spent running in and out of the hospital, late nights and early mornings, constant check-ups and only ever really having one parent at home at any stage. It was hard. But it was in Our Lady’s Hospital for sick children in Crumlin where I discovered gaming.

[drop]It was on the classic Sega Mega Drive. The first game I ever played was Street Fighter II and, needless to say, I hadn’t a continental notion of what I was supposed to do! That didn’t matter though, the feeling of that black piece of plastic and watching the buttons I pressed make things happen on the screen was enough to blow my young mind. It was like nothing had ever seen! 16-bit graphics! I hadn’t a clue what it meant at the time but it sure-as-hell sounded cool. Little did I know, this was to be one of the defining moments in my life.

That was only the beginning, and gaming on the Mega Drive soon turned into being awestruck while playing the Playstation. As regular followers of the nuTSAck Podcast will know, the first game I played on the PS1 was Spyro the Dragon. This was a huge moment for me. If playing the Mega Drive was the fuel for the start of my gaming life, playing Spyro was the god-damn flamethrower. The 3D graphics, the voice acting, the sheer range of colours. My mind was blown all over again. I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

I got my first games console, the PS1, when I was about 8, with Spyro the Dragon and Formula One. I no longer had to go to the Playroom in Our Lady’s hospital to play this amazing technology. Then, along came Final Fantasy. The first Final Fantasy game I played was Final Fantasy VIII. I put more time into that game than a 9-year-old ever should. My parents weren’t happy with the amount of gaming I did, but I didn’t care. They didn’t understand. They still don’t to this day.

Everything was going great; I had games, friends and a newly healthy sister. She had beaten the monster inside her against all odds. As if in response to this new-found joy in the family, it all came tumbling down again. When I was about 12, my sister, then 6, was once again diagnosed with Leukaemia. This time, it was CML, or Chronic Myelogenous Leukaemia. Although not as bad as AML, it was still going to be a miracle if she pulled through a second time. I just didn’t happen.

[drop2]It was back to the hospital, back to the grandparents’ and back to that playroom. By this time, I had moved on to the PS2. I drifted from playroom to hospital room and back to playroom every time I was there. I suppose it was a method of escapism, something to take my mind off what was happening. I still didn’t fully understand it, not like I do now anyway, but I knew something wasn’t right, that my sister was very sick and that it was going to be a long road to recovery for her. Playing Final Fantasy X in that playroom, in my bedroom and in my grandparents did just that. It helped me to escape. At that time I was also being bullied in school, so the situation with my sister and the low self-esteem led to me being holed up a lot. Again, games, to me, were used as a method of escapism. They transported me to these fantastical worlds, where I wasn’t me, where all the horrible stuff going on didn’t exist. Where I was alone.

As time went on, my sister got better. We had our scares, but it was going well. My sister was getting chemotherapy less and less, and I visited that playroom less and less. A few months later, it was over. She had beaten it for the second time, against all odds. Five years on, she received the all clear, as in the cancer will never return, in August of 2010. The family had a party to celebrate; it was the most emotional experience I had ever witnessed in my life. To see her, 12 years old now, healthy and going strong, knowing that the horror that was inside her was gone forever, was just…astounding and amazing. I have never felt so much pride in my life. As I was watching my dad address the extended family and thank them, tears in each and every single person’s eyes, I couldn’t help but revisit that old memory of the first time I laid eyes on a gaming machine, because I knew that if it wasn’t for gaming, I would have broke down during the time, whether I understood fully why or not.

So that’s what gaming means to me, my first experiences shown. It is a memory that will be stuck in my mind for the rest of my life, but if I had one wish, just one, I would wish that I never had to see that god-damned playroom ever again. In memory or otherwise.

As you can imagine, this was a very hard piece to write, sparked by aerobes competition thread in the forum, and I hope nobody ever has to go through what my family went through.

Sound off in the comments below and share your gaming memories and experiences.

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46 Comments

  1. Great piece my friend, just great. Happy Easter :-D

  2. Really great, heartfelt article. I’m lucky enough to never have experienced anything quite as frightening as what you’ve been through, but I do agree that gaming can be a way to escape the sometimes harsh realities of ‘real life’. Just escaping into another world for a few hours can be just enough to take the edge off of a bad situation.

    I wish you and your sister all the best, and maybe soon you could share the joy of gaming with her. She might not understand why it means so much to you but I’m sure she’d enjoy it either way.

    Also, the earliest gaming memory I can remember is the original Sonic on the Mega Drive. Still got it somewhere…

  3. A truly touching article, I couldn’t be happier the way it turned out, brought a tear to my eye. My earliest gaming memories are on the PC, sat on my dad’s lap, playing Duke Nukem 3D, must have been about 4-6-ish. I also remember playing Sonic on the Master System. I would say that my gaming life flourished with Super Mario 64, and Ocarina of Time, with Diddy Kong racing thrown in for good measure too. I also have fond memories of my older brother playing Final Fantasy games, I would sit there for hours watching, and not understanding, but it was still good fun.

  4. This is the finest article I’ve read on a gaming website – Ever…
    Seriously, it brought back my own memories of the first gaming moments. I think I played:
    Ikari Warriors on the C64
    Dizzy on the Spectrum
    Turrican on the C64
    the real explosion in my gaming life, like yours, was Street Fighter II on the SNES
    The games on the SNES that followed on from Street Fighter II were some of the finest games I’ll ever play on any console:
    Super Metroid, UN Squadron, Flashback, Another World, Super Mario World, Desert Strike, Super Turrican (obviously), Super Mario Kart, ISS Deluxe, Final Fantasy III, Super Star Wars, F-Zero, Zombies Ate My Neighbors and I’ll save the best for last – Contra III: Alien Rebels. I still own a SNES today and i’m still collecting games for it.

    • I loved Turrican and i’ve tried playing it with emulators recently but it’s just not the same without the old 8-way joysticks. :(

  5. My Grandad sitting with me happy to try any and every item combination on Lucasarts games, that brings back lots of memories. My wife crys when the kids play sonic or james pond, her dad died when she was 14 and they used to play them together. The whole family were gripped yesterday watching my nephew play through the final stages of Donkey Kong on the Wii, it was ace. Great artcle, thank you for sharing it.

  6. A fantastic article that has really cheered me up this morning. Gaming is a harmless form of escapism, and one that can also help to tackle a number of personal problems.

    I can’t accurately remember my first gaming experience, as I must have been about three/four years old. It was actually my mum and uncle who got me into it when they set up a SNES and we all played Mario World and Stars Wars. For my mum it was a one off occasion, but my uncle continued gaming, and was the first person I know of to take an interest in online shooters.

    A few years later, when I must have been seven and I was living in a static caravan as my current home was being built, my parents forked out for PlayStation. I has been playing one at a friend’s house, Hercules being my game of choice.

  7. Great article dude, good to hear your sister is fine now! In terms of my first gaming experience, it would almost certainly be Diddy Kong Racing on the N64. That is probably the game i’ve put most hours into to this day and in split-screen it was definitely one of the most fun games to play.

  8. Wonderful article, heartwarming as well. So pleased your sister is ok.

    Also, makes me realise how you all you TSAers are. My granddad got me into gaming by buying a cutting edge games machine for whenever my brother and I went to visit.

    Mind you with it being the late seventies, it wasnt a console as all you whippersnappers would know it, It was one of those rip-offs of Pong with about 12 different “sports”…

    He passed away just over a year ago, and it made me remember just how I’d gotten into gaming in the first place…

  9. A great read, and a very touching piece. Happy to hear it all went well with your sister.

    The original Playstation along with the Game Boy was what introduced me to gaming, specifically Pokèmon Gold, Spyro 3 and Tekken 3, amongst others. It wasn’t until I’d gotten a hold of my PS3 though 3 years back that my love for gaming really spawned. As I’d grown more mature, I felt it was much easier to properly appreciate the games and also immerse myself in them.
    As opposed to the majority of teenage gamers (no stereotyping Dex), I’m generally displeased with being born in 94, not because todays games are bad, but because of all the wonderful experiences I’ve missed out on, which’ll probably never be as magical if introduced to 15 years after their launch. I shall and have made lists of games, and I will play them all. I keep promising myself that.

    • I recommend a Super Nintendo with Final Fantasy III, Chrono Trigger, UN Squadron, Conta III. But, wait, both FFIII & Chrono Trigger are apparently coming to the PSN soon so i’m definately gonna check them out!

      • I played the Chrono Trigger remake for DS and absolutely loved it, so will be playing through Chrono Cross soon as well.
        And thanks for the tips, sometime sooner or later I’ll have to get hold of a SNES for some retro awesomeness. The amount of quality FF games is overwhelming though, will take ages to play through that series, haha… :)

      • Do it. The SNES is one of the greatest consoles ever made. Will have yo post my list of eve SNES games. What a great console it is, dime seriously responsive pads too, perfect for turbo.

  10. Brilliant article, thanks for sharing the story.

    My first gaming experience was a lot less interesting. I was about 4 or so and out of the blue my parents decided to buy me a Playstation. Being so young, my first gaming experiences were Rugrats, Hercules (same as Jim H actually) and a Looney Tunes game. Not much now (or then, probably) but I still remember them as the foundations of my gaming life. Then of course there was Spyro and Crash, to whom I consider the cement.

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