By ahoodedfigure 2 Comments
So, one of the first questions I'm asked when I'm signing up (other than my gender... is this a dating site or can we not worry about gender here?) is my, I guess, console/PC alignment. I looked at the choices and had to pick neutral.
Really, if I had a choice, it would be something like "retro" or whatever word that would fit better than that. Indie?
I look at all of these reviews and am excited by new technology, new game ideas, new concepts as gaming continues to evolve as an artform (yes Ebert, there is a Santa Claus, and he's in your Saint's Row 2, adding boobs to your dudes). The thing is, we have a couple of low-rent PC's, a dusty X-Box, GBA games in a closet awaiting the purchase of an actual GBA or a DS, and a bunch of old DOS games that I need software to get to work now. And it's in those old games that I find the most joy.
Is that really a PC? The PC runs the software that runs the games, but those games don't really work on our PCs, they're just digital ghosts interpreted through our machines. When most people talk PC gaming, they talk about getting the latest high-end system to be able to run the latest first-person shooter without turning off all the detail and facing walls so you don't crash. If I voted for the PC that would put me in a camp I'm most definitely not in at all.
To be completely accurate, my alignment has taken some strange turns over the years, and I encourage anyone who happens to read this to do the same sort of itemizing. If nothing else, it's fun to see where one's been.
Our first machine was the Atari 2600. I still remember agonizing over the choice between Slot Racers and Night Driver, and I still wonder if my choice of Night Driver has affected my personality. Slot Racers had you shooting the other guy! Boy, did I miss out! ...except Night Driver had a lonely atmosphere: some poor schmuck condemned to wandering the endless purgatory of sunless roads with only a car battery and the honking of cars in the opposing lane separating him from soul-crushing darkness... See? Inspiring. I also learned early on to trick out the start switch and make the games glitch, which fascinated me, just like finding in-game errors (Combat has a fun one where you warp through walls. Very fun if you can zap your tank behind your enemy to blast him before he can fire).
Atari 7800 taught me about backwards compatibility. It also showed me the creepiest easter egg that I have yet to confirm with someone else, where, while playing Food Fight, the words "Almost Made It" flashed in messed-up letters on the screen when the time ran out a split second before I ate the ice cream cone.
I wanted a Nintendo, but one day my dad brought home the Sega Master System instead. He was sold on it because the seller had told him how, yes, all the kids will have Nintendo, but whose house will they want to go over to? The kid with the unique system. Well, that didn't quite pan out, but being on the outside of the Nintendo phenomenon allowed me some perspective on it, that there were things that could be done better. That, and I played the epic Phantasy Star, which I'm still a fan of.
Our first true PC was the 286, and we bought it so my brother and I could play King's Quest V. It was the solitary reason why we pushed for a PC, although I think Wing Commander may have contributed, and it helped us secure an actual SVGA monitor. That was when our internet connection was through the narrow intertubes of the Prodigy Online Service, and our hard drive was measured in so few megabytes as to not to be able to hold a single, decent sized PDF. I still used this thing later, when I was in college, using a text browser to hook me up to the emerging web long after the family had upgraded. The fact that the 286 was still capable of a lot despite faster machines made me realize that there was a niche for those of us who couldn't or wouldn't keep up in the PC race.
On the console side, the Genesis was our go-to. It was the first time I played a console game that evoked strong emotion (Phantasy Star 2), and graphics had reached a basic level of art that I think allowed me to stop obsessing about graphical improvements and start worrying about gameplay. I guess many people are still obsessed with graphics, though. Otherwise I think the gaming renaissance which feels like is happening now could have come sooner...
Doom drove us to upgrade to the 486, and opened up a lots of doors we took for granted as closed when we could now use a CD drive to extract information from demo discs. Here I played my first connected games of Master of Orion II, full of bugs but still an interesting experience. I played a lot of demos on the 486, way more than games. I noticed that as the computer got bigger, so did the software, cutting into the hard drive margin, and adding a lot of wasteful extras to take advantage of the new technology. It reinforced my earlier notion that bigger wasn't necessarily worth it.
As time went on, things blended together a bit. I started playing on other people's consoles and systems more than my own. My brother and I shared a Playstation, and I played the hell out of Final Fantasy Tactics. We got a better computer that I didn't use so often-- Then there was the Gamecube and Gameboy Advance games through a peripheral. Then better PCs, an Xbox (a year before the 360 came out), and so it goes.
While it seems sometimes like everyone else interested in video games has taken the plunge and upgraded every time the industry asked them to, I've sorta been lurking in the shadows, buying up other people's junk, supporting shareware developers, and buying games from bargain bins and sales-- and I've been having a great time. I am constantly amazed at the capability of independent programmers to create beautiful new worlds (Aquaria springs to mind, as does Eyezmaze), or just good, crunchy fun (Stair Dismount!!!). We see some of this through the XBLA, though I'd say the PC is the cornerstone of this movement. But given all the stuff that I've just talked about, I can hardly say that the PC was my system, or is, given that most people's PCs can run rings around the old jobby I'm using to write this blog entry right now.
Since I can't include that whole mess above in that alignment question, I guess I have to vote neutral because all the stuff above really doesn't fit in. But neutral doesn't mean indifferent.