My Gaming History

 

In the process of writing my Longbow 2 review , I started to think back on the games that really made me the gamer/person I am. It may sound really nostalgic and like I’m old or something but as a historian once said “its in the past where we find the future”. So what the hell! Might as well delve back in time!

First things first – my first console was the PS2 and I have never owned a handheld console. Once you have got over the shock let me explain – all my gaming influences were from PC users.

I Blame The Grandparents

I may blame my Uncle Mike in my Longbow 2 review for my gaming habbit, but the facilitator came in the shape of my Granddad. For as long as I remember, there have always been two PCs in my grandparents house, one for their business and the other for keeping the grandkids quiet when the British weather decided to wreck any plans for playing in the garden. This machine was a gateway, which led me to play bad clones of breakout and missile command. As time passed, my grandparents then decided to attempt to use the PC to actually teach us something by using Aidi, Gizmos and Gadgets and a typing teacher that I can’t for the life of me remember the name of. These games held our attention for a while but I hated them, instead playing the Flight Simulator games my Granddad bought over and over again. One Christmas he got a Sidewinder Force Feedback joystick which changed everything. Gone was the waggly stick I’d used up until this point, now we had a joystick that bloody hurt when you dropped it. I soon go hold of it and used it every week to play such classics as Microsoft’s Combat Flight Simulator and Mechwarrior 3.

“Hmm, Medicinal Herbs”

At home the story was very different. For most of my life up until my last year of primary school, I was playing games on a laptop with a 4 MB graphics card which my Dad had got from his work. It was alright, though it struggled with a load of different things. At this point, my games at home were ones my Uncle showed me, such as Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine (review coming soon) and Longbow 2. My Dad, who still plays games, played through most of Indy and to this day still says lines from it. Longbow 2 on the other hand was what I played for most of my time on that PC. That is until 2001 where my attention swiftly changed to my first foray into Strategy gaming – Microsoft’s Close Combat series starting with the best, A Bridge Too Far.

“We’re Under Heavy Fire!”

Close Combat was the first time my mind had to actually work hard at. In Longbow 2 I’d flown around shooting people. In flight simulators I’d simply go full throttle and crash into things. In Bridge Too Far, I had to start thinking about the grand scheme of things. I had to lead a collection of guys through an entire campaign full of death. This game also introduced me to several key gaming laws:

  1. Flamethrowers are awesome –The Churchill Crocodile was king
  2. British dialogue is always bad – Bad but hilarious
  3. German tanks are bleeding terrifying
  4. It it goes boom, all is good – Churchill AVRE was also the king

I also got the sequel which threw out the Western Front and took me to Russia. This was the first time I learnt anything about the Eastern Front and all the battles like Kursk and Stalingrad. Most of my early interest in history comes from these two games -  thus leading to a lifetime of being known as a historical war nerd. But hey, I known all about World War 2, do you?

A Tiny PC – A Big Break

In my first year at high school, my Grandparents decided to upgrade to Windows XP and so bought themselves a new PC from Tiny, the worst possible name for a PC manufacturer. As part of this came a game pack, which always worries me when manufacturers throw this stuff in. The pack was a little bit generic with games like Pacman, Sonic, a random Sega collection, Lemmings and two other games I played the hell out of. The first was Gunlok, a rather unusual sci-fi rpg which I have fond memories of getting nowhere in it despite spending hours on it. The other was slightly more effective in entertaining me. This was a buggy and grimy mess of an RTS called Earth 2150 but I still loved it. Being young, I ignored the plot and simply skirmished and made maps. I always played Eurasian Dynasty, the closest to modern troops available with tanks and helicopters as opposed to walkers or hovercraft. And I always pimped out my vehicles with as many upgrades as possible. The beginnings of my military tactics I’ve used in games from Command and Conquer to Company of Heroes all start from this game.

Sleep? We Don’t Need No Sleep

Now we come to more modern times and my first real experience of online gaming and sleep exhaustion. At this point I was still on the crappy laptop although the family had bought a Dell desktop which sat downstairs. And yes, following the “Michael-and-new-PC Syndrome (which says that within seconds of touching a new PC I’ll stick some games on it), I slapped on two multiplayer shooters America’s Army and Wolfenstien Enemy Territory. Enemy Territory lead me down a dangerous road of getting up in the middle of the night to play it online with the Yanks while my parents slept. I was never caught despite spending hours on it but America’s Army was the game that led me to getting a PC of my own. As an aside, I also played the first IL2 game on this PC thanks to a friend of mine buying it for my birthday. This was the first of a series of games that absorbed my life for several years spent flying over the steppes of Russia

A PC for Me? There goes Half my Life!

So at this point I got my own PC. And around this time I also got my hands on three games that introduced me to some of the key things of PC gaming. The first was Half Life 2 which my friend lent me before we realised it had a one use key. This game first led me to use Steam, which is now home to most of my games. It also made me a life long fan of Valve and made me go back to play their older games while also buying every single one of their games going into the future. Half Life 2 brought me into the new generation of games, and was the first I actually critically analysed in frantic discussions written during school lunchtimes on various forums. I still maintain that Ravenholm was scary as hell and that puzzles were some of the best, despite both these opinions being formed in around 2006

I’ve never been the most social or creative of people but at this point gaming helped to bring me out of my shell slightly. I joined up to a Battlefield 2 clan called EAU, who was formed from various teenagers in the UK and USA. I felt right at home. We each became good friends constantly on Teamspeak or playing BF2 on our own server. We jumped into Project Reality when it was released and loved it. It was one of the best times of my life, spending a summer with a group of fun and talented people who made me my first sig (see above). However, I eventually left to get on with my life yet I still remain in contact with a few to this day even playing Bad Company 2 with them. One of the reasons I left was another side project which was testing for the Steel Legion mod for DoW. I am still genuinely proud of my time spent with that mod. I loved playing it, balancing it out and sending off reports to the mod leaders. Even  now when I find my emails about it in my inbox or see the mod online I sit back and smile to myself with the pride of having helped to make something that good. I keep the banner below in my pictures with pride. This was also the first of many beta tests I took part in which included games like Battlefield 2142 and programs like Office 2007, Vista and Windows 7.

Up until this point I have hardly mentioned the other consoles. This is because I only played them at friend’s houses, never seeing the use because of my trusted PC. However, I eventually asked for a PS2 due to all the peer pressure but mainly because I wanted something else to play. This brought me into contact with Jak and Daxter, which is a game I love to this day. But more importantly it brought out 007 Nightfire and MoH Rising Sun, both games that played a key part in my childhood, my cousin’s opinion of me and the focal point of my birthday parties which consisted of games, pizza and films till late in the night. Some of my happiest memories come from that black box. But more importantly it bought my Dad back into gaming – many a time I’d come home from school to find him on his lunch break playing through Harry Potter or the later Jak games. It added something else we could talk about or do together. We always took it on holiday to the various part of the British isles (I hardly ever went abroad but that’s a different story) as insurance against the weather. My main memory of the PS2 was in a house on the coast of the isle of Skye – playing Indiana Jones while looking out the window as the seals flopped onto the beach literally feet from the patio door. Gaming has brought beautiful moments to my life.

There are other more recent stories to tell, like how Call of Duty 4 made a brilliant birthday or how I came to play MMOs but they are other stories to be told in the future. I hope this article has illuminated just where my gaming life comes from and how my family and friends brought me into this hobby. Oh and also why I still buy games on PC despite having an Xbox.

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