It began in 1989. I was a five year old kid who first came into regular contact with gaming by means of the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), which was set up for myself and other children to play at a pre-school daycare I attended. I remember The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Brothers 1 & 2 being the most sought after carts in the collection. There was constant fighting with the other gamers there for who got to play during the 30 to 45 minutes we were at this daycare prior to the bus arriving to take us to school. I still have a few chunks of memory of battling Birdo and Gleeok, and I knew even then that gaming would become a integral part of my life.
My uncle gave me an old Atari 2600, and I tinkered with computer games like Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego and Math Blaster in school.. but it was the variety and looming presence of arcade cabinets that kept me thirsty for more and more frequent encounters with digital playgrounds.
Back in the late 80's early 90's you could still find and play quarter-fed arcade machines in all sorts of businesses. There was a Simpsons cabinet at the local Food Lion, Galaxian at Pizza Hut, a sizable gallery at the local mini-golf (Pit Fighter, Altered Beast, Sunset Riders, and the Capcom D&D games were fixture), and the neighborhood swim club's lobby area featured Ninja Gaiden, Street Fighter II, Martial Champions, Samurai Shodown and World Heroes before it went out of business. I must of begged my parents for several hundred dollars worth of quarters over the years, and had to constantly put up with asshole kids accelerating the 20/10-to-0 countdown screen when I was rushing back to the cabinets with more money.
After years of living in jealousy of my friends' Genesis or SNES ownership, I got my very first console (a Super Nintendo) for Christmas in 1991 - bundled with Super Mario World and A Link to the Past. At that point it became a daily or near-daily routine for me to play for at least two hours after school and during the weekends. The following years would see me add favorites to my collection like Final Fantasy II and III (basically the entire Squaresoft catalog was first-rate), Super Double Dragon, Contra III, Ultima: Ruins of Virtue II, Knights of the Round, King of the Dragons, and Killer Instinct.
I ended up sticking almost exclusively to SNES games until 1996, when Tobal No 1 came out with the coveted Final Fantasy 7 demo. At that point I left Nintendo as my flagship console (and have yet to return) and hopped onto the PlayStation. My first games were the aforementioned Tobal, alongside Soul Blade, Twisted Metal II, and Wild Arms. The PS1 remains one of my favorite eras of gaming, introducing me to brilliant (or formerly brilliant) IPs like Armored Core, Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Tecmo's Deception, and Front Mission.
I got the PS2 a little after launch, working my ass off at a grocery store to afford The Bouncer, Armored Core 2, and Zone of Enders as soon I could. It was during this generation of gaming that I started collecting games, and not just the stuff I intended to play imminently. I joined a game collectors' online forum (DigitPress) and started amassing PS2 games and stuff from the previous generations that I was unable to afford as a kid. I eventually put together a roughly 1,200 title stockpile, although at some point I became more concerned with collecting titles than playing them. Despite this phase of more passive gaming, I still dumped thousands of hours into the pastime annually, including a few hundred into individual games I was obsessed with (ie Resident Evil Outbreak, Red Faction / Red Faction 2's local multi-player, Deus Ex: The Conspiracy, Silent Hill 2, 3, and The Room). I ended up buying an original Xbox and Gamecube toward the twilight of the generation, but only really invested time into a handful of exclusive IPs or enhanced versions of games I had already played.
I didn't break into the Wii / 360 / PS3 war until 2007, when I decided to once more change my primary-console's company and decided upon Microsoft's second generation Xbox. The lure of Condemned: Criminal Origins, Armored Core 4, Left 4 Dead, Castle Crashers, and Dead Rising steered my decision. The introduction of achievements and Gamerscore wasn't a huge thing at first. I remember thinking of them like the unlockable bragging-rights weapons from games like Resident Evil, but still managed to earn hundreds of points a month by sheer frequency of gaming and titles played. I didn't develop the hunger for leaderboard positions or towering 100k/200k/etc. milestones until someone messaged me during a F.E.A.R. deathmatch and gushed about how much of a badass I was for having ten thousand Gamerscore. A few months later I joined XboxAchievements.org and later TrueAchievements.com and boosted a few sessions, but mostly used the websites for achievement solutions and working my way up the ranks. I remember the pride I felt breaking into the top 100 players on the North Carolina leaderboard for overall Gamerscore, and as I type this biography up.. I am in the top three positions for almost every category there is a leaderboard in state-wise for TA.
I recently bought my first house, a three-bedroom residence that I will use one of the two extra rooms to put together a true shrine to all of the game I own and my massive amount of artwork saved and purchased over the years. The basement is being converted into a small arcade gallery, with four current units set up (Robocop, Lucky & Wild, Steel Gunner II, and Beast Busters [my favorite]).
I'd also slowly putting in work on the modern Playstation consoles, climbing their trophy leaderboards much like I did almost a decade ago with the Xbox 360 and associated devices.