Weekend Conversation: Which Game Made You a Gamer?

By Mark Delaney, 1 year ago
When did you first pick up a controller? How soon after that did you realize it was going to be something you would do for a long time? Maybe it was only recently, or maybe you've been playing since the arcade cabinet days and moved gaming into your home with the rest of the world a few years later. Whatever the case, we want to hear from you. You're here reading this, so presumably this thing of ours is a big deal, so which title cemented gaming's place as a big deal in your life? We rounded up a few memories from the news team to kick off the conversation.

Megan's Pick: Sonic The Hedgehog

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When I was four years old, the only console that we owned was a Sega Mega Drive. It was hooked up to a tiny TV in the kitchen, and I would watch my dad play games like Paperboy, Taz: Escape from Mars and Olympic Gold. The game that has stuck in my mind the most though is Sonic the Hedgehog. I spent hours watching my dad play r it, eventually having a go myself when I was a little bit older. This original Sonic game definitely got me into gaming, as I moved onto playing Sonic 2 and Mean Bean Machine on the Sega, before we finally got a PlayStation and I could play things like Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon.

What I loved about Sonic is that it had everything a game should at the time. There were simple controls, bright colourful levels, multiple paths to meet your goals, collectibles in the form of the emeralds, and a baddie true to the name (Dr. Robotnik — none of this Eggman rubbish). I can still remember my heart racing as I tried to escape from the water and hearing that dreaded music, trying to slow down enough to jump into the special ring at the end of the level and, my favourite level of all, the Spring Yard Zone. Plus, the strain of trying to do it all in one sitting before memory cards or saves ever existed just made it all the more exciting. Getting to relive all this when the game was re-released on Xbox 360 was an absolute treat, and reminded me why I love Sonic so much, why I can't wait for Sonic Mania, and why Sonic got me so addicted to gaming in the first place. — MegsonGrove

Sam's Picks: Metal Gear Solid 2 and Grand Theft Auto III

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I've been playing games since I was a tiny kid. I have vague memories of some strange PC demo discs in the early nineties and many point-and-clicks such as The Secret of Monkey Island introduced me to the wonder of interactive narrative.

But the game changers for me arrived much later, in my early teens. This was when I really started to feel passionate about the very idea of video games. 2001 saw the release of two sequels, Grand Theft Auto III and Metal Gear Solid 2. What made the difference in this era was that these games completely took over my life. They were the first games that I remember keeping me up way past my bedtime to see through. I finished both to 100%, including finding every Easter Egg or amusing glitch. This was in an age before YouTube, so you could actually find this sort of thing out for yourself before it was plastered all over the internet.

I learned Harry Gregson-Williams' theme from Sons of Liberty on my shiny new keyboard and kickstarted a love affair with video game music that has only grown stronger over the years. At the same time I was passionately defending video games as an art form at school (to teachers and kids alike) in the wake of all the GTA controversy. I was on forums debating what direction MGS3 or GTAIV would take. I missed my stop on the school bus more than once because I was daydreaming about boss strategies, or replaying one of Lazlow's radio interviews in my head. I realised I was spending as much time thinking and talking about games as I was playing them. My brother and I bonded over playing these two games, and chatting about them in the school playground earned me a life long best friend as well.

In many ways these games shaped the kind of person I am now, and made me determined to share and defend my passion with the world in the only way I know how - by writing about it. — kintaris

Rebecca's Pick: Mad Professor Mariati

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Mad Professor Mariati certainly wasn't the first game that I ever played. It was, however, the first that I ever completed. All of the other platformers had similar aims — travel from the start on the left to the finish on the right, jump over or kill enemies, and collect things to gain extra lives and power ups. This game was different. The Local Government had instructed Professor Mariarti that he must shut down the power to his five laboratories before his creations run riot. If the Professor was unsuccessful, he would be locked up in the loony bin. To succeed in shutting down each laboratory, the professor had to collect objects that were scattered around the laboratories and then use these objects in specific situations. It was the first puzzle platformer I had ever seen.

The final level couldn’t be accessed until you had shut down the first four laboratories, then platforms would appear allowing you to reach the final fifth door. Once the laboratories were shut down, the Professor was allowed to go home for a good rest in bed. Bearing in mind that this was the days before internet walkthroughs were available, and taking into account my young age, I’m quite proud of the fact that I solved the game entirely by myself. I only saw the final scene twice, but in the age where games are completed once and then discarded for the next title, there aren't many games that can share this accolade. Right here was where my love began for games that made me think, rather than games that made me react quickly. — punkyliar

Chewie's Pick: Lemmings

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Back when I was a young furry thing, I was lucky enough that my school had a suite of Acorn Archimedes machines and "computer lessons" that mostly involved playing games like Cannon Fodder (think a pixelated Tiny Troopers), text-based adventure Granny's Garden, and Arcventure, which involved travelling in time after finding historical objects at an archaeological dig. Although I'm fond of those first experiences in gaming, I'd say one title really cemented my obsession with the hobby. That game is Lemmings and I quickly became obsessed with working my way through the inspired levels saving (or more accurately annihilating) the suicidal green haired little tykes.

Lemmings had it all: addictive gameplay, perfectly scaling difficulty, a very unique charm, an absolutely killer soundtrack and mass genocide. Nothing since has quite nailed that perfect mix of frustration and catharsis as accepting defeat on a level and hitting that little mushroom cloud icon to instigate the countdown to "Oh No!" and a stream of environmental destruction as hundreds of Lemmings spontaneously combust into clouds of pixels. Joy. I ended up with an Amiga 600 at home so was able to bring my obsession home with me and a gamer was born. Worms soon followed and quickly became my new favourite way of blowing up helpless little creatures. Come to think of it, these games may go some way to explain my casual approach to safety when it comes to Ewoks. — ChewieOnIce

Marc's Pick: The Sims

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While I've never had a specific game that had me saying "Right, I'm definitely a gamer now", the one landmark series that really made an impact as I grew up was The Sims. From starting out with Jane and Henry in the original game to then seeing my very own Jeff go from a happy-go-lucky single young man to fulfilled elder with his family around him in The Sims 2, I'll always have fond memories of this franchise. Zelda, Sonic, Mario... for some strange reason they all passed me by as I grew up but The Sims was there all through the years.

What had me hooked on this series was its unique nature. Most games, by design, have an end. Eventually you move on to the next title. The Sims is one such game that had me playing quite literally for years without getting bored. The day The Sims 2 finally released was monumental. Coming home from school to finally see it there waiting for me, my brother and sister was a moment I won't soon forget. Crafting your very own story through these goofy people was exhilarating and something that is truly unique to the series. There was no aim, no specific reason you had to do anything; Maxis simply created a playground with all the resources you needed to do whatever you wished.

The Sims is a franchise that certainly wasn't my first experience with gaming, far from it. However, it's the only series that will provide happy memories for years to come because it stuck by my side through my primary and high school years. To me, gaming isn't just a way to pass the time and provide an easy source of entertainment. Instead, it's an engrossing hobby to lose yourself in, escape from the monotony of reality and live out a brand new life. The Sims is one of the very few privileged set of games to give me exactly that. — Marc Pilkington

Mark's Pick: Crash Bandicoot: Warped

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I had to dwell on this for a few days because I felt as though the distinction could go to a few titles. If it was only the first game I played, that was probably Mortal Kombat at the much-too-young-for-this age of seven-ish. If it was my first favorite game, it was the original Grand Theft Auto. I'll always hold a special place for Madden NFL, but that one is more so my football fanaticism origin story. It truly taught me the sport. Above all of these, ultimately, stands the third platformer in the Crash Bandicoot series, Crash Bandicoot: Warped. I recall it being the first game I ever beat on my own. I loved the mission variety, the mechanics, the absurdities of the characters. My sister and I played it for literal ages. It was such a foundational part of our shared childhood that years later when we revisited the game for the first time in a long time on PS3 even my mother gave pause to the opening theme song, like all three of us suddenly found ourselves strolling down Memory Lane together.

There's a special nostalgia that derives from those opening moments, and it still feels like I have all the levels memorized. To some extent, it's why Naughty Dog will always be one of my favorite developers in the world, and why I'm always compelled to buy whatever Sony puts out each generation even though I prefer Xbox. They are forever entwined with my upbringing as an early gamer. The thrill of this medium never went away after Crash, and even though now I usually seek games of a different variety, Crash will always be the mascot of my nineties childhood. I'm thrilled to see the series is making another comeback by way of modern remakes, and it's even better to see hints that the trilogy collection is just a timed PS4 exclusive, so someday I can maybe even earn achievements for this seminal game and series. — N0T PENNYS B0AT
Now it's your turn! To where do you trace your gaming lineage?
Mark Delaney
Written by Mark Delaney
Mark is a Boston native now living in Portland, Oregon. He's the Editorial Manager on TA, loves story-first games, and is the host of the community game club TA Playlist. Outside of games he likes biking, sci-fi, the NFL, and spending time with his family. He almost never writes in the third person.