Wednesday, October 25, 2006

25 Years a Gamer

by Anand Ramachandran

Just realized that I've been gaming for quarter of a century! That's longer than many of my gamer friends have been alive! Grumpy. OLD. Man.

So perhaps I'll rather self-indulgently go off on a stroll down the old lane, and try to pick up some of the best gaming memories in all that time. Younger gamers, perhaps you can mine the following micro-memoir and try some of the oldies mentioned – you'll certainly be glad you did. Fellow dinosaurs, you may find something that has you nodding in agreement, while your eyes mist over. You have been warned.

Earliest memories of gaming

The world-famous Nintendo Game and Watch handhelds. Mickey Mouse. Parachute. Fire. Popeye. Old pong machines – I had a poppy TVG-4, which was a black and white unit, and a SOUNDIC TVSPORTS, which featured four brilliant colours. Tennis, soccer (I hate that word), basketball. Wheeee! And of course, the inevitable ATARI VCS (later known as the 2600). Not the nooB silver version. The true-blue, wood finish beauty. Oh, and before I forget – the coin-op Pac-Man at sleazy burger joints all over the US highways. When I was about seven.

Addiction Alert

Game and Watch titles such as Fire, Octopus and Parachute were pretty much unputdownable. Diablo. Baldur's Gate 2. The Sims. Halo. Tetris. Civilization (your version number here). KOTOR. The Minish Cap. I think these were probably the worst.

Adrenaline Rush

Turning up the speed to 'high' on the SOUNDIC, and then playing an impossible furious basketball game against a friend. The final, tense scramble as Master Chief tries to escape from Halo. Taking down a dragon for the first time in Shadows of Amn. Drunken Soul Calibur 2 parties. A headshot with the Ripper in Unreal Tournament.

Moments of WOW!

Exploring a huge (for the time) gameworld in 'Raiders of the Lost Ark', on the ATARI 2600. My first view of DOOM. Every single moment of 'Shadow of the Colossus'. Typing 'kiss alien' into Space Quest 2, and discovering that Al Lowe had actually programmed a response : 'You have a dirty mind'. Katamari Damacy. Oblivion.

Adventures in Adventure

All early Sierra games – Space Quest 2 was the first. Sam and Max hit the road. Monkey Island. Grim Fandango. The MYST series – yes, I really DO think they're great games. Out of Order.

Dirty Little Secret

I LOVE the N-Gage QD. I count Pathway to Glory, Mile High Pinball, High Seize, Colin McRae, Rifts:Promise of Power among some of the most satisfying and fun games I've played. And I've played. A lot. My sympathies to biased gamers who bad-mouth a product based simply on hearsay or limited experience and knowledge. A poke in the eye to NOKIA, who was chiefly responsible for shoddy initial design and moronic marketing.

WTF moments

Finally finding the Lost Ark, playing the game on a 2600 emulator, some 22 years after my first attempt!

Multiplayer Gems

Soul Calibur 2. Burnout 3. Pro Evolution Soccer (I hate that word). Unreal Tournament. But the games I enjoy most playing with friends – Worms 2, and Outlaw on the ATARI 2600.

Holes in the Resume

Very little gametime on Nintendo systems (apart from the Game and Watch and GBA). No SNES. No N64. No Gamecube. Will plug the gaps, though.

Next Gen

Don't know. I am excited about all the systems – but the Wii-mote has possibilities for swashbuckler-style swordplay. Bring it on – that's what I want to see. Grrarrrhhh. Maybe a Hellbrandt Grimm game. Shhlunk!

The other Next Gen

My four year old son knows the entire Halo weapon set and creature list by heart. He knows which weapons are UNSC and which are Covenant. He knows how to snipe enemies from afar. I'm SO proud of him. I'm going to be arrested for ESRB violation.


Now that I've greatly reduced my design consultancy work to focus on game design and comic-book writing, more time to keep this blog alive. And to play more games – never again shall my Xbox see a 6-month idle period. Shudder.

Advice to gamers

Play everything. Try out MYST. Have a go at the Sims. Check out the N-Gage (if you can get your hands on one, that is). Prejudices and biases are for wimps and losers. Tell your children to stay away from cheat codes.

Okay, time to go. Have to plan my 25-years-of-gaming party. If you're in Chennai, you'll be welcome. I'll post details on this blog once I'm ready.

P.S. - Other old-timers out there - pitch in and comment. Would love to hear your voices.


  1. I hardly qualify as an old timer. In fact, I can't say I've been playing for that long, coz it's more an on/off pastime for me. Actually, sctratch that, when i do play, it's more like an addiction.

    Recently acquired a PS2, and my latest addiction is 'God of War'. It's bloody awesome. If you haven't played it yet, which is highly unlikely, do so now.

    Shadow of the Colossus is next.

    Oh, and thanks so much for putting me on to 'Out of Order'. I love a good adventure game, and that was brilliant!! I found it through this blog. Cheers!

  2. God of War is a fantastic experience - visceral, furious, violent, over-the-top action.

    Shadow of the Colossus will blow you away - it's like nothing you've ever seen.

    I loved Out of Order, too. I'll probably do another post and link to freeware classic adventures - you'll have a lot more to do, then.

  3. Shadow of Colossus is a great game. I also liked their first game called ICO. That was also a great experience. I had recently been to GDC and had attended the making of Shadow of Colossus. They have done some very interesting stuff with the mechanics of he game itself especially the animation system. The animation system is partially build i=on IK mechanics which allows the animations to adapt to the environment and gameplay mechanics.

  4. Old timer, I surely am.

    I remember those systems well, though probably not the same games.

    A little anecdote; I played Game and Watch games when the button cells batteries went dead by attaching it to a torch with wires and using regular size AA batteries. I realised the that they require exactly the same amount of voltage (two 1.5V batteries) and it didn't matter if it was button size or AA size. I was gaming long before that and I am still gaming now.

    Oh yes, and I have been that Nintendo buff and I can't wait to get my hands on the Wii with twilight princess.

    Long live the old timers.

  5. Hrishi - I guess you have to remember overturning your LR-33/LR-34 button cells when you were not playing the game as those cost quite a bit back in the day.

    Good memories.

    - Vinay

  6. 13 years-a-gamer thats me.
    Started of with the NES system but had the first great experience with Sonic the hedgehog on the Sega Mega Drive which is a must play game .

    Shadow of the Colossus is a game that brought to an out of the world feeling which anyone can experience the beautiful loneliness and awsomeness when playing the game.