A couple of weeks ago the guys over at Man Crates asked us if we’d like to talk about our best gaming memories, and since we all love video games here, and we’re a little afraid to say no to a company who ship their gift packages in literal wooden crates, complete with engraved crowbar, as well as awesome Ammo Boxes, we agreed to do so. So, I blew the Axby Horn and gathered the house writers for a big ol’ nostalgia-fest.
First things first, what was the first game you ever played?
James: You mean aside from Solitaire and Minesweeper? The first game I played was Lego Island on the PC. Looking back it was surprisingly advanced for its time; you’re free to do what you want and just explore the island and complete tasks at your own pace.
Sara: There are two games that I definitely remember playing as a kid: Spyro: Year of the Dragon and Pokemon Red. I’m not sure if I played as much as I watched my brother playing, but I definitely have fond memories.
Charlie: I think the earliest game I can remember playing on my own console was Dr. Mario, which I frikken hated at first.
Joe: For me it must have been Sonic the Hedgehog, every other memory of gaming is from a house that we lived in after that time.
What console did you play it on, and who did you play it with?
Joe: It was on my sister’s Sega Megadrive, we used to stick to the ol’ ‘lose a life switch out’ rule, that was until we got the split screen going on Sonic 2. What happened to that Megadrive is still a total mystery, I think we lost it in the move.
James: PC. I was around 4 or 5 and my Mum had just got a computer to help with work, but because by that point I was already pretty obsessed with Lego, so she picked up this one and only Lego game that I could play in the study when she wasn’t using it.
Sara: My brother and I shared a copy of Pokemon Red on our single Game Boy. I was five when the game was released in Europe so I can’t imagine I played it all the way through by myself.
Charlie: I played Dr Mario on my brand new red Gameboy pocket, which is false advertising because the average kids pocket will definitely not fit a Gameboy pocket.
What was the game that got you into gaming?
Charlie: ‘That game that got you into gaming’ has to be one that hits every mark. Music, world and character design and gameplay in ‘Rayman 2: the great escape’ were incredibly engaging to me as a kid. Since then I have never seen a game that had an atmosphere close to that one.
Joe: I remember coming home from buying Spyro: Year of the Dragon and playing that while my parents watched Casualty in the other room. Before Spyro we only had Tomb Raider 3 and Gran Turismo 3, and I wasn’t great at either of those. But Spyro was just perfect, it was definitely the first game I was properly invested in.
James: It was when my father was persuaded to allow me to have a GameBoy Colour that I received Pokémon Blue. This was the first RPG I had ever played, but also the first Japanese game I played. Once again my tiny world expanded. For now I could experience a whole new world completely different from the tiny fishing village that I grew up in.
Sara: Again, I’ve probably got to say Pokemon. It was definitely a consistent theme throughout my childhood. But my older brother was probably my biggest influence when it came to video games. He kept playing so I kept playing.
What’s your most vivid memory of playing that game?
Sara: I have a pretty big family so it was amazing growing up with cousins my age who loved to play video games as much as I did. Whilst visiting our grandparents who lived in Madeira at the time we could always be found sitting upstairs in complete silence playing Pokemon. As you can probably tell, our social skills weren’t perfected yet.
Charlie: For me the most vivid memories are playing with other people in multiplayer games. As a kid we played hours of ‘Crash Team Racing’, hunched over controllers on saturday mornings after boring piano lessons. My fingers could take down the 1st place racer with a manual aim bomb whilst skidding round a corner but they couldn’t play hot crossed buns for shit.
Joe: One Christmas I was playing the Spyro level with the scorpions and all that green lava when my dad came in and said we had to go and drop off Christmas cards. I was devastated! But it ended up being alright because I distinctly remember scoffing my face with Quality Street while taking on Scorpions when we got home. There was that time that my sister overwrote my save file before we went sailing one Saturday, but I don’t want to talk about that…
James: One particular memory was from a friend’s birthday party, we were travelling to an indoor adventure playground that was at least an hour’s drive away, but the journey length was not an issue for me and my friends, because we all had our GameBoy Colours with us, and more importantly a copy of Pokémon each. Some were competing or trading, but most of the time we were just playing the game. I remember there was a symphony of different musical tracks as we were all exploring different locations in Kanto. The poor adult that was driving only heard an array of beeps and bloops, but to me it was better than any music show I could imagine.
Have you played that game recently, and did it hold up?
James: I still play the various sequels. However I do listen to songs from that game every now and then and they do hold up. Although the gameplay I imagine likely holds up, as the formula hasn’t changed much since.
Sara: Sadly not. I haven’t bought any of the newer Pokemon games because honestly I don’t have time for them any more. I suppose that’s what happens when you grow up.
Charlie: I haven’t played Crash Team Racing in a while. It’s incredibly difficult to get hold of. However, when I did still own it, and went back to play it I always found it felt significantly slower. As a kid it felt frantic and out of control but I realised that was probably more the people I was playing with.
Joe: Oh definitely! Charlie and I replayed it when we lived at Uni, it’s absolutely as magical as I remember it. But definitely a lot easier than I remember too.
Are there any other games that you think of when you think about growing up with video games?
Joe: Gee, Pokemon, Crash Bandicoot, and does anyone remember that Micky Mouse game that started off on Steamboat Willie and became colourful as you went through the level? That one too.
James: Pokémon Silver, it managed to improve upon the original entries in almost every way, as well as being twice the length, but still felt like the game that I had previously cared about so much. During the same time that Silver came out, my home life wasn’t particularly stable, so Silver became my source of stability so it’s not surprising that I managed to put a 100 hours into that game.
Sara: My childhood was chockablock full of video games: Crash Bash, Yu-Gi-Oh, WWF SmackDown!, Tekken, Rayman, and Rugrats: Search For Reptar. I have no shame in admitting that last one. Like no shame at all.
Charlie: The GTA series really defined my early gaming I feel. I remember knowing my parents would be pissed if they knew what the games were really like. In fact I managed to talk my mum down after she heard CJ from ‘San Andreas’ say the N-word excessively.
Do you have any other vivid gaming memories that you look back on really fondly?
Charlie: A game that really felt like ‘mine’ was Spiderman 2, for Playstation 1. This was before the movies and I was crazy about the Amazing Spiderman TV show. Spiderman 2 was the first time I ploughed right through and kept at it. I also fondly remember my first time living away from home, playing hours of Halo whilst sunk in beanbags or just cross legged on the floor. The second memory features significantly more beer.
Joe: Coming inside and playing Pokemon Silver after playing football at my friend’s house. I was propped up against a beanbag, the Simpsons was on in the background and we had Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food Ice Cream. I was training up an Octillery that I just caught outside of Mahogany Town, it was just so bloody idyllic.
James: This is more recent, when I finished the original Mass Effect for the first time. I have played games prior to this where you are the hero, but none of these were anything like Mass Effect. This was a game where it really felt like it was me that was saving the galaxy. This was because it felt like my choices were having a real impact. What’s more the choices I made in the original Mass Effect travelled into the sequels, meaning I had my own personal trilogy.
Sara: Again, my fondest memory was playing Pokemon. Wow, my gaming palette is boring. My brother had saved up his pocket money to buy me Pokemon Sapphire for my 10th birthday. That was probably the first day in our lives that we didn’t fight, mostly because we were silently playing Pokemon….
What’s your favourite way to enjoy gaming?
Sara: My favourite way to enjoy gaming is when I’m surrounded by people who enjoy and appreciate the game as much as I do. That’s what gaming is for me.
Charlie: That’s easily split for me. It’s either being totally alone, complete sensory deprivation OR with people, hanging and just goofing around. I hate the middle ground. If I’m half engaged with the game, can hear other stuff happening or there’s dialogue that I can’t hear, then I feel like I’m being constantly interrupted while reading a book. Immersion is key.
Joe: Like Charlie, mine’s either completely immersed in my room, I’m talking lights out, playing Bioshock in an empty house on Halloween, or playing a big party game in a room full of people, of course these days the latter tends to involve alcohol, so it’s loud and crazy and excellent.
Hardest question last: What’s your favourite game?
James: Favourite game is a difficult question. There are individual titles that are unlike anything else I have played, it is for that reason that I go with Killer7. With the rise of more experimental games and the whole indie scene you would think that a game made for the GameCube wouldn’t stand out. Yet its gameplay style has yet to be truly matched for its combination of an on-rails first person shooter with the sensibilities of an adventure puzzle game. Then there is the fact that it is about a political conspiracy via the viewpoint of an assassin with 7 different personalities. This is wrapped up via an outstanding cel-shaded design and wildly over-the-top situations and an unhealthy helping of blood that provide it with its 18 rating. Also it has an outstanding soundtrack, which always helps.
Sara: Damn, you really did save the hardest question for the end. I haven’t played anything all the way through recently seeing as my console is back at home whilst I’m at university but Assassin’s Creed Unity and Destiny definitely have my attention. The Last of Us is quite possibly one of my favourites though. Every single component of it is perfectly constructed. I’m even wearing a TLOU hoodie right now. I’ll stick to that answer before I change my mind.
Charlie: I really had to take my time thinking about this. My mind kept coming back to Spyro: Year of the Dragon. This game goes to the top of the list because it was a defining game of my youth and it 100% stood up when I replayed it as an adult. The music fits flawlessly to the world, the characters are funny and the gameplay simple but varied. The Sorceress felt like my first nemesis. Moneybags taught me not to trust suits (or bears). All in all it amounts to the most hours of innocent fun I have had with a game.
Joe: Oh, unlike these guys I’ve got mine off the bat. Majora’s Mask. I’ve loved the Legend of Zelda for years, and Majora’s Mask is such a stand out entry in a series that’s definitely got a tried and tested formula. The score suits the game phenomenally; it’s reminiscent of Ocarina of Time but has a darker side to it, the story is much darker and brings up mortality a lot more than you’d think a Nintendo game would, but it’s not TOO serious because, you know, Tingle.
If all this talk of gaming has gotten your nostalgia nerves-a-tingling, you can always check out Man Crates awesome Retro Gaming Crate, or their Super Retro Gaming Crate, both complete with a buttload of snacks to chew on while you remember that yes, old games were difficult. Even if that’s not your jam, they’ve got a massive selection of awesome gifts, and, let’s face it, there’s nothing cooler than opening your post with a crowbar.