Stian: I have a hard time believing that things happen without a reason. I don’t mean this in a way that the world revolves around a destiny or something similar, but any series of events will lead to an outcome, for better or worse. The same goes for developing an interest in a hobby or a subject, such as history, literature, and, of course, video games. Both me and Casper had a starting point where we experienced a video-game, got into gaming in general, and developed an above average interest in this, as other video game enthusiasts might have as well. With this, I would like to go in-depth with these three stages we ventured through and just talk about the important moments that affected us as gamers. So, Casper, where would you say your meeting with video-games started and where it began to blossom?
Casper: The earliest memory of playing video games I got was at a cousin’s place further down the street. He was a bit older than me and always had a room that I considered akin to that of Sid from the first Toy Story, but he also had a Nintendo 64. There I first experienced Turok: Dinosaur Hunter and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, both of which were games that I really didn’t quite understand, yet found absolutely intriguing at the same time. I asked my mother about this and she recalled I was pretty much jumping in front of the screen, that’s how I exciting I found it. After I had surgery in the hospital and got back home, she actually sold some of her own possessions so I could have a Nintendo 64 with Super Mario 64 myself. Looking back on this now that I understand that we were relatively poor back in those days, this really gives me a lot of admiration for her. So what was your earliest encounter with video games?
Stian: That is quite the heartwarming story, I must say. What a lovely mother you have and I definitely will believe your cousin is way nicer than that Toy Story-villain. My first introduction with video games, that I recall, was actually with a demo of Sonic 3 and Knuckles that featured its first level. I played it until I knew every secret that was possible to find with all three characters, though I remember I was so confused when Knuckles killed Sonic and/or Tails at the end, as well as him committing suicide if I played as him. I was thankfully not scarred by this when I realized this was just a demo.
Though my experience was limited to PC-gaming, my father had a couple of titles for it that I was allowed to play that were more than just demos. Those I was allowed to play, were Caesar 3 and King’s Quest 7. I remember Caesar 3 being intriguing, but I never got far as a kid due to my limited understanding of English at such a young age. There are other reasons as well, though that is for another time. King’s Quest 7 was more my cup of tea, as I enjoyed more the realm of fantasy and magic, and could actually get further by simply thinking logically. What was interesting, was that this fascination for fantasy and more imaginative games led me to hear about Nintendo and their games that I still had not played yet, such as Ocarina of Time and Super Mario 64. Though before I get to my first consoles and how I got into gaming instead of being actually intrigued, what happened after you got to play one of the best launch-titles ever?
Casper: I was never actually that good at video games back in those days and especially underwater levels had a tendency to freak me out. I could never really deal with the feeling of imminent danger that a decreasing breath meter presented. So while I did play the Nintendo 64 a lot, it was actually my parents who ended up making actual progress in the games and finishing them. We did end up amassing a sizable library of N64 titles over the years, including all the big names you’d expect. Personally, I was most fond of Yoshi’s Story and Kirby 64, which I could actually play and finish myself.
Now that you mentioned it, we did also have a Windows 95 and later a 98 PC at home. I used those as well, though most of my games were educational titles we borrowed from the library. I do have fond memories of these and intend to review them when our schedule clears up a bit. It’s fun to see that you started on the PC and discovered consoles later, while it’s the reverse for me. So how did you get into consoles?
Stian: That is actually interesting indeed! I will admit, my father also rented a lot of educational games from the library, but I can’t say they held my interest for very long. I honestly don’t know if it was due to my poor attention-span or just the games themselves, but I would honestly give you a blank stare if I were to comment on those. I also must say, I don’t blame you for having trouble with the water-segments, as I believe everybody got slightly aquaphobic after going through the water-temple in Ocarina of Time or after witnessing Unagi in Super Mario 64. It is kinda funny you should mention that your parents were the one who could finish most of the games you had for the system, as I have a similar experience.
While I did witness consoles at stores like the N64, my first real introduction started with the first console I ever got: the Playstation. It was a Christmas-gift from my parents and was quite the interesting system for me, since it was more advanced than what I had experienced before, it made me learn to appreciate and take care of physical copies, and experiment with plenty of interesting titles. I still was more of a casual gamer and went with this interest like it was a comfortable stroll, but I was always into having my sis play games with me and show her titles I loved or just got. This led me to often finishing a game twice, as some games were too scary for her, like the sneaking-segments in the Harry Potter games. Though because of this, I always looked out for secrets, tried many combinations, or outright glitched certain games just to get a move on. Although I got to play classics like Crash Bandicoot 3, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, even Silent Hill at a young age, it was not what truly sparked my interest in gaming. Though I am curious: how did your interest in gaming develop from Yoshi’s Story and Kirby 64? I enjoy them a lot myself, but those are honestly some controversial titles.
Casper: In the launch year of the GameCube I got that console for my birthday and somewhere along the lines I also inherited a playstation of my own from a relative, which is when my taste in games started to expand. It’s funny that you mention Silent Hill, because that was the game left in the Playstation when I first got it and that scared me so much I wouldn’t touch the thing for a while.
During the GameCube era we played Mario Sunshine together, but my parents didn’t have as much interest in gaming as they did during the 90s. I was on my own a lot more and while I did play some sports games with my dad, for the most part, I was playing games solo and discovered my love for shooters. XIII, Freedom Fighters, the James Bond games, and TimeSplitters 2 were all part of my small but beloved library of games. During weekends I would sometimes even beat them twice or thrice a day because I loved them so much and it’s all I had.
So how was this for you and where did handhelds come into? I didn’t do much with those myself, but you have made it a point to cover several handheld adaptations of games like Max Payne and Rayman for this site.
Stian: I can’t say I blame you for having Silent Hill scarring your meeting with the Playstation, but I am very happy that the GameCube made you discover a genre you dearly love. While I will get back to talking a bit more about that lunchbox myself, my interest in gaming truly started after I got the Game Boy Color. It was the platform that I had the most fun experimenting with, as games for it were much cheaper and I simply loved that I could have games on the go. There was also something about pixel-art that I found more visually appealing than early 3D-games. Maybe it had something to do with the pixels being more impressive to look at and creatively laid out than vast areas that were only impressive in scope, but I am honestly not sure.
What I was sure on, which also led me to love the Game Boy Advance even more, were the exclusive titles for it. Since Game Boy Color and Advance had no similar rivals in the handheld-markets, they felt unique to me, especially since ports from console-titles had to be revamped completely for it to fit on the systems. For example, Max Payne became an isometric shooter that has plenty of smart design-choices, Castlevania continued with both linear and nonlinear side-scrollers on the go, and Mario Golf became an RPG on the handhelds. There are definitely some low-points to these restrictions, but I have always been more impressed by and interested in what developers could do with a limited setup, than how big they could make a game. This mentality might be why I care about a focus and attention to details, rather than 90% of open-world games.
Though the handhelds also led me to easily discover older titles I always wanted to try from the SNES and NES-era remade for the system, like A link to the Past and Breath of Fire 1 and 2. I could probably also go on with the original titles for the systems, like Metroid Fusion and the impressive RTS Warlocked, though I think I should stop here with my love for them. This fascination for gaming actually led me to also be heavily into Nintendo-consoles before I got a job, as I could only afford one console and games for it. Thus I got a GameCube after selling my Playstation, which led me to find bizarre accessories for it, like the GBA-link cable or discover cult-classics like Tales of Symphonia. I am a sucker for this kind of stuff, but I guess you could say it was here I always was a lookout for odd or interesting things to try out. I will stop for now and ask: after discovering your addiction to shooters, what happened afterward? For example, for one being so into shooters, how did you get into grinding in RPGs?
Casper: It’s funny that you mention grindy RPGs, but I do suppose I owe you answer considering I use a Prinny from Disgaea as my profile picture here. While you (clearly) have a lot of love for handheld systems, my story with them is actually kind of troubled.
I got my own GameBoy back in the day, but quickly grew disillusioned with it. Inspired by the anime series, I, of course, wanted the handheld system for Pokémon, only to find it impossible to play. The games weren’t translated to Dutch and I could never get far, as the notion of grinding was foreign to me and, me being stuck with Yellow, I had no effective way to easily deal with Brock. The pixelart presentation that you praise just served to make me grumpy, as what I had in my hands couldn’t match the splendor of the TV series. In the end, I just largely ignored RPGs and handheld games for these reasons. I had few games for the Gameboy and even fewer for the GBA, which I exclusively had for a Harry Potter game and Super Mario World.
It was actually in my teenage years that I became fascinated with video game history after discovering Youtube channels that talked about games like Earthbound and the old Final Fantasy games. I saw top 10 videos about the greatest boss-battles or the most annoying characters, which just opened up a whole new world of gaming for me. Retro became this kind of golden age in my mind and I began playing with emulators to relive that time period. In fact, this is when I got religiously into the Angry Video Game Nerd. As for roleplaying games, these got largely caught up in this retro rush, though I learned to appreciate the genre through Runescape and later World of Warcraft. On a fun side-note, for my exams back in middle school we had to have a presentation to pass English classes and I held mine about the history of video game consoles.
Stian: I will admit my meeting with Pokémon, in my case Blue, was also troublesome, but rather due to the fact that I could not understand English too well at such a young age. Other than that, I enjoyed it until I got older and realized what a broken mess the original was and still is. Though happy to hear that both the Harry Potter game and Super Mario World at least gave you a reason to turn on the more advanced Game Boy.
You know that is quite an important aspect I almost completely forgot! Thanks to Gametrailers (now revived as Easy Allies), I was not just provided with wonderful reviews and top tens, but also got into Screwattack and like you: AVGN. Though while I loved how they were into retro games, they were more comedic in their approach, rather than going in-depth on aspects like level-design and mechanics, leading me to soon discover and be more into Retroware TV and YouTubers like SomecallmeJohnny. I suppose they, as well as others, were like idols to me and I loved that they looked on games with a more mature approach. Tell me more about the time after the assignment (and about it if you want to). This almost sounds like a turning point for you, since you did research on this media.
Casper: Yeah man, I remember being jealous of the AVGN for actually being there when these consoles were new. I also started reading reviews and this led me to rediscover The Legend of Zelda. I started watching these fan animations on YouTube and Newgrounds, read reviews about it, and soon the whole Zelda series became this mythical thing to me that I only vaguely remembered actually playing. Twilight Princess ended up being the first game I ever purchased for the then newly-released Nintendo Wii, on which I also bought the rest of the franchise through the online store.
I think we should just about wrap this chat up, but do you have any series that stayed with you like this or which were particularly influential in shaping how you became a gamer?
Stian: While I personally love the Zelda-series so much that it is inked on my body, I will say Castlevania might be the one for me. I think it is a varied series that showed me the importance of style, level-design vs mechanics, and how low the mighty can fall. It also made me interested in the more gothic and darker sides of lore, history, and imagination. Oddly enough, the love began with one of the worse titles: Castlevania: The Adventure for Game Boy, and I can’t really tell you how that got me interested. I guess curiosity can do bizarre things. For us, it made us really into the virtual world, and I would not have it any other way.