It’s been over 30 years since I played my first video game. I’ve played them practically my entire life. I’m pretty sure that makes me a gamer, and gives me as much cred as anyone else who calls themselves one. I started playing handheld games and Atari around age 6.
The first handheld games I played were Bandai Incredible Hulk Escapes, electronic football and bowling (I don’t recall but I think they were both by Tiger). If I were to give either of these to my kids today, they would laugh. Meanwhile, I could not get enough of the Hulk game. The sound and lights kept me busy for long periods of time (away from everyone in my family, due to the sound!)
Few things from my childhood make me smile as much as when I think of our Atari. I nearly got misty-eyed last year when I saw the Atari Flashback console at the store and had to resist every urge to not buy it. The Atari was just cool. It thrilled me to play games on it.
I liked Frogger a lot but remember getting super frustrated playing it. I’d end up watching my older sisters play that and Donkey Kong. Watching someone else play a game when your 6 is not fun at all (in later years and systems, I would go on to win many rounds of Donkey Kong and play countless hours of Donkey Kong Country). And yes, of course I played Pong but it wasn’t nearly my favorite.
In the summers at the boardwalk, I loved hanging out in the arcade. If I wasn’t playing skee-ball or pinball, I was hitting Ms. Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, or a racing game. I still love arcades. It’s one of the few obnoxiously noisy places I can be in and not be bothered by all the sounds.
My family bought their first home PC and a dot matrix printer just before I entered middle school. This was a major upgrade from the typewriter and word processor machine I had to use previously. It made writing and editing school reports much easier. You just had to be careful when you went to rip the sides off the printer paper. One tear too strong, and you had to reprint the entire thing. Kids these days have no idea…
Let’s face it though, I was most excited about playing games on our computer. My favorites were Bouncing Babies and Digger. Oh, and get this, I got to play video games at school! Yup, in middle school, Oregon Trail and King’s Quest III were part of our computer training classes.
The next big milestone in my gaming life, and this was a huge one, was getting my Nintendo NES. It was my get well present following back surgery in the 6th grade. My parents told me while I was still in the hospital that they had gotten me one. Due to the body cast I had to wear after surgery, I went home via ambulance. As the EMTs were carrying the stretcher into my living room, I asked to play Nintendo. The EMTs laughed and asked if they could at least get me onto the couch first.
Super Mario Brothers was my most favorite game on NES. Partly because during my recovery, my sister was homebound for a few weeks too and we played through the entire game. It was the first game I’d ever beaten. What an incredible feeling, especially when I was struggling with a lot of other things at the time. I still hear the dungeon music in my head at random times…
I finally was able to show up my sisters on Donkey Kong on my NES. And I’ll never forget how much fun my godfather had playing Duck Hunt. I still have a bunch of my NES cartridges in a shoebox. I’ve let go of my old VHS and most of my cassette tapes, but getting rid of these cartridges is something I can’t bring myself to do.
There were so many games I loved, it was hard to narrow them down. I know I played a LOT of Skate or Die! and California Games, and I’m pretty sure Rampage and Newspaper Boy were my favorites. I have to give an honorable mention to Mappy-Land. I don’t recall a lot about the game, except that when I was in a lot of pain or just frustrated by being stuck home and mostly immobile, that game would make me happy.
We bought my father a Gameboy for his birthday (he must have been in his late 40’s or early 50’s at the time). I played loads of Tetris on his Gameboy. I know there were other games I enjoyed, especially on long car rides, but I can’t remember any of them now.
My parents didn’t understand the need to upgrade or have multiple gaming systems. So long as I had NES, I wouldn’t be getting a new system. By high school, I still liked playing my NES but ended up spending most afternoons playing on my friend’s Playstation. I always felt welcome to play with my guy friends, and they respected my game skills. Tekken, Street Fighter, and Mortal Kombat (which I neglected to find a picture of…) were my top favorites, but my most beloved game was Battle Arena Toshinden. I was usually Sofia and I can still hear her say “Aurora Revolution!”
I briefly stepped away from gaming for a short while, due to time or money, also an awful idea that being an adult meant no longer being a gamer. This changed as soon as I got my first home computer. Before long, I was playing Sim City & Sims (and Plants vs. Zombies many years later). I could probably spend the rest of my life playing Sim City and be totally content.
I forget how I ended up with a Playstation 2 but I know it appeared in my life around the time my computer did. I was stoked to have another gaming system, and eventually use it to introduce video games to my daughter.
It was fun to once again stay up too late trying to beat a new level. Gaming was once again back in my life and it was a relief.
Next, I received a DS as a gift which, at the time, blew me away. Handheld gaming had never been so rad. I decorated mine with Princess Peach bling (the only thing I’ve ever “blinged” in my life was my DS). My DS-playing eventually led to my kids playing, and eventually everyone in the house had one. As awesome as it was to have the graphics and sound the DS offered (remember the first handhelds I started with?), I wasn’t keen on playing racing or fighting games on my DS. Even Super Mario Bros, I just prefer those games on a television. But that didn’t keep me from finding a few favorites. My DS is more of a relaxing pastime for me, much like playing Sim City on my computer.
My sparkly Princess Peach DS was passed to my youngest and eventually retired. My plain (I must do something about that…) white DS is still in good working order, several years later. I’m currently playing Pokemon for the first time. My daughters have begged me to try it for years, and I have finally given in.
Being a responsible parent who cares about the future of my children, when the Wii came out, I knew we must get one. My kids were 3 and 6. Over the years, the Wii has received much love from them, from me, and from my nieces, nephews, and friends. My kids especially loved playing Just Dance and Lego Harry Potter series.
Our Wii has had some issues lately. I need to troubleshoot and see if I can save it. As much as I loved the games on Wii, and particularly playing altogether with my kids, I could not get into any action or fighting games on Wii. For years, I wanted an Xbox, but kept opting for more
grown-up boring purchases.
Last Christmas, my friend gave us an Xbox 360 for Christmas. It’s one of the best presents I’ve ever received. We have a blast playing Rayman’s Origins, Lego Batman, and Infinity. The girls love Minecraft and want me to start playing it (either on my phone or on the Xbox). I’ve promised I’m going to check it out this weekend. Infinity 2.0 is on their (okay, OUR) wish list for this Christmas. My youngest is delighted to see Black Widow included in the starter set.
With the Xbox, I’ve been able to get back into my survival and action games again. There are few things better than escaping the real world by spending my night playing these games. Nothing like a good adrenaline rush to feel alive again! I’m slowly adding to my collection.
It’s quite incredible when I think of how far games (and their ads) have come, and thrilling to think of where they have yet to go. I hope I’m still playing when I’m 80. After all life has thrown at me, and three decades later, I’m still a gamer. I don’t see that ever not being a part of me. Through the years, my kids and I have all found games we love on handhelds, on the computer and on various other gaming platforms. We each have our own favorite games on our phones. We love going to arcades. Gaming is just a part of us.
I refuse to be told that I’m not really a gamer or that someone who only started playing video games in 1995 (or hell, 2005!) has a bigger stake in the industry, or gets to define what “gamer culture” is. As someone who has been playing video games longer than many (perhaps even most) Gamergaters, I matter. I get a say.
There are a lot of problematic games out there. My kids are not allowed to play them, many of them I refuse to play. I have every right to point out that games which show blatant violence toward women are unnecessary (not to mention stale). If I’m being harassed because “I’m a girl” and “can’t play for shit” or get sexually harassed in gaming environments, that is wrong. I’m going to speak out against it because I belong here just as much as any of you, my daughters belong here just as much too. If I pick apart a game, or any other elements of the industry, respect my perspective.
I’m not trying to end games forever. It would just be nice to have less abuse of people who look like me in games. It would be awesome to see more diversity across the board in games. It would be great to play online without any worry about the harassment that inevitably comes as soon as others realize I’m a not a dude. It would be terrific if when these issues are brought up, creeps wouldn’t pile on and attack us. Also, how about not doubting my gamer status like ever fucking again? I’ve stuck to gaming longer than I’ve ever stuck to anything in my life. I want to feel like a valued part of this community.
Many of us come to video games because we’re misfits. Gaming was (and for some, I suppose, still is) a sanctuary for us. We could be ourselves, be experts, be respected, even if people outside of our games didn’t get us. I want others feel welcome, I don’t want to hear of anyone else walking away from gaming because they feel they don’t fit in or because fear and harassment chases them away. I certainly don’t want anyone scared away from getting into video games, given what has occurred over the past couple of months. We all belong here.
Alien Isolation is the next game on my wish list. (Sidenote: the fact my budget doesn’t allow me to buy the latest games or systems doesn’t make me any less of a gamer than you.) It’s always exciting when I get to play a game with a female lead. It’s a rare occasion. If we have learned anything from Ripley, and now her daughter Amanda, it is that women do in fact kick ass. We make up 52% of gamers–we sure as hell can play, critique, and even dominate the game industry.
I want all of you dudes in gaming, I want your ideas, your creativity and excitement. I want your competition and your passion. None of us are trying to make you go away. Together, we can keep this industry afloat, and continue to make and play amazing games. Don’t ever misconstrue our concerns with us trying to rid the industry of you. Start seeing us as human beings. Stop treating us like shit, both in your games, online, and in real life. We are not going anywhere and we won’t be silenced.
To all you dudes who are distraught that you’re territory is being taken over…
To those who are launching death threats and screaming “cunt!” at every woman on Twitter who dare say anything negative about #Gamergate…
To those who are adamant that if any of us write about the problems in games, speak out about the rampant misogyny in “gamer culture,” or even attempt to discuss the disproportionate amount of criticism and bullshit slung at women working in the industry, it means we are trying to destroy all that is gaming…
To those who doubt any girl or women can truly be a gamer…
The universe does not revolve around any one of you, and the gaming world certainly does not belong to only you. Gaming belongs to me, it belongs to my daughters. Gaming belongs to all of us.