Every single gamer out there will have a different history with the industry; a different set of games that were influential for them. Oh, and for the record, when I say “influential” I am talking about a personal level and not an industry level.
So for today, inspired by a series of old episodes from the NGP Podcast, I wanted to take a look back at my own history with gaming. By doing this, hopefully, you’ll get to know this random blogger a bit better. And who knows; you might even decide to share your own history with gaming! So, let’s get started, shall we? It’s time to travel back to 1993, to a small little Mobile Home Park in Cambridgeshire, where a little boy is just about to get a life-changing gift.
Just for clarification; these are the games that had the biggest influence on me but not necessarily my “favourite” games… Although, some of the ones listed are in my top 10.
The Beginning of the End (Of My Social Life)
I mean, who needs a social life, right? Anyway, when I was just 5 years old my mother was raising me by herself whilst also working too. That meant that she was (naturally) very tired a lot of the time. So, after hearing other parents talking about how their kids would spend hours playing on this new thing called a “Mega Drive”, she decided it was worth a purchase.
We got a few games with the console, but I don’t really remember what they were… That’s probably a bit of a spoiler for what happened next.
You see, strangely enough, I didn’t actually take an interest in it at the time. That’s quite funny to think about now, considering how much I love gaming. But yeah, the Mega Drive basically sat on the TV stand unused for about a year or so.
It wasn’t until we moved out of the Mobile Home Park and to a nearby village that I really started to play it. That brings us to the first game that I consider personally influential…
You see, a friend that I made at the new school also had a Mega Drive and one very specific game that we spent far too much time playing; Dungeons & Dragons: Warriors of the Eternal Sun.
This top down RPG took hold of me pretty much instantly, as well as being the very first game I ever played. The idea of going on some epic adventure blew my mind. On top of that, I really enjoyed the idea of creating my very own characters and then watching them grow in strength or prowess.
It probably says a lot that the first game I played in my life was an RPG. And that’s precisely why I consider Dungeons & Dragons: Warriors of the Eternal Sun to be so influential to me. That game managed to both get me into gaming as a whole and also start my love for the RPG genre.
Evolving My Enjoyment
Following that, my gaming on the Mega Drive was filled with Sonic games (including Sonic 3D) and a few other games… Although I would also say the second influential game would be amongst them.
After a couple of years, I picked up a little fighting game called Brutal: Paws of Fury. For those who don’t know, it’s a reasonable 2D fighter where you control anthropomorphic characters, beating each other into submission. The gameplay wasn’t outstanding, for sure, but I loved it. I put hours into that game trying to get my head around all of the combos.
As such, Brutal: Paws of Fury was the first game where I actually practised and spent time grinding at a game. The fact that I am completely fine with spending hours grinding the same battles over and over to get strong comes from the time I was playing Brutal.
Re-entering The Fantasy
We’re going to take the first of a few time jumps next… You see, whilst I did play various games on the Mega Drive after Brutal: Paws of Fury, none of them were particularly influential for me. Not even Sonic… I mean, I love the Sonic games but they didn’t really influence my fondness for any particular aspect of video games.
So, instead, we are going to move forward to 1997.
At the time, we had just bought our very first PC; a Fujitsu Cordant, if I remember correctly. With it came only one game, Little Big Adventure. That was a very fun game to get me started with PC gaming but didn’t really hook me. It wasn’t until a friend of my mother came around with a game for me that I actually started gaming on PCs.
You see, he had purchased this game based on the epic trailer but then found that it just wasn’t the sort of thing he liked. He was a big Dungeons and Dragons player, but this particular RPG stumped him. He just couldn’t get on with it and couldn’t even make it passed the first boss; a “weird scorpion thing” as he described it.
Have you guessed what it is yet?
That’s right! The next influential game for me was Final Fantasy VII. But probably not for the reasons you would expect. You see, I had previous experience with the Final Fantasy series already as a friend of mine had an American SNES and we played some of Final Fantasy III (actually VI). I really enjoyed Final Fantasy VI and that was my entry into the franchise.
With that said, Final Fantasy VII was more influential for three reasons;
- Final Fantasy VII for the PC was the first Final Fantasy game I personally owned.
- It was also the first Final Fantasy that I finished.
- Thirdly, it was the game that cemented the idea of PCs are a gaming system in my head. Previously, I’d viewed them as tools for schools and homework only.
From then on, I would always be torn between my console gaming routes and the new PC gaming world that I had been exposed to. So, I guess, the biggest reason why Final Fantasy VII was influential to me was that it is the sole reason why I sit firmly on the fence between console and PC gaming.
A Darker World
The next step in my history with gaming is very close in time to the last one. You see, my very first PlayStation was a gift from a man that my mother was seeing at the time. He brought it over for me with a modchip inside and a bunch of games from the States. So yeah, my very first PlayStation was modded to play import games and that would play a big part in my gaming experiences for the next few years.
In amongst those stack of games was one that instantly caught my attention; Final Fantasy Tactics.
Before playing through Final Fantasy Tactics, my experience with JRPGs had largely been focused on the other Final Fantasy games. Those are much easier to play and much lighter in tone than Tactics was. In fact, Final Fantasy Tactics was the game that taught me that it is okay to lose and try again. I had to do it a lot.
It taught me to think things through and gather all of the data before making a decision, as one wrong decision can spell disaster.
The funniest thing about that, though, is the fact that I do that every day in my job now. I ended up getting into a career where data analysis and understanding is paramount to success… And I love it. That could very well be traced back to my time playing Final Fantasy Tactics.
On a little interjection and sidenote, when I had planned out this post I hadn’t made the connection between Final Fantasy Tactics and my career… I literally just realised it when writing this.
On top of that, Final Fantasy Tactics is a very dark and emotional game. That took me by surprise, considering the amount of betrayal, murder and demons in the game. Yet, I adored the storyline. It had a resounding effect on me that permeated into all other forms of media.
Ever since playing through Final Fantasy Tactics, I have had a soft spot for storylines that are really heavy and very dark. That’s probably why The Crow is my favourite comic book and why I love things like Game of Thrones.
A Fantasy Across The Pond
You may have noticed that there is a large prominence of RPGs in this post so far, and that really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has been reading the blog, following me on Twitter or watching my streams over on Twitch. After all, RPGs are my favourite genre of games. As such, the next game that had an influence on my gaming history is another Role-Playing Game.
Now, I’m not ashamed to say that before this game (as mentioned earlier) I had pretty much only played Final Fantasy games when looking at RPGs. Yes, there was Dungeons and Dragons on the Mega Drive, but that was literally the only non-Final Fantasy RPG I had played.
So, Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete holds a very strong place on this list by not only being the first game that I imported myself, but also being the first non-Final Fantasy J-RPG I ever played. It showed me that amazing storylines and incredibly fun Role-Playing Games weren’t limited to just Final Fantasy and Squaresoft. Suddenly, there was a whole new world of RPGs for me to experience.
Remembering The Undead
With that in mind, this blog and my passion for RPGs, in general, came from me seeing the cover art of Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete and deciding that it looked cool enough to import.
Following my mind being blown wide open by Lunar, we’re next going to move on to blowing up the heads of others. Specifically, shooting zombies in the face with a shotgun. Up until this point, I hadn’t been allowed to play any scary games. In fact, at the time I first played Resident Evil, I still wasn’t allowed to play them… Luckily, a friend of mine had it so we would play it at his house. Sorry, Mum!
I will never forget the first time we sat down to play it. We got to that corridor and I jumped out of my skin. It was an amazing feeling. Who would have thought that a video game could elicit an adrenaline rush?
At that point, both my friend and I became determined to complete Resident Evil. Then, I went on to complete Resident Evil 2… And 3… And Survivor… And Dino Crisis… And Dino Crisis 2… And Silent Hill…
In case you haven’t figured it out, Survival Horror is my second favourite genre behind RPGs. That all comes down to that first day playing Resident Evil.
This next entry is going to come as no surprise for anyone who knows me. We’ve covered a lot of RPGs so far and have now touched on how my love for Survival Horror came about. However, by the end of 1999, I had saturated my brain with both of these genres. The tropes and typical mechanics of the genres had started to become stale for me.
Then, one day, I was in Gamestation looking through the PS1 games and spotted a very dark and foreboding cover. It had a young woman and a creepy monster on it. Looking at the back, I saw it was an RPG, but it looked a bit different. There was something horrifying about the aesthetic. I had to buy it.
That day, I started playing it immediately after I got home. Instantly, I was thrown into a dark monastery in Wales that was now filled with monsters, yet I was fighting them in a similar manner to Final Fantasy Tactics.
The game was Koudelka, and my fate had been sealed.
I played that game over and over. I wanted to explore and find every little detail; to soak up every last ounce that the game had to give. Renewed was my love for the RPG and horror genres, as Koudelka managed to mix both. It took everything I loved about dark stories, RPG gameplay and horror elements, smashing them together at the perfect point in time for me.
Koudelka brought me back from the brink of losing interest in RPGs and Survival Horror. That one game solidified the future of my gaming, so not only is it my favourite game to date, but also one of the most influential and important games in my gaming history.
Things Can Always Get Darker
Continuing on from my descent into the darker side of RPGs, this next game took everything to another level… It was yet another PlayStation game that I imported from the States, since it wasn’t released in the UK.
Persona 2: Eternal Punishment was the very first Shin Megami Tensei game that I ever played. Going into it, I had no idea what to expect, other than the cover art looked interesting. Yet I was soon faced with a serial killer who murders his victims using demons! If that isn’t an amazing start to a game, then I don’t know what is.
From there, it just gets darker and stranger with every minute! And whilst I don’t consider Eternal Punishment to be influential to my love for dark storylines since I was already there, it was very influential in that it introduced me to one of the best RPG series that has ever existed (in my opinion). I have since gone on to play almost all of the Shin Megami Tensei games, including the MMORPG!
The Lost Village
The last two games we are going to look at today involve time jumps forward once again. The first one came out in 2003 on the PlayStation 2. To this date, it is the only game that has scared me enough that I can’t get through it!
Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly was the first Fatal Frame (or Project Zero, over here) game that I played. It was also the first Survival Horror game I played where you couldn’t fight back with standard weapons… After experiencing things like Resident Evil, Silent Hill and Dino Crisis, suddenly I was being attacked by ghosts with nothing but a camera to protect me.
This was the very first game to truly scare me. It made me feel lost and alone, isolated with little chance of survival. That feeling stuck with me, and comes back every time I play the game.
These days, I love horror games where you can’t fight back at all. But I truly believe that adoration came from experiencing a sense of sheer helplessness whilst playing Fatal Frame 2. Where Final Fantasy Tactics and Koudelka solidified my love for RPGs, Fatal Frame 2 locked in my obsession with Survival Horror.
Finding Beauty In Negative Spaces
The very last game we are going to talk about, when it comes to the most influential games for me as a gamer, is actually very recent. In fact, it is a PS4 game.
On a side note, if anyone gets the reference in this section’s heading without Googling it, you’re extra awesome!
There have been many games out there that I would consider works of art, whether that be in terms of storyline or graphics. But I’ve never been someone to sit there and capture screenshots or take photos. Even when Photo Mode became a thing, I wasn’t interested in it at all.
Then I played Horizon: Zero Dawn.
The majestic beauty of Horizon’s landscapes took me by complete surprise. When I first started the game and had to sneak over to the young boy, I stopped and stared at the screen, mouth wide open. It was an unbelievable sight. Straight away, I started using Photo Mode to get the perfect shots. The world was just too outstanding to not save in digital memory form.
Horizon: Zero Dawn was the first game that ever made me want to take screenshots… Since then, I have done it with the likes of Breath of the Wild and Xenoblade Chronicles 2, or even Valkyria Chronicles when I went back to that.
Whilst games like Shadow of the Colossus made me understand that games were an art form, it was Horizon: Zero Dawn that made me truly appreciate that side of gaming.
And That’s All Folks
That was a brief look into my history with games and a not-so-brief look at the games that were most influential to me. There is definitely a lot of RPGs in there, which shouldn’t be surprising. But each of these games had a somewhat profound effect on me…
What were the most influential games for you over the years? How did they affect your gaming experiences (or your life in general)? Let me know in the comments below!
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- Retro Gaming
- 1st October 2019