December 27, 2009

Holiday Memories of Yesteryear

Troy Benedict Says December and Christmas always has a special place in my heart, not just because it was a time for my family to come together, but because I had a lot of fond memories of gaming during the holidays.

These games will certainly date me as an "old gamer." I promise to try and avoid using the phrases "when times were simpler," "back in the day" and any semblance of walking anywhere regardless of the distance walked, whether or not it there was any uphill walking, and/or if there was any treacherous snow-like conditions involved.

My most memorable day was when I picked up Phantasy Star II for the Sega Genesis from the local Toys R Us, the day after Christmas using the extra money I received from my parents and grandparents. The grand total, I believe, was $89! I remember my mother telling me not to mention the cost to my grandmother, who had come along on the trip, because it was so outrageously high. Granted, this was nearly 20 years ago, in December of 1990. Even today, $89 for a video game is insanely high. In contrast, one can purchase Phantasy Star II in a bundle of classic Sega Genesis games today, and it can also be downloaded via Xbox Live for as little as $5. Between that and Golden Axe (also for the Genesis), those were the two most expensive stand-alone games I remember purchasing.

That same Christmas, I received Strider, also for the Sega Genesis, as a Christmas gift. As much as I loved the game, I remember being slightly disappointed as the game was easy to finish and over way too quickly.

One Christmas Eve of 1998, my brother and I played through one of the levels in the Myth II: Soulblighter PC demo, which we referred to as "the Baron level" over and over and over! We had our computers networked together (probably via an ancient serial cable) and played a co-op multiplayer game, dividing an army between the two of us. Myth II was an amazing real-time strategy game made by Bungie, many years before they became well known for their First-Person Shooter genre goodness! It had an awesome physics engine -- and gore galore! When you tossed grenade-like explosives at the enemies (or accidentally at your own men!), their body parts would riddle the ground with trails of blood and gore! My brother and I took turns trying to paste the castle library's floors and walls with the Baron's blood!

I remember playing through Space Quest III for the PC during the month of December, and somehow working my way through the entire game in a span of a couple of days -- without a hint guide! An accomplishment that I was particularly proud of, considering the degree of difficultly with some of Sierra's prior graphic/text adventure games.

I received the game Auto Duel for the Apple //c for Christmas, probably in 1985, the year it came out. I remember playing it on my Grandmother's computer, thinking that the graphics were amazing and enjoying vehicular violence! Gaming back then was kind of like reading a book - you really had to use your imagination to make the extremely low-resolution objects (sometimes they were nothing more than simple dots) to fill in the details!

While the gaming memories during the month of December aren't quite as memorable during the recent years -- being a husband and father to three makes me a very busy person during the entire month of December, especially on Christmas Eve -- I still try to find time to sit down and relax with a good game and work on some modern gaming memories! Perhaps, in 15 years when my (now) 2-year old son asks for "Borderlands 10" for Christmas I'll sit down with him and reminisce about my days -- back in 2009 -- when I played through the original and back when "the graphics sucked" and we had to use a "controller" to play games.

Who knows! Maybe I'll be right!