I’m An Old-Ass Gamer, Whipper-Snapper! Now Listen Up!
Awhile back (maybe 12 years ago) someone gave me some real grief on playing games, even going so far as to inform me that “I obviously hadn’t played many, and didn’t have much exposure to games.” It was all assumption on his part, being one of those folks who have their (excessive, tenuously founded) pride, and really don’t like facts. His assumption neglected the knowledge of 3D and 2D art design I have, various packages I learned, how every aspect of a game functions, (and why), and all the effort it takes to create those assets. Suffice to say, I laughed at him; I’ve been playing video games since before they had video! If you’d like to take a trip with me through the digital snow, uphill both ways, head on past the break!
Why his comment made me laugh is a funny story with a long past. I laughed because my first game experience wasn’t a video game, but a computer game. When I was a freshman in high school, the computer lab was connected to city hall, and a number of teletypes were connected to it to write programs in basic.
This was back when the dot matrix printer first appeared, and people marveled at how quickly it created text on a page. Yet, the machine I was able to use (as all the big nerds were hogging the dot matrix, about 1975) was a Teletype. A teletype, for those who do not know, is basically a glorified typewriter connected to an ancient computer via a wire. There were no “graphics”, everything that happened was imagined inside your own head.
That’s right: the game printed out on paper.
I have watched computers grow up, and become useful. When I was a kid, calculators were a big deal. And, they were expensive. I have played games nearly the entire way. Whether PC or in the arcade, on the first (now old) Atari console when 1 big pixel amounted to a scary dragon. You had a pixel with a sword for your character. and, “analog” pinball machines were big competition.
That was why I laughed. I laughed because I had seen and played so much, and the worlds were all displayed in so many ways, and he was essentially a spoiled swiss cheese-head with but one narrow “high resolution texture” viewpoint. His first computer likely was smaller than the memory chip of the first one I experienced. (yeah, that’s a joke). My best prank on him was bogus DOA codes (Xbox) on April fools day, alleged to make the girls undress if you did it right. Yeah, he tried to get those gals naked for like, maybe 3 hours. Funny stuff, when the person often brags about how smart they are. Real funny stuff, when you consider the long context of our disparate experiences.
So…I don’t consider myself a “journalist.” Nor do I make or build games for a living, though I have spent years making and designing graphics for other industries. I understand what it requires, and how difficult it can be, as I worked in related fields. I’m just some guy who has played a lot of games, seen a lot of games, been to far too many E3’s, and enjoy games like I once enjoyed the many varied worlds I found in books. And really, the fun part about all this is that while I could sit around feeling very old when I consider where I started in gaming, instead I prefer to focus on how good things have become and realize that now, a well-told story in a game can actually make me feel quite young.