Many people have told me that I waste too much time on video games. Funny thing is, I’m not even a “hardcore” gamer. There is a criterion that a gamer must comply with in order to be considered “hardcore”. You must have spent a sizeable amount of your childhood playing an old-school console such as a Nintendo Family Computer or a Sega Megadrive. You must have played games in the arcade, Glicos or Whimsyland, or TimeZone. Games like Street Fighter, Time Crisis and Daytona. You must have played games in a computer shop with friends; games like Counterstrike or Warcraft, particularly, Defense of the Ancients (“DoTA”). You must have owned ALL the Sony Playstation consoles. I myself fall short of my own criteria, so I am not a hardcore gamer. It’s hard to deny the fact that game consoles have shaped my generation in more ways than one.
Like it or not, video games have become a part of our daily routine. Even children nowadays have become inculturated into the “virtual reality” via their propensity and aptitude for iPads, iPhones, and “Smart” devices.
I loved video games. I also loved comics and trading cards. However, when I started noticing girls, comics and trading cards gradually lost their place in my life. But it seems that video games had true staying power. Sure, I didn’t play them as much as some people I knew, but whenever I could, I would. I vividly recall having to save my game levels before going on a date. To this day, there are discussions regarding my time allotted playing NBA 2k15 and FIFA15, the only two games I play, aside from the occasional Batman. But despite the hi-tech ultra-real graphics of the games nowadays, a true gamer never forgets his first. Somewhere in the storage is a Betamax video of my 7-year-old self playing Super Mario on my Uncle’s Nintendo.
The book Console Wars is a true story by Blake J. Harris, who pieced together hundreds of interviews and a multitude of documents to describe the events that defined the golden age of the video game era.
It is a story of how Nintendo built an empire and controlled the video game industry with an iron fist. It is more often told from the point of view of the then president of Sega of America, Mr. Tom Kalinski. Sega put forth a monumental effort in order to go toe-to-toe with Nintendo despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles both from their competitors and from their own main ally, Sega of Japan. The book also tells the story of how the purported two-horse race between Sega and Nintendo was won by an outsider, Sony.
It was interesting to find out the history of the games that I played. While reading it, I found myself remembering my childhood and all the memories of playing those games. I was pretty much a Nintendo baby before the advent of the PlayStation. Aside from the legendary Super Mario, I was hooked on The Legend of Zelda. That gold cartridge stood out from the other game packs and pioneered a feature that every game must have- the ability to save your game. No memory card, no storage inside the console; the cartridge itself could save your progress- this was pretty impressive at the time. If you were playing another game, any game whatsoever, when you turned off the console, that was it- you had to start again. You’ve got to hand it to Nintendo, they really did make the best products. I don’t remember any instance that I lost my game progress. They also had a great selection of games. Duck Hunt, Mike Tyson’s Punch Out, Top Gun, Metroid, Contra, Gradius, Battle City, the list goes on and on. I would’ve given anything to try the Power Glove that was featured in the Nintendo produced movie, The Wizard. A better part of my life was spent playing Nintendo’s games. They don’t make ’em like they used to.
I only played the Sega Megadrive a few times in a friend’s house. I remember being instantly envious. The graphics were amazing and it was unlike anything I ever played. Sonic The Hedgehog was a unique gaming experience. It was fast, exciting and difficult. I couldn’t pinpoint why exactly I couldn’t stop watching my friends playing Mortal Kombat, their characters ripping out spines or cutting off heads of their enemies. It was a bit edgy and perhaps not good for me, but I couldn’t stop watching. I was only watching because I couldn’t stay long on the joystick because I wasn’t very good at fighting games- it was always “challenge the winner”. It was clear at the time that Sega had arrived. While I loved my Gameboy, that Sega Game Gear, with all its color, was something I wished I had. I wasn’t allowed to have multiple consoles, so since I had a Nintendo Entertainment System (N.E.S.), that was it.
Other consoles came and went, like the Neo Geo, the Sega Saturn, the Super N.E.S., the N64 and the Sega Dreamcast. However, the game literally changed with the arrival of the Sony PlayStation. That grey little flat box had excellent gameplay, with an easy-to-use controller and a broad selection of games. It is safe to say that the Sony PlayStation, the PS2, the PS3 and now the PS4 are the most popular consoles today. Microsoft’s Xbox may have something to say about that, but numbers don’t lie; the PlayStation is simply the best.
Did you know that there was supposed to be a Nintendo PlayStation?
An interesting little snippet from the book is that in 1988, Nintendo signed a deal with Sony to develop the first CD-based console. Nintendo then went behind Sony’s back and developed its CD-Rom technology with Philips. This double-crossing was done in spectacular fashion. Nintendo held a press conference with Sony’s Electronic Publishing President Olaf Olafsson in attendance, expecting to hear the announcement of the partnership between Sony and Nintendo, Nintendo announced it was partnering with Philips. This was done, despite a signed deal and a verbal one, according to the book. You could just imagine how Mr. Olafsson felt.
And the Sega PlayStation?
It was supposed to happen as well. Having been rebuffed by Nintendo in stunning fashion, Sega of America saw an opportunity. Sony was a newcomer to the video game industry and sought a partner. They first tried Nintendo, which was dramatically fruitless. Sega of America, sharing a disdain for Nintendo, was eager to pursue a venture with Sony and the two companies were in a pretty harmonious relationship. However, Sega of America had to deal with its bigger “brother”, Sega of Japan. Sega of Japan was of the opinion that Sony could not develop hardware competently and rejected the proposed partnership. At this point, all bets were off. Sony then proceeded to poach Sega senior executives since they had become so close. Sega’s number two man, Steve Race, went to Sony and developed the Sony PlayStation. As they say, the rest is history.
I discussed my criteria for being a hardcore gamer with my brother. Of course, he disagreed a little. As with any influential era, there are plenty views, most of which oppose each other. People also had different opinions as to what console they liked the best. Some people are Nintendo babies like me, some were Sega innovators and today there are a growing number of Xbox rebels amidst the PlayStation majority. While we all picked between the different consoles, all the video game companies played a role in shaping our video game love affair. Sure, not everyone was a hardcore gamer, but most everyone is a gamer. I have not met anyone who did not enjoy some console time in his or her life. Young or old, female or male, whatever nationality or ethnicity, most everybody has enjoyed some video game time. So ladies, the next time your guy wants to finish the 4th quarter of an NBA 2k15 game (and it’s at least the 3rd quarter already), please let him. But guys, buy your lady something she can at least pretend to enjoy playing, like LittleBigPlanet 3 or maybe Just Dance 2015 because everybody has at least a little bit of a gamer inside.
Berto would like to thank Fully Booked for keeping our minds tickled!
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