Forgive the title on this one, I really don’t know the best way to concisely say ‘back then I really didn’t know much about gaming and I made stupid decisions about what games to play when I grew up’. However I feel less bad about it when the title is describing me as a child my self.
It’s funny to think about now but during the 90s (I was born 1986, so I didn’t really start accessing games until then) I really didn’t know nothing about games, I was an only child with few friends and knowledge about games at the time was fairly limited. This was a pre-internet age after all and unless you were talking to friends about what games you were playing you were only most likely going to find information about games in the various gaming magazines. Magazines of the time may not have been about big informative articles and were more just game promotion but for a young games that’s really what we needed. However never being able to afford many led to some very odd gaming choices.
I got into gaming during the transition of the Nintendo to Super Nintendo era, but due to my surrounding influences generally being older and SEGA’s more extreme marketing of the time I found myself graduating towards SEGA games. During the early 90s this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing as Sonic had just burst onto the scene but in hindsight given the person I would grow to be this perhaps this was not the best direction to head down. However I simple didn’t know anyone who had either a Nintendo console of any kind so I was never exposed to Mario or the many quality experiences I missed out of at the time compared to what I had on my Mega Drive (How the Genesis was known in the UK) and Master System.
I want to be fair to SEGA for the games they made that were great and do still hold up; The Sonic and Streets of Rage series hold fond memories while for me with a life worth of gaming experiences now I see how many games like Altered Beast, Golden Axe just don’t hold up mechanically and other games were made with the traditional arcade value of being made so they couldn’t easily be completed to circumvent the renting market (the big Disney games like Aladdin and the Lion King come to mind) There was a much lower threshold for quality back then as well for gaming experiences in general so I equally have many positive experiences of playing bad games which while great to have makes me realize now in the present day how much I missed out on.
Outside of what was pushed on me by social circles I also had my own stupidity to blame for missing out on a lot of whats now considered to be gaming royalty. I was very picky when it came to game box art, which decided for me if a game was worth playing.. the stupidity of this again in hindsight was clear but I did mean I still missed a lot of many iconic games or my own silly biased. In particular I found that the idea of a giant box 4X the size of a regular one and a big hero in bulky orange armor to be stupid… and because of that I never played Super Metroid until about 2 decades later. I also never picked up The Legend of Zelda: A link to the Past again because I thought the hero looked silly, I was just immune to Nintendo’s charm in character design, or may have actively avoided it to fit in with my older friends.
My own boredom did get me to branch out, as I did work my way into but Nintendo consoles eventually, but I only really went with the big name games as that was what you saw advertised everywhere; Mario, Donkey Kong, Film Licence adaption games or which there were so many. RPGs (Role-Play Games) which are my go to genre of choice today I didn’t even have any knowledge of I wouldn’t encounter until my first Pokemon experience on a game boy, and the concept of turn based, tactical combat and how it worked with numbered attributes baffled me and it’s something I wonder how my kids will adjust to as well, even with a guiding hand.
My general ignorance of gaming did begin to clear with the CD generation of gaming and Nintendo 64, I read more magazines and started to branch out a bit. I pushed myself into experiencing The Legend of Zelda games and Metal Gear Solid with no social pushing to do so, while it was social pressure that did eventually help me find my gaming self; in 1997 Final Fantasy VII was released to become a gaming phenomenon which I’d eventually buy to see what all the talk was about. To me this was a revelation… Visuals and creativity in characters and plot… it was something I needed more of and it’s the kind of gaming experience I relish today. It would be the big JRPG (Japanese Roll Play Games) that would capture my attention for the next decade expanding into older series I’d missed and new ones as they came out and they are the kind of games I most look forward to sharing with my children, even if I feel like I’ll have to wait a little longer yet given the text and combat heavy nature of them (though with voice acting now they accessible at earlier ages)
The world of today is very different, proper critique of games is everywhere, and while perhaps gaming has moved onto into more social orientated experiences that themselves scare me with bring children into I understand them because I’m a part of that world my self and my pitfalls as a child won’t be repeated due to parents with no knowledge of the gaming world. I at least feel safe in having control and prior knowledge of anything my kids wish to play, I can guide them into fulfilling and well created experiences based off of what they like. They will of course take different paths to me but all we ever be is a guide, and try to avoid as many of my own mistakes as well a few new ones as possible.
Unlike when I grew up theirs no so many games and the industry is that much bigger which means theirs never going to be enough time for everything.. we really are spoilt for choice. Not a bad thing, but it just makes a big more pressure to make the most of the time you have, which holds even more true now I’m adult and it’s simply not possibly to play everything anymore.