Recently I was introduced to Man Crates, a website that sells crates that were made to be tough to open. The company sells awesome gifts for men which you open with a crowbar, but only once you get past a lot of wrapping. Even their website has to give advice on how to open their tough to open crates: Try harder.
One of their latest campaigns is a Retro Gamer Crate, the chance to have a blast from the past and play video games from the past and it got me thinking: What was my game of yesteryear that really got me going as a gamer?
As part of a series of articles, I thought I’d share my story; the story that really defined me as a gamer.
Many of you who have read my blog and thoughts will be certain in their minds that the game that made me a gamer is Final Fantasy IX. You’d be right saying that is the game that helped to define me, but not the game that helped to define me as a gamer. That honour goes to a way more prestigious game. A game that’s so well known, so recognisable world-wide that if you didn’t know of it, you’d probably have been living under a rock.
I’m on about Pac-Man; the one character who frequently tops the polls on the most recognisable characters in gaming. The first time I played a version of Pac-Man I must have been a young child. I was in an arcade and this very same arcade featured a beat-‘em-up machine! All the cool kids were hanging around this machine, looking like they were tough, so I got bored waiting for that game… So bored, that I saw this really old looking, almost collecting dust machine. It was a little table which intrigued me greatly but I was upset that it wasn’t turned on. I went to play some other games.
One day, I went back to this arcade and I decided enough was enough! I looked around and found the plug, along with an empty socket. I booted it up, inserted my coin and lo and behold, I was greeted with this rather un-explanatory “1 Player” or “2 Player” options. The screen said Pac-Man, a whole heap of numbers and something about Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Clyde. I distinctly remember feeling like this was going to be a boring game. The title screen didn’t make noises like the other machines and I felt an immense disappointment… But I had come this far… and the man who ran this place was staring at me as if daring me to play it.
Play it I did, as I pressed the “1 Player” option, I felt proud of my accomplishment. Simply just stepping outside the normal boundaries that children take, stepping against what felt like the norm and the accepted. Much to my pleasure: Pac-Man the game started and it made some delightful noises. I’ll always remember when I first took control of Pac-Man, who was a ludicrously simple character, especially when compared to the beat-em-up characters. I felt a sense of glee at moving this little yellow dot, who seemed to never endingly obsess over eating smaller white dots. As I moved him around and noticed the ghosts, it all made sense to me: Ghosts are bad. The ghosts were really bad!!
I made sure to stay away from the ghosts, as they tried to chase me down. But they would chase me to no avail, as I would dodge around corners, eating dots. I then eventually ate the big dot and suddenly: I was in power. I realised the ghosts were running away from me, scared… Blue-bellied and scared of me! So I chased one down and ate it. I felt good. I noticed they started to flash and as I approached one of the other ones, the power pellets effect stopped and the ghost returned to normal. It touched my yellow avatar and Pac-Man proceeded to implode, which I was a bit confused about. I figured that must hurt and of course: My life count went down. That made me determined to beat the stuffing out of this game.
I sat there for a good 2-3 hours. Eating ghosts, avoiding ghosts, eating dots, eating power pellets and eating fruit: This was my purpose! I even attracted a small crowd of kids from that beat-em-up machine… And that’s when it happened. I was on my last life and everything was going great. I had a score of around 100,000 and even the owner of the arcade was interested in how well I was doing. Suddenly one of the bigger, nastier kids pushed me and the joystick, making Pac-Man go into a ghost. Was I angry? Yes, very angry at him.
That’s when I called him out. I said to him: I’ll beat you at Pac-Man. He challenged me back: I’ll beat you at Street Fighter. We got 2 shiny 50 pence pieces out and we agreed to do this. He wanted to do his game first, so naturally I accepted his challenge. Kids and even the owner were keen to watch this as this boy had become very good at Street Fighter: and I had never played it at this point. I saw a character that I felt like I associated with – Blankaa. He seemed like an outsider to the group of fighters, a bit different. So I picked him… and I remember the first round, the bigger boy kicked my butt. But as I was going down on the second round, I found out about Blankaa’s electric attack. This gave me round two… and Round three? It all made sense.
I had beaten the guy who always played as Ryu and the kids were all somewhat shocked. Of course the reality is, I was sort of just spamming that powerful lightning attack: But it was the timing and the thought behind it. The boy was in disbelief and as we went to sit down for Pac-Man… The boy took his coin away and he said “I’ll pass. You got lucky on Street Fighter.” The boy chickened out of playing a game with me! The game that really helped make me become a gamer.
So if you ever help yourself or a friend to a Retro Gamer Crate, spare a thought for all of the people in the world who as a child got to play the games you’re pulling out of that crate. Be it Super Mario Bros. or Tetris… It doesn’t matter what you pulled out! You’re getting a great game, along with lots of delicious sweets. You get to feel manly by opening the crate with a big ol’ crowbar (Hi there, Gordon Freeman!) You tear it open and get your new console along with 2 games and sweets. Yummy, those are some delicious memories.
Now it’s your turn. Share in the comments below what made you a gamer. We’d love to hear what made you a gamer too and don’t forget to check out Man Crates. It’s for men or women who just want to open a box in a macho way… With a crowbar.