Editor's note: Daniel's walk down memory lane is a brilliant beginning to a new meme on Bitmob. To join in the fun, write about your own gaming decade and tag it "My Gaming Decade." I'll collect them all in a future post. -Brett
If you’ll forgive me for saying so, I had a great decade. Each year of the 2000s ended better than the last. I was reminded of this when I read Stephen Totilo’s brief recap of his “gaming decade” on Kotaku. Inspired, I present to you a summary of my gaming decade:
2000: I discovered the magic of console modding. My modded NeoGeo was largely a novelty, allowing me to access the DIP switches and uncensor certain fighting games, but my modded Dreamcast became my gateway to imported games from Japan. I’m certain this prolonged exposure to a language I couldn’t understand piqued my interest in Japanese, convincing me to take a night class that fall.
2001: Those lessons inspired me to visit Japan for the first time, where I fell in love with…a Golgo 13 sniper arcade game. Whereas most gun games cast you as a cop, giving you an implicit mandate that your on-screen targets are dangerous criminals, Golgo 13 — Japan’s favorite professional hitman — has no such ethical considerations. When the game asked me to snipe a woman’s high-heeled shoe so she’d fall down a stairway to her death, I didn’t even blink. I had never played such an amoral game before.
2002: Turns out I spoke too soon: The next year brought Grand Theft Auto 3 and Vice City. My friends and I spent that year playing GTA using our own set of rules. We took turns booting up from a saved game and running amok in the streets until the cops or death put an end to our fun. As one person played, the rest of us sat and watched, laughing our heads off while assigning "points" based solely on entertainment value.
It was like a drinking game, except the spectators and the player were all equally invested participants, one directing the action while the others rewarded him for his performance. Make an impressive shot from great heights? That’s one point. Steal a cop car that’s actively pursuing you? Another point. Cause a traffic pile up and then detonate the cars one at a time, chain reaction style? That sounds like two points.
2003: I hardly played any new games, instead focusing on older ones via emulation. In particular, I became quite interested in tool-assisted speedruns in the wake of seeing this famous video of “morimoto”beating Super Mario Bros. 3 in 11 minutes. These videos are made by playing games in slow motion while frequently saving and undoing mistakes. The resulting movie is a death-defying complete run-through of the game that appears flawless. I went through hell to make a Bionic Commando video and was extremely proud of the results — at least until someone else made a movie three minutes faster than mine.
2004: I withdrew even further from playing video games and became much more interested in video game music. I collected hundreds of MP3s, excited equally by original soundtracks and remixes. With my interest in modern gaming waning, I was content to relive my favorite games simply by listening to them. I challenge any Super Metroid fan to listen to virt’s Crystal Flash and not feel a rush of adrenaline that lasts until the song stops.
2005: I returned to Japan in as an exchange student, and I fell in love with…an actual woman. Hooray.
Otherwise I spent a fair amount of my free time in Japan’s glorious arcades, known as “game centers.” I was still very much focused on older games, so I spent my yen mostly on 2D fighting games like NeoGeo Battle Coliseum. Think Marvel vs. Capcom except all the characters belong to SNK. Not a lot of innovation there.
2006: This year marked my return to gaming as an active hobby instead of something I looked back on with fondness. I bought a Nintendo DS Lite and quickly succumbed to its charms, playing games whenever I had a free moment.
The Castlevania series became the dominant entertainment source in my life. I played five different incarnations that year, including the brand-new Portrait of Ruin, which I completed many times over. I credit my dedication to a game-breaking glitch that enabled my characters to get very rich and powerful in a hurry, but I wouldn’t have stuck with it if it wasn’t fun.
2007: I bought a Wii. At the time, I thought it was going to be a present for my fiancee. She became just as enticed by commercials for it in Japan as I did in America, but when we moved in together she lost interest pretty quickly. I ended up playing around with the system as much as the games themselves. Making Miis is a dangerously addictive hobby, I assure you.
2008: A lot changed this year, and almost all of it relates to Portal. After hearing nothing but sterling praise for the game for months I bought it on Steam. It took forever to get running (I had bought my laptop without regard for gaming horsepower), but in the end, even operating at the lowest graphical settings with a horrible frame rate, the game was outstanding. I had no idea that video games were capable of that level of storytelling, creeping tension, and all-around fun. I was hooked on gaming again, and within a few months I bought a PlayStation 3 to find out what else I was missing.
2009: I can't reduce this year to a single game or platform, especially considering I bought an Xbox 360, which gave me the modern console trifecta. Instead, the defining characteristic of my gaming last year was community. I played Resident Evil 5 and Street Fighter 4 online with friends and strangers alike. I played BioShock alone but shared my experiences with other gamers right here on Bitmob. I even found work as a freelancer at the Tokyo Game Show and got to meet several writers whom I admire.
And hey, my wife gave birth to an adorable baby boy.
Looking back at the decade as a whole, it’s funny how everything changed and yet stayed the same. I’m ten years older but I’m still playing video games whenever I get the chance. I no longer mod my consoles but I still play lots of imports, only now they’re coming from the United States rather than Japan. Gaming is just as social a hobby now as it was then, the major difference being that I now discuss games online with hundreds of people.
As for the decade to come (the “tens?” “teens?” I have no idea what to call it), I won’t even venture to guess what lays ahead for me as a gamer. All I’m sure of is that before it’s over, my son will be old enough to play games on his own. What will he play? What will he think about it? I can’t wait to find out.
Soon, my boy. Very soon.