Did gaming change (me)?
Starting from my generation (was born in 1985) the world started to change. Video tapes were slowly getting replaced by DVDs, radio cassettes with Discmans (which later became mp3 players and iPods). Most of all, kids were becoming different. Gaming was born.
Young me had three obsessions: video games, sports and writing. My first gaming console was Super Nintendo, then came the Sega Mega Drive (Sega Genesis). To this day, I still remember playing Sonic The Hedgehog with that touch of romanticism. Parallel to that, I ventured into the land of the PC. From Prince of Persia, UFO: Enemy Unknown to Mortal Kombat and its sequels.
However, back then the problem was explaining my captivation to my parents who didn’t always understand why their kid was on some “weird screen wildly playing with a joystick” and why that was so thrilling. When not shooting the puck in my garage or kicking the soccer ball with my friends I did just that. Come to think of it, I did that a lot. I also learned a ton about the NHL (which I ended up covering and writing about) from EA’s NHL franchise and probably got a better understanding of managing things by playing Football Manager (or Championship Manager) for that matter.
As I grew older I became obsessed with games that featured a rich storyline, such as Full Throttle, Broken Sword, Monkey Island (a funny, yet rich storyline). To this day, I credit video games for developing my young mind, giving me more imagination and teaching me English in the process. Chances are that you wouldn’t be reading this had I not spent a lot of time playing Baldur’s Gate. And, who could forget Wing Commander?
To my parents, gaming was the devil. Now, my dad is extra thankful that he has a son who can quickly fix his PC. Why? Because he spends a lot of his free time in front of it. As it became an approved norm he too has discovered the wonders that were hidden inside that magic box.
I cracked my first game from necessity. Bought the original (as we all tend to do), but the .exe somehow didn’t work. I used the .exe from a demo version of that game instead and it worked. The feeling that success brought me could only be mirrored by what Mitnick felt in his prime, at least I thought so at the time. I was king.
There are a lot of skills I acquired tampering with my PC, but most of them came as a direct result of gaming. Be it installing the proper drivers for my video card, fiddling with BIOS and MS DOS, inserting more RAM, picking apart the cooling system, even installing a new OS. Most of this was motivated by getting a chance to play that new title.
We all remember Hackers. When it came out in 1995 it became a cult thing for my friends and I. Cereal Killer, Angelina and an awesome Prodigy soundtrack were like nothing seen before. And yet, it didn’t motivate me as much as gaming did. But, as all things, gaming has changed.
I did it for my own personal experience. Today, gamers do it to own. MMORPGs changed the game completely but I’d argue that StarCraft was first to change the gamer. Multitasking, maybe even developed a new kind of mathematical intelligence.
Take Bertrand Grospellier or ElkY for example. Grospellier was one of the top ranked StarCraft players in the world, having placed second in the World Cyber Games in 2001. Then he moved on to online poker, where was the first person ever to reach “Supernova” and “Supernova Elite” statuses on PokerStars – having earned 100,000 player points in just 2 weeks and 1,000,000 player points in 4 and a half months, respectively. He also set a Guinness World Record for most Single Table Sit & Goes played in one hour. Is he healthier because of it? Probably not. Is he highly intelligent? Yes. Moving on.
When I was a kid, gaming was fun. Looking back, gaming was a tool. Having an outdated perception of gaming today makes me somewhat ignorant of how gaming will and can impact the lives of kids today and tomorrow. All I know is that my generation are the parents of today (or soon will be). One thing that gaming has also ingrained in me is acceptance of things new. It gave me the thinking that, if it’s new, it’s not bad by default. Most of my generation probably feels that way.
I still play. Not so often, but I play. Skyrim comes to mind, EA’s FIFA and NHL. I write about hockey and love it. I still play soccer but wonder, would I accomplish the things I did and know the things I know had it not been for gaming?
All I really know is – nothing much has changed…
Mislav Jantoljak, former gamer