My Gaming Life… So Far

I saw a post on Twitter a few weeks ago, asking “what was the most significant game from each console you’ve owned?” This got me thinking immediately. It wasn’t hard to come up with a list until I got to more recent consoles, as I got into gaming fairly late in comparison to my friends. I then began to think of the strongest memories I had instead – feel free to share yours below.

Be warned. There may are some spoilers ahead…

The Start Of A Long Journey

Where did it all begin? I remember visiting my cousin’s house when I was 8 or 9. He sat me down and I watched as he turned on the huge black and green box in front of me (pretty sure anyone who knows me a little knows where this is going). This was the first time I was introduced to the one, the only – Master Chief Petty Officer John-117.

Of course, I wasn’t allowed to play. I wasn’t old enough to play and therefore I couldn’t be trusted. But I was transfixed on the screen, the large vast open spaces, the rattle of the assault rifle and the bright coloured grunts and elites running in terror from him. By the time he reached the Warthog, my head nearly exploded with excitement. I hadn’t seen anything like this in my life. Chief was on the ground running one second and then he was treating the island like his personal rally track the next.

I watched him play Halo: Combat Evolved for hours, barely moving a muscle. Then things went sideways. We’d entered a bunker in search of a missing squad of Marines. However, what we found was horrifying; lifeless husks that seemingly came from everywhere. They roared and snarled as they charged forward towards us in huge numbers – ten to twenty felt like hundreds, maybe even thousands. We’d found the Flood. I wanted to look away but I couldn’t move. I was actually frozen in terror.

When I finally found the strength to move, I made it as far as the back of the sofa… and I cried.

Not my proudest moment.

Game One

For Christmas when I was 12, I got my first console; a PlayStation 2 (to share with my sister). We had two games; Need for Speed: Underground 2 and Dance: UK (with a dance mat). It would take me nearly three years to give the latter a go and realise it was stupidly fun. Until then, Underground 2 was the only game for me.

I started with a Peugeot 106 (coincidentally, the first actual car of most of my friends). I made it bright orange with a ridiculously large spoiler because everyone knows that’s what makes a car faster. Safe to say, it was an abomination. I’m pretty sure I knew this at the time, but I didn’t care. I raced that car as far as it could take me.

Everything about this game was perfect to me. I don’t remember a single glitch or exploit. If there were any flaws, to this day I still don’t know them. I even tried to put the disk in the family PC to get the soundtrack (in case you were wondering, it didn’t work).

Then it was time for an upgrade so I chose the Toyota Celica. In case you don’t know about cars, it already started as being an abomination, so anything I did could only improve it – especially the bright yellow neon and (once again) the biggest spoiler available. That car carried me to the game’s end.

I spent hours playing when I could, racing to the PS2 and arguing with my sister over whether I could play yet. But every single time, regardless of how much of a hassle getting the controller was, I was – and forever will be – soothed by hearing the first sweet beats of Snoop Dogg feat. The Doors “Riders on the Storm“.

The First Of Many Shooters

After months of hearing from my friends playing shooter games and feeling left out, my dad bought me Mobile Forces for the PC. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, it’s a counter-terrorism shooter similar to Counter-Strike – it had slightly larger maps and the bounciest vehicles in the history of gaming. I’m not kidding either; think the Warthog from Halo, on a trampoline, on the moon – that’s how the heaviest armoured vehicles handled. My main issue with the game was the large multiplayer component, which due to not having Internet access at the time, I wasn’t able to play.

Safe to say, I played the training missions… a lot.

I played these missions over and over while listening to The Killers because, for some reason, I thought “I got soul but I’m not a soldier” was specifically targeted at me trying to disarm a bomb for the 15th time that night.

I got attached to the AI bots around me. On both the red and blue teams, I made up back-stories for each of these characters. Sanchez was a CIA agent who is trying to go undercover within the group. Coffey was a mercenary for hire that flew bad guys in and out of countries. Powell was the bright-eyed rookie who joined because he wanted to make a difference with a can-do attitude. Carter was just a man trying to reach retirement – which was always two weeks away.

While I wasn’t winning any prizes for character depth, in my defense, I was still pretty young.

Years later, I got Internet access and was so excited to play online. I had to look up a guide of how to connect the game to the network. With all of my hard work completed, I was greeted by a message that I couldn’t understand. “No Servers Found.”

There Are Many Like It But This One Is Mine

In the summer of 2009, I finished my GCSEs. I was very excited and I’d managed to arrange some labouring work with my dad. We worked in the heat to tile a bathroom and a separate shower room. My job was basically to move this to here and that to there. I worked all summer and finally, I could afford my own console. There was a fair amount of deliberation. My friends were split on which was better. But after a few people changed sides, Xbox 360 won the discussion.

I carried that box home like it was my baby.

I’d got two games with it; Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4. As my dad’s place didn’t have Internet access. I decided to play through Halo 3’s campaign. Despite playing multiplayer at my friends, I hadn’t played the campaign to Halo 2 and it had been years since I’d watched Halo: Combat Evolved so I was fairly confused on the story.

However, as I bounced through the jungles of Africa in the first mission, it never mattered to me. I tried every weapon I could. My aim was terrible. Enemies (and the occasional enraged friendly) shot and killed me over and over again. I just sat there with the biggest smile on my face. It was pure, untainted joy.

Suddenly, something blinked up on my screen.

This was my very first achievement. There weren’t many of these that I particularly cared about (maybe “Mile High Club”). However, this one will always be my first.

Braving The Online World

When I finally upgraded to my Xbox 360, my school friends had been playing for a while. They all raved and recited stories of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. I’d never heard so many people unified on one side of a subject. No-one had a bad word to say about it. I had to pick it up and find out if it really was that good. The rest, as they say, is history.

Everyone had a favourite class. For some, snipers were their only choice, others preferred laying down fire with an LMG. I preferred to run and gun with a G36, I could give you a story about how I thought it was reliable and precise. But the truth is I just really liked how it looked. I also had RPGs – in case anything needed to be blown up, which there usually was. Also (confession time) yes, I was that guy that dropped the martyrdom grenade when killed (don’t pretend like you didn’t).

I stuck to Domination and Team Deathmatch, in terms of game modes. Spent hours playing with friends, shouting and laughing as we played match after match. Each map had a preferred area that I’d aim for, specific routes to take and hidden areas to check for those pesky snipers.

The problem with this one is there is no single story I can remember. There were hundreds. It’s almost impossible to pick.

However, there were several rules that we all agreed on:

  • Silenced G3 is the king of Hardcore mode.
  • Juggernaut (extra health) meant you were a “JuggerNoob” and it was unacceptable in any situation.
  • All disagreements were solved by a 1v1 sniper match on Overgrown – no exceptions.

The No-Win Situation

How can a game, a fictional situation, evoke an emotional reaction? Step forward Bioware’s writers. (In case you’re wondering – no, this isn’t Mordin’s death, he did what he had to and he was annoying anyway).

In Mass Effect 2, Sheperd and crew learn that the Geth (generally associated with the big baddies, the Reapers) were not all bad; enter Legion, the good guy Geth. Now Legion wasn’t your average robot with a desk-lamp for a head. He proved himself time and again that the Geth’s intentions weren’t all bad. As a single network, Legion spoke as in one voice for millions of his kind. “Sheperd Commander, we do not wish to harm anyone.”

But then Mass Effect 3 kicked in the door and ruined it all.

At a particularly intense crossroads, the Quarian and Geth fleets stand off against each other. The squad finds out the true cause of this war, the day a single Geth became self-aware and questioned: “does this unit have a soul?” The paranoid Quarians are seconds from firing on the Geth to save what’s left of their species. But Legion continues to declare the Geth want no war and are only acting in self-defense.

Our mission was a success; Legion finds a backdoor to the Reaper code, saving the Geth, only to realise that “direct personality dissemination required.”

Legion looks back and states “Sheperd Commander, I… must go to them” before asking “Tali’Zohra, does this unit have a soul?” I think we all know the answer at this point. However, Tali confirms that he does as Legion keels over and saves his kind.

Maybe it was him saying “I” instead of “we” or maybe because it wasn’t expected – but the heartbreak happened here. I did everything right, how can this be? Honestly, I wasn’t having any of this. I wasn’t ready to let go. I reloaded the checkpoint, got the Geth to obliterate the Quarians, Tali dies. “Sheperd Commander, I… must get to them.”

I reload again, The Quarians fire first, both fleets take heavy damage. “Shepherd Commander, I… must get to them.”

This moment changed my Sheperd, I made decisions differently for the entirety of the game. The ending I chose was directly affected by this moment. I destroyed all of the Reapers and artificial life in the galaxy. Why? Because if my boy Legion isn’t here, the rest didn’t matter.

Keelah Se’lai, old friend.

Play Of The Game

When chatting with friends about Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, I came to realise, that game was horribly broken (which isn’t specifically a bad thing). We laughed and joked about the overpowered akimbo Model 1886, the ice-skating lobbies, the javelin glitch, no reload lobbies, the 80m commando pro knife lunges and being able to hit the enemy spawn with grenade launchers from spawn – to name a few.

Yet, despite these issues, we played on. I genuinely cared about going for the win, every time.

One feature added in Modern Warfare 2 was that Search and Destroy matches required all players to be in game chat, no parties were allowed. It doesn’t seem like a huge deal, but this meant that as your team died in-game, their voice would be cut off.

So here we were, 6v6 playing Hardcore Search and Destroy on Skidrow. My group of school friends had defended our hearts out and attacked with all our might. The game was tied 3 to 3 – first team to 4 wins.

I spawn in on defense, ACR in hand. I sprint into the laundromat. A predator missile drops from the sky and blows up 2 of our team. We scatter, shouting positions to confirm who’s still alive. A sniper shot rings out – we have no kill feed to tell who it was. Suddenly, a harrier strike rains down. All the voices go quiet for a second before hearing “I’m gonna try and take it out,” after the cannon on the harrier lets out a low burp. There were no voices on the radio anymore.

My stress levels had never been higher. I was 1v 6, on the back foot. I run around the right side and throw a blind grenade down the corridor, taking out the first of the opposition. I moved up the back staircase, silencer equipped, killing another 2 enemies in the corridor. I slowly move down the corridor and position myself in an alcove at the top of the stairs. I keep looking at where the minimap should be; in Hardcore mode, it was gone. This move nearly gets me killed as I am not focused on the stairs or the enemy creeping up. I take a few hits and use a whole magazine panic-firing at him.

My screen looks like it is covered in summer fruit juice, indicating I am on low health (which doesn’t come back) and 2 enemies are left. I’d already played better than I ever had and consider making a run for it. I am a twitchy nervous wreck. I find myself moving to their spawn, taking pot shots at enemies that aren’t there. I run into the fifth by accident and once again unload most of the magazine. *Click*. No bullets left. That’s bad news. Only to be followed by worse. “The enemy bomb has been planted.”

When switching weapon, I realise that my pistol doesn’t have a silencer, meaning one shot and they’d know where I am. I sneak back upstairs to get the bomb. I know which room it is, but he has the advantage as my health doesn’t regenerate. I sneak up the corridor with no idea what to do. The time starts to beep faster, indicating 30 seconds left. I make a blind run into the room next door. I start counting in my head “19, 18, 17 – let’s try this.” I shoot through the wall, hitting a mine they’d placed. It goes off and damages the player. He bolts out of the room, passing my doorway. I fire three more shots – miss, miss, headshot.  My character does a little bounce spin on the spot as I throw the controller in my lap in disbelief. I’d done it, taken out all six, my first ace.

It was so tense I almost forgot about the bomb. With no idea how much time was left on the clock, I disarmed it. It was uncomfortably tight.

As much as I’d like to say otherwise, very few moments compare to that.

Maybe I Should Take A Break

How many hours are too many in one game? 50? 100? 200? I don’t know how many hours I put into Battlefield 4, but it’s probably more than that. It’s the game I played up to the day of upgrading from 360 to Xbox One. Due to the bundle I got, it was the first I played on that too.

I just kept finding more to love. It never seemed to get dull. Want to learn to fly well? Let’s do a week of playing Air Superiority. Want to see all the ‘levelution’ events? Let’s browse all the different maps in the game. Want to earn every attachment for a gun? Well, I have a mode for you; 400% 64 player Conquest on Operation Locker (a bit of a mouthful). Essentially, it’s a Conquest match that has a two-hour time limit and 2000 enemy lives per team, the first team to lose all their lives loses the game.

Oh, and did I mention that Op Locker is the smallest map in the game? Five Conquest points in a straight line of tunnels and tight corridors; it was madness. The matches would always start the same way, all sixty-four players charge flag C, the middle of the map, in a large round room. In theory, whoever holds that room won the game.

It never really worked that way, it always ended up being a shifting front line, up and down the map. Some medics would only ever revive and end up near the top of the team with 0 kills. Support teams would hold a bottleneck by firing 25 LMGs down a corridor, throwing out ammo and getting thousands of points while everyone reloaded around them.

I don’t know why these matches stuck out, they were chaotic, explosive and intense – playing the objective rarely made a difference, the mini-map was useless due to the number of players and it would destroy any kill-death ratio stats you had. But I fell in love with it again while trying to get screenshots for this list.

At the end of the day – it was fun.

Well That Was A Bad Idea

It’s always hard to admit you made a mistake. For a few fun weeks, some friends and I got into Rainbow Six: Siege. Friendly fire was always our biggest issue… my biggest issue. We started a round with the promise that no-one (mainly me) would attack friendlies, as I had been prone to having a twitchy trigger finger when clearing corners and stairwells.

Our mission was to clear the building of hostiles. I picked Blitz, a GSG 9 operator with a shield and a pistol – less likely to get me into trouble if I’m at the front, I thought. What I didn’t know is that Blitz has a powerful flash-bang ability on his shield. I learnt of this when I accidentally caught a teammate while testing the controls. This turned out to be a very confused Diarmuid.

Being cheeky, I thought “it’s not taking health, it’s okay.” I lured Alex and Diarmuid to follow me before quickly turning around and using the ability, then ran away. Blinded, stunned and very angry, they chased me down and intended to kill me. Alex shot at me while I used the ability again to slow her down. Diarmuid went on the far side of the building and was killed by an enemy coming to check out the commotion outside.

Alex, while blindly firing, alerted one of the bomber soldiers, who promptly smashed open the barricade and detonated – killing her.

Our friend Sean had watched the whole thing on his drone. As he was lying on the floor, I wanted to make sure he wouldn’t try to do what the other two had. I half aimed at him and asked if there was an issue. Silently, his character stopped looking at the drone and pulled out a shotgun. I – being twitchy – fired and killed him. However, I didn’t realise his drone had expired and this was an automatic animation for the character.

Although I played many games of Siege without incident after this (with other people), the trust was gone. The story spread and Siege was placed at the top of a pile that included Mobile Forces – games that I have no one to play with. Not only did I kill my teammates – I managed to kill the entire game.

(P.S. Never try Rainbow Six: Siege solo. On the off-chance you find a match, you’re likely to be kicked or team-killed for being a solo player).

Where I Found My Family

There were only a few members of Big Red Barrel that I’d played with before Overwatch. This was where I really got to know Diarmuid, Alex and Jo, forum members like The_Unflushable, SpikeyChris, CloudStyleGamer and WillDriver93, as well as friends of the site, such as Bruno, Brad, Koobs and many more.

As a group, we’ve seen one of our own reach Grand Master rank (it’s a pretty big deal), we’ve constantly had our emotions controlled by a tiny insignificant number in Competitive. Since launch, we’ve battled through the six Torbjorn turret defenses in Season 1, weird changes to ranking, new characters, Mercy getting nerfed, more changes, mystery heroes, Mercy getting nerfed more, the list goes on and on.

It never stopped either, we won as a team, we lost as a team. On the final night of season 5, we played non-stop to get my rank up to Platinum (rank 2500). Despite a few close calls, we watched the number rise and drop with each win and loss. Finally, we won the last match of the season. The servers went offline. My final ranking: 2501. I probably annoyed the neighbours with the amount of shouting I did at 01:00.

It’s not just what happened in the game that solidified this bond. Often, the things that gave us the most enjoyment were just due to messing about in spawn, meeting a player who sounded like Tracer, crying with laughter as a certain podcast host demanded “Stand still Bleezey! I want to hop on and ride you,” Sean’s ice walls blocking the way (and most of our ultimate abilities), using Bastion on attack flawlessly, dancing with random enemy players in Quick Play, convincing a whole team of random players that 6 Ana’s could each boost each other at the same time for an effective push and generally talking to new people.

There are hundreds of stories, thousands of moments that all blur to create an atmosphere and a warmth that hasn’t been matched throughout any game I’ve played. The group still exists in some form: some are still on Overwatch, new players constantly join, some are taking a break and some have moved on. We may not talk as much as we did, however, we’ll always have our stories that we’ve shared.

It’s not just limited to this one group. Every day, every game has the potential to be a new memorable moment. I’m looking forward to finding the next one and sharing them with others. At the end of the day, isn’t that what gaming is all about?

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  1. Ian

    Memories are fun. One of my earliest memories is playing Zoombinis on the family Apple computer or hiring out The Lion King in the holidays on the SNES….? I have strong memories of playing my cousins gameboy till the battery died, playing Day of the Tenticle with them and borrowing my friends Gamegear to play Zelda.
    I grew up with Amiga/Commodore 64 teaching myself to play Hunter HQ,Batman the video game and Chase HQ and about a dozen other games with a joystick.
    I didn’t know how to save things on a floppy disk though so I got so annoyed one day with Hunter and scratched the disk and broke it.
    Later on with Windows standout games were all the Tombraiders and Deus Ex and then Morrowind. I started to get into modding with reskinning Morrowind and Counterstrike making my own skins.
    Around that time and I was underage I taught myself Poker on the Gamespy game servers and met some interesting people….
    I went through a big Quake 3 phase perfecting that game online and then eventually moved to Unreal T. I didn’t get my own PC until 2002 and then lost myself to Boulders Gate 2 and GTA Vice City….

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