You Never Forget Your First


The excitement of tearing wrapping paper on a Christmas or birthday morning, then rushing to the TV to hook-up a Nintendo or Sega. A tortuous ride home from the shops, clutching our brand new toy, impatiently leafing through the instruction manual and pleading with our parents to drive faster. Memories of our first game consoles tend to stick with us.

My first console came one Christmas, either in 1991 or 1992. It came at a time when my classmates and I were obsessed with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and wrestling. However, video games were starting to challenge the playground duopoly of smart-mouthed reptiles and large men in spandex. The cooler kids would bring their Gameboys to class on the last day of term, while the rest of us made do with our Hulk Hogan and Sting action figures. I was eight or nine and highly impressionable.

I took note of video games, and began to make plans.

I have vivid memories of perusing the Argos shopping catalogue, flicking through the game section and pondering which system I should choose. My plan was to save up and buy one myself, but I hadn't quite grasped the value of money. I knew that my grandparents gave me coins every time I visited and that I had a fist full of shrapnel in my teddy-bear piggy bank. I also knew that 20p pieces lived in Christmas puddings. I was quite confident that a games console wouldn’t cost me too many coins. Maybe seven trips to see my Nan and two Christmas dinners?

I remember presenting the catalogue to my Dad. I was realistic. I knew that the Mega Drive and SNES were for older boys and were very expensive, so I aimed lower. The NES value pack looked ok - the portly, moustachioed chap seemed friendly enough and I loved playing with plastic guns, so Duck Hunt was appealing. But I settled on something else. It was black, which was cool, and it looked less like a toy, which was also cool. I wanted a Sega Master System II and was heartbroken when my Dad pointed out that the system did not come with the TV shown in the promotional picture. I couldn’t afford a TV any more than I could realistically afford a console, something that I reluctantly came to accept. I eventually reached the conclusion that my first console would have to be a Christmas present. My parents agreed.

A little closer to Christmas, I can recall a typical trip to the hairdressers. My mum had bought me a magazine from the local newsagents, in the hope that it would keep me occupied while she got her Princess Diana cut. I’d chosen a Sega mag, Sega Power perhaps, and was reading all about Sonic the Hedgehog. I remember John, proprietor of said hairdresser and to this day the only stylist my mum will visit, striking up a conversation with me about video games. I can’t remember what exactly we talked about, but I do recall showing him my magazine and telling him about the Master System. I probably spent the next hour or two sitting there, daydreaming about my Sega.

Christmas came and with it my Master System II bundle, with Alex Kid in Miracle World built-in and Sonic the Hedgehog, cart-only in a clear plastic bag. I can’t recall my Christmas Eve excitement, though I’m sure it would have been a rather long and sleepless night. In my head, I imagine myself taking the Argos catalogue to bed and staring at pictures of the soon-to-be-mine Sega, eventually dozing off in the early hours and dreaming of anthropomorphic hedgehogs. I honestly can’t remember unwrapping my main present the next day, nor if it was even the bundle that I was expecting. But what I do remember, however, is playing my MS for the first time that same morning.

It was confusing but enthralling. I had next to no experience with games: the unspoken rules of gaming - run left to right, jump on enemies, collect shinnies – were not yet ingrained. I was awful, especially at Alex Kid, a game which I still find to be fucking impossible. But Sonic came easier. I remember taking my first steps in Green Hill Zone and stumbling upon my first extra life in 1-2, slightly to the right and through that wall. I remember being unsure of what to do when confronted with an end of level boss, and being killed countless times by Dr Robotnik.

Git gud, eight year old me. Git gud.

And I did git gud. I gitted very good, thank you very much. Some twenty five years later and I’m still running left to right, jumping on enemies, and collecting shinnies. Not in real life of course, that would be weird, but in video games.

I’m still playing video games.

My journey in games continues next week with Tokyo Game Show. I’ll be there with my press pass, rubbing shoulders with industry luminaries and troubled loners alike. So do come back for some previews and other stuff, please.

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