8MB of Memories

Last weekend, I set up our PS2 Slim. It's white, aside from the controller which has turned an unfortunate tobacco yellow. My Grandma's living room ceiling as I remember it in the 90s, reborn in peripheral form.

I'd bought a couple of PS1 games from the junk bin, and was keen to see if they worked. Ridge Racer Type 4 is as stylish today as I imagine it was back in 1998, and the bundled-in upgraded version of the original game is a lovely extra. Saga Frontier 2 is not a game to be enjoyed in five minutes, or possibly in any number of minutes, but I did have fun with the packaged-in demo disc, featuring Racing Lagoon and Legend of Mana.

My curiousity sated, I decided to switch to some PS2 games. So I removed the PS1 memory card and inserted the black PS2 card that came with my original, fat PAL model. I had a look at what was on there, and my evening quickly descended into nostalgia.

It was packed with not just save-states, but reminders of times, people and places. A gaming record, stretching almost twenty years. Each slot recalling something partially forgotten, but soon remembered. The memories came flooding back.

I got my original PS2 in 2001, a few months before heading off to university. A handful of saves still exist from that first year, the most revealing of which is a system file for the DVD player. Without question, I used my PS2 as a movie player far more frequently than I did as a games console. As my interest in games waned during the early-mid 2000s, my DVD collection burgeoned. Fuck Tekken Tag, let's watch the Werner Herzog Collection! However, there were a handful of meaningful games from those early years of emotion-engine entertainment still present on my memory card.

There's an eighty-hour file for Final Fantasy X, which came out the month I had my first set of university exams. Of course I didn't wait to play it - at that time nothing seemed more vital and in need of my immediate attention than a new Final Fantasy. There's also a league-table save for Quake III dated June 6th 2004 - the last time my uni housemates and I played before saying our farewells and embarking on our adult-lives. Q3 was our main competitive game for three years, and table positioning was the source of household bragging rights.

A file from June 2005 marks a turning point in my interests. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater rekindled a passion that had dwindled during my uni years. I was so out of the loop with games that I didn't even know MGS3 existed, and I still remember that rush of excitement upon finding it in a local game store. That was the same day my aesthetically-upsetting clam-shell Vodafone mobile arrived - how very 2005. That was a time when I was greatly confused about what I was going to do with my life. I was stuck in a post-graduation, pre-deciding to move to Japan limbo. Every decision felt both meaningless yet potentially life-altering. I somehow navigated that time with a decisiveness that I didn't know I possessed.

For the next two years, there's nothing. But then my PS2 got its second wind, when I brought it back to Japan following a trip to the UK around 2006/7. One hundred and two hours of Final Fantasy XII in the spring of 2007; a completed file for Resident Evil 4 and a roster save for NBA Live 2007. That was the last time I cared about NBA Live, having been an avid fan and enthusiastic roster-tinkler since Live '97 on the Saturn. And then there's a last gasp before I bought a PS3 in April 2008, culminating in a run through the outstanding God of War 1 and 2. I was catching up with games I'd missed the previous few years, and I was having a blast doing it. 

After that, it mostly goes quiet. Saves for Killzone, Sopranos and TimeSplitters 2 (I'd played it to death on the GC back in the day, but not PS2) bear witness to a brief infatuation with eBAY when we moved back to the UK in 2010. That was a fucking weird time - limbo part 2 - when parts of my life seemed to be moving forward as others stalled. It was also the only time I made a concerted effort to get into games journalism, an effort that I soon abandoned. 

And then one last hurrah with a save file for The Bouncer in 2019 and NBA Street Vol. 2 from last year. I use it now, sparingly, with the Japanese PS2 slim I bought my girlfriend, now wife, for her birthday in 2007. To save up for her present, I set aside a couple thousand yen each week over the course of a few months. That was harder than it sounds, given that I wasn't exactly flush with cash at that time. 

I'm cursed with a need for nostalgia. No item can exist separate to a memory - everything must be assigned a feeling, a sight, a smell, a moment that I can relive at the drop of a hat. Not even PS2 save files are exempt from this need to look back and make connections.

One day those memory cards will fail, and in time so will the memories I associate with them. No problem - I'll just keep making new ones.

(Memories, not memory cards. Memory cards are obsolete. Thanks.)


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