14 Mar A Brief History of a Gamer, Part I
Thomas Ryan –
(I’m on the right)
When I was a very young man, I had a bunch of Return of the Jedi paraphernalia, including a satchel and a folder that I still have and use today. I only had hazy memories of the film, other than a pretty sweet move by Luke Skywalker at the end of the plank to avoid being digested over one thousand years by the almighty Sarlaac. I didn’t know it at the time, but my parents buying me a few Star Wars items would be the start of my love for gaming and all things nerd.
Like many kids, I grew up playing games like Chutes & Ladders and Monopoly, and not knowing why they felt so unsatisfying. I liked a lot of the ideas involved with moving about a board and collecting resources, but I can’t exactly say I can look back and remember a great game of Monopoly…or even finishing one for that matter.
Meanwhile, I think I was about seven or eight years old when my family visited some friends in the Chicago area. Their son was older than I was, and he had a Nintendo. I remember playing Double Dragon, and being pretty excited about what seemed like the realest martial arts experience I had ever had. Then, there was the Legend of Zelda. Something about being a diminutive warrior armed with a bow and a sword and shield excited me to no end. I remember being unable to sleep later that night in my Grandparent’s basement, as the images of fierce battles raged through my head.
Unlike many self-identifying nerds, I didn’t spend my time exclusively in my parent’s basement playing video games and card games. I actually played sports and even attended sporting events with my dad. However, I did eventually get a Nintendo Entertainment System of my own. It came with Dragon Warrior. I can honestly say that the first time I tried playing that game, I did not get it. I was not jamming on a button to swing my sword faster; I was just making choices whether to fight or run. Still, it was the only game I had for a while, and I found I got caught up in all the interesting monsters and the cool swords and other equipment.
Into my early teens, I spent more time hanging out with my jock friends and playing sports (and even sports video games), but from time to time I would run across something that really got me interested. Watching my friend’s older brother in the final battle of Super Metroid (possibly still my favorite video game of all time) was a pivotal moment for me. Another was when I started playing Final Fantasy II (which I now know to be Final Fantasy V) at a sleepover when all my other friends had gone to bed. I remember being so caught up in the blend of story-telling and high fantasy battles, that I was completely oblivious to the sun coming up outside. When I realized I had passed the entire night just playing the game, I went to bed guiltily. I was worried I would get in trouble with my buddy’s folks for staying up all night. But I couldn’t really even sleep. I was just thinking about when I could play the game again. It was also around this time that I re-discovered the Star Wars Trilogy
A couple of years later, when I had a falling out with some of my jock friends over deciding to play soccer and run cross country instead of being a Five-foot, four-inch, one hundred eighteen pound football linebacker, I ended up making some new friends. They introduced me to a little game called Magic: The Gathering. Soon after, we played another obscure table top title called Dungeons & Dragons. The fantasy settings I kept coming back to since before I was even cognizant melded with the in-person social interaction of the less-than-satisfying (in terms of gameplay) experiences I had with other gaming experiences. My inner nerd was just leaving its infancy. Pretty soon, I would be reading the Lord of the Rings and watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I’d be doing a lot of those things with none other than who would later become the COO and CFO of Slightly Twisted Games.