As a kid I always like reading. I liked the concept of video games and would watch my siblings play first-person shootings against each other via serial cable. But unless it was Stunts I’d rather read a book than play a game myself. Christmas of ’96 I was given Heroes of Might and Magic by a family friend and it was the catalyst that changed how I saw video games.
I thought all video games were devoid of character development and backstory and focused on simple wins that were black and white. Win or loss. Years on I realise that this was a simplistic view of fps titles, a view that I have since amended having played Quake and Doom and many other more recent titles that are as challenging and story driven as many strategy and role playing games.
At the time, though, I was mind blown. I can effectively play a book?! I can participate in the story telling?! That year I gave up my dream of being an astronaut (I’m in primary school here, remember?) and decided I wanted to be a writer – but I wanted to write for games! I wanted to write stories that people would be part of.
Being in primary school and possessing only basic English this was a slightly far fetched career goal. Definitely more far-fetched than becoming and astronaut – so I waited.
The following year we got a PlayStation and I got to choose one game for Christmas. I didn’t know what to choose so I’ll admit that I chose what would become my favourite game of all time simply because I liked the cover art.
I chose Final Fantasy 7.
I’m sure everyone can see where this ends. I waited impatiently for Christmas. Then waited impatiently for my turn to use the Ps1 (whilst frantically reading the cd liner, cover to cover. Repeatedly.)
But it was worth the tense waiting. I was amazed. The game had it all.
The graphics were great. The gameplay was logical, accessible and extremely effective (I didn’t really play games, remember?). There was a constant sense of urgency in those opening scenes that really drew you in.
But most if all, the characters were what really hooked me. Cloud was lonely and brooding, but more than that, he had back-story. He had childhood friends and some reasons for his choices. He had hidden pain and hopes that had been crushed and new hopes he was afraid of. Perhaps more importantly he was slightly guilty and a little bit ashamed.
The characters had depth, like real people. A little bit dirty, a little bit unhinged and a little bit unworthy until they’re asked to do something truly selfless – like save the world.
I wrote stories and drew pictures of dragons and spaceships. I tried programming with python but was too easily distracted. I guess, mostly I dreamed. I did that for several years and then in my final year of school decided that it would be a great last minute plan to ditch my carefully completed final assignment for my computing course and go all in on building an RPG.
I wish I could say it was an amazing triumph of programming that astonished all who saw it, let alone played it; but I can’t. It wasn’t a terrible first attempt by average high school standards, but it was certainly something I should have put more thought into. Looking back, I think that’s when I first shelved the idea of creating games.
To be continued.
TL:DR Set in primary school: I loved Final Fantasy (7 in particular). I wanted to write games, writes stories, generally be cool. I was crushed by one failure. But that’s not the end.