During a recent review of the contents of a couple old USB drives that I had forgotten that I stashed away, I found a handful of articles that I had written for a site that went defunct. Since I hate for words to sit unread (even those in incoherent, rambly sentences), I decided I might as well share them here. Here’s one from around January 2013 in which I mused over my then-flailing relationship with PC gaming.
One of the great things about gaming is that it’s a pastime that comes with options. It wasn’t always like that, but by the time it entered my life, I was faced with an endless string of games of all sorts that vied for my attention. But because my early gaming life was regulated by my parents, it was generally filled with standard, family fare of the time. My siblings and I progressed from the Atari to the NES to the SNES within a decade. Over time however, the parental controls loosened. We eagerly conquered a variety of platform games, fighting games, racing games, and everything in between. In addition, we had a number of games for our PC. In between my time with Mario and Ryu, I remember sinking hours into old favorites such as Frogger and Q*Bert, and new titles such as Commander Keen. And just as I was sure that my path with video games would forever remain idyllic and innocent, along came DOOM.
It’s inevitable that during one’s life, one will encounter several “a-ha” moments. Those life-changing, belief-altering moments when one knows that things will never be the same from that point after. That was what DOOM was to me.
id Software’s DOOM was not the first first-person-shooter I had ever played, but it was the first that I truly enjoyed — enjoyed enough to play over and over and over again. The game’s premise was simple enough — you played as space marine in the 22nd century who was set on a mission to save the world from a cache of monsters, demons, and the like.
DOOM played smooth as silk on even our aging computer. The game itself was not scary in the traditional sense, but it was eerie and intensely creepy. As you progressed through the levels, the environments ranged from cool and machine-like to visceral and fleshy. Some of the enemies were slow and plodding, while others were speedy and vicious. DOOM taught me about ranged vs. melee weapons. It made me into a more patient gamer as it forced some degree of strategy. And while it wasn’t a traditional survival horror game, supplies and health kits were scarce.
But more than just improving my gaming abilities, DOOM altered the way I interacted with console games. One of the things I really liked about DOOM on the PC was using keyboard controls. Being able to look up, down, left, and right, and having fine-tune control over my movements was so…refreshing is the word that coming to mind, but it was more than that. So…right. After playing DOOM, I had a really hard time going back to the Nintendo controllers. Those four buttons and stiff d-pad felt so clunky. I wanted to be able to stop Mario and Mega Man on dimes and instead had them slipping and sliding all over the place.
When DOOM 2 came out, well…okay so I wasn’t the first in line to get it, but I did get it…and it was love. Those monsters, those chainsaws, those fantastically precise controls, it was all so…wonderful. (I have to admit that I never got the hang of using a mouse with DOOM or any of the limited number of PC games I’ve played. Ours was so square and plastic, and the stupid scrolling ball — mice weren’t born optical, y’know — made for really choppy on-screen movements.)
DOOM also offered me one other “a-ha” moment — the realization that one needed a good computer to play PC games. It might sound ridiculous, but I hardly ever thought about our actual PC. My Dad and other relatives were pretty good with computer electronics, so if a new keyboard appeared, or the tower suddenly looked different, or a game started loading faster, sadly, I didn’t really take notice. I never knew of everything my Dad did to keep our computer as bleeding edge as possible. When I moved away from home, that nice computer didn’t come with me. And when I looked into getting a computer for myself…whoa! They cost HOW MUCH?? Me, the poor college student, would just have make do with the computer lab, thanks.
My PC gaming days ended in the late 1990s. Yep, I went back full-time to consoles eventually, and I haven’t looked back. Until recently that is. This, what are they calling it…renaissance? Yes, renaissance in PC gaming has certainly made me take notice. PCs are cheap and so are games. Digital downloading through the likes of Steam and such is starting to look pretty appealing. Do I want to spend $60 on a brand new game that I *might* like or $60 bucks on six games that I *know* I’ll like? I don’t wonder though if I’ve grown to used to console controllers to ever go back to using a keyboard? I was a very happy PC gamer once…and history has been known to repeat itself.*
*It has. While I still spend most of my time on consoles these days, I now have a very full Steam library and access to a beautiful gaming PC. Damn if I probably shouldn’t pay more attention to it!