TBT: Video Games

This Throwback Thursday article is dedicated to video gaming – talking about what video games I grew up with, as well as I what I play now in my spare time.

If you’re wondering “hasn’t this topic been covered before?” Yes, it has somewhat – all the way back in 2017. But I thought it’d be fun to bring it up again and flush it out a little more with modern details.

You can trace the history of me playing video games back to when I was really young. I can remember watching my dad play some video games when I was 3 or 4, and I picked it up.

Our first console was a Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Even though it was outdated by the time I started playing with it (by that point the GameCube was the popular Nintendo console, and the Xbox and PlayStation 2 were coming into the limelight) I had lots of fun. I remember having quite a few games for it – including the ubiquitous Super Mario World.

One of the games we had for the SNES was the popular Super Mario World

However, Super Mario World wasn’t my favorite game. Instead, that title goes to its successor – Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island. Yoshi’s Island was probably one of the first video games I ever played, and was definitely the first (and one of very few) video game I completely conquered. However, it took me a while to completely beat the game. For several years, I thought the game ended at World 3 because I couldn’t beat the final boss for World 3. Finally, I beat it that boss and – some time later – completely beat the game.

In fact, beating the game was an interesting event for me. I vividly remember me smashing the buttons on the controller trying to hurl eggs at an angry Bowser who keeps running toward me. I don’t even know how many times it took for me to be successful. However, I finally beat it and remember feeling relieved but sad while the epilogue and credits played.

Speaking of Super Mario World: I never got as far as I did in Yoshi’s Island. In fact, I believe the farthest point I got to back then was Vanilla Dome.

On the flip side, a game I hated was Turn and Burn: No Fly Zone. The game, which simulates flying a F-14 Tomcat (the same jet featured in Top Gun) was pretty difficult for 6 year-old me to play. However, that wasn’t the worst part for me. I was terrified of the pilot/co-pilot that shows up throughout the game. I can remember having nightmares about it. Unfortunately, this was my dad’s favorite game for the SNES.

The pilot/co-pilot that terrified me as a kid in Turn and Burn: No Fly Zone

I also played Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest quite a bit. Unfortunately, like Super Mario World, I didn’t get very far.

Probably the last game I remember getting quite a bit of mileage out of was Nigel Mansell’s World Championship Racing. This game apparently was ported to the SNES following its success on the Commodore Amiga.

When I was around 8 or 9 years old, I got a Nintendo Wii for Christmas. The Wii was my first taste of a contemporary games console. The game I remembered playing the most was Mario Kart Wii. We had the Wii Wheel – a special accessory that your Wii remote slotted into to make steering in the game easier. I remember really getting into Mario Kart Wii and playing it for hours and hours against my parents, or solo.

My family also had the HP Pavilion and got connected to the internet around 2007. The games I remember playing were flash-based games which took forever to load thanks to our dial-up internet connection. I remember frequenting sites like One More Level and Addicting Games – entire sites that will likely be wiped out when Chrome drops support for Flash later this year. Probably the earliest games I remember playing on the computer were through Cartoon Network. (For some really odd reason, I have this strange memory of me playing this game for Codename: Kids Next Door while eating some Cheez-Its right after we got connected to the internet for the very first time.)

Snake Runner… one of the Flash games I remember playing as a kid on One More Level

However, we had other games for the HP Pavilion – though my dad played them more than I did. We had an aircraft joystick and throttle for Microsoft’s Flight Simulator X and another flying game I don’t remember the title of. We also had a steering wheel and pedals for some racing games, which I also don’t remember much about. These games were fun, but in hindsight I’m kind of interested that the HP Pavilion was able to keep up.

Unfortunately, on October 8, 2010, our home was reduced to ashes in a devastating fire. We lost everything – including the SNES, Wii and HP Pavilion.

2010 to Today

The Wii was the last console I had. Ever since, I’ve been playing games on the PC or a mobile device.

Around the time I was 13, I got into the “SuperTux” world of games, because they offered a Mario experience without the Mario/Nintendo price tag. I remember beating SuperTux and most of the additional (custom?) worlds. I also got into SuperTuxKart, which was also pretty fun and a decent free alternative. (However, as you’d likely guess, they’re nowhere near as good as the actual Mario games they imitate.)

When I was 18, I was a freshman in college and my roommate was really into video games. He had all of the major consoles – a Xbox, PlayStation 4 and a WiiU. He introduced me to some of the big titles, like Fallout 4 and Overwatch. While I enjoyed watching him play those games, I wanted something a little… slower paced.

He and a friend who frequented our dorm room introduced me to Minecraft. I was nearly instantly hooked… and I would use his Xbox to play Minecraft when he wasn’t using it. Sometimes, like I did with the SNES as a little kid, I would even ask to use the Xbox or stay up playing it.

Eventually, I bought Minecraft and installed it on my computer at the time, the ThinkPad T420. In fact, I wrote a post on this blog back in December 2017 reviewing Minecraft right after I installed it and built a village.

A skyscraper I built way back when I first bought Minecraft in 2017

Ever since, Minecraft has been a mainstay of sorts for video games in my life. I play it very often, almost every day. While my original world (the one in the aforementioned post) is long gone, shortly after I started work on another world. Over two years later, I’m still hard at work on that world – constructing intricate villages with buildings (and not just the exterior exterior of buildings… they’re built on the inside) and landmarks. This village even has a rail system and a college campus. At some point in the future I may share the world and discuss it in more detail.

A couple buildings on a college campus in my Minecraft world

I’ve also been reliving my childhood with OpenEmu, an emulator for macOS that can emulate many of the popular consoles from the 80s and 90s – including the SNES. I’ve beat Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island multiple times in OpenEmu, and I’ve made it much further on Super Mario World than I did as a kid. (I believe I made it to the Forrest of Illusions. Unfortunately, I believe that was on the MacBook Air.)

Oh, and I can’t forget the games that I’ve played in other emulators like DOSBox, Basilisk II and Mini vMac. These games include Lemmings (both the DOS and Macintosh versions), Tetris (Mac), and others.

One game I play in emulators, such as DOSBox, is Lemmings.

Along with this is the classic Mac games I played on the 1991 Macintosh Classic when it was working – like Crystal Quest, Tetris and Wheel of Fortune (sorry, Phraze Craze Plus.) Unfortunately, if you’ve been following the Classic project, you’ll know that the Macintosh Classic is having some problems that have taken it out of service.

Playing some Phraze Craze (a spoof of Wheel of Fortune) on the 1991 Macintosh Classic when it was operational.
Crystal Quest running in emulation in Mini vMac on my 2019 MacBook Pro versus Crystal Quest running on actual hardware – the 1991 Macintosh Classic

I’ve never been a big fan of shooters and other fast-paced video games. Since the Wii, I haven’t owned a game console. But I still like to take time out and play some Minecraft or complete some levels in Super Mario World. (Hopefully soon I can get back to playing Crystal Quest.)