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My Gaming History
My Gaming History by Robert Lauer - Distant Web
This is mostly a posting of context more than anything else. Talking about my thoughts on a video game, or gaming in general, is a thing of personal preference, perception and experience. And typically speaking I feel like my view is vastly different from most gamers. I will try and keep this short, unfortunately (and those who know me can attest to this), being brief isn't exactly my specialty. Unless of course I don't like you, in which case I will exercise record breaking brevity.

(For those who don't like a lot of reading, I have tried to summarize all of this at the bottom, though not very well. Feel free to scroll down to 'Summary' if you wish.)

Video games are deeply embedded in my memories; some of my earliest memories are of the Atari 2600, as well as arcade games in various settings; in addition to actual arcades, arcade games use to inhabit many other public spaces. Pizza joints, coffee shoppes/diners, bowling allies, club houses, community centers, gas stations/convince stores, and so on and so on.

So far this probably matches up with most other gamers my age. However, here is where it tends to diverge; I never had anyone else paying for my video gaming passion. The closest to that would have been when I was very young, one Christmas in the early 80's, my parents gave my brother and myself a 'joint' present; an Atari 2600.

The problem is that they actually gave it to my brother; it was put in his room, and he was in total (knowing) control over whether or not I was ever allowed to play, as he could (knowingly) decide if I was allowed in his room in the first place. I did of course sneak into his room whenever I could, whenever he was not home, to play it on my own.

You may think that's rather rude, but had I not, I'd probably have been able to count my times playing what was supposed to be half mine on one hand.

Then, to add insult to injury, the Atari just disappeared one day. When I asked where it had gone, my mom informed me that she sold it. When I asked why, she told me she sold it because no one ever played it. And no, I was never once asked if I had wanted it in my room.

Fortunately for me this was not my only ability to play an Atari 2600 as my neighbor had one, as did an uncle, a few friends, and my grandmother (although that system was specifically purchased for my cousins, which she constantly informed me, and only rarely could I convince her to let me play it).

This was the closest I ever came to having someone else contribute to my gaming history (financially that is). Well, with a certain exception; we did have a computer, and my parents would occasionally let me play on it, and they did provide a few games like the Carmon Sandiego games, Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. The family vet was also a really cool guy who occasionally gave me discs with games like Root Beer Tapper and Tetris on them, so there was that.

Flash forward a few years and the NES was making a huge impact on the gaming world. Many of my friends had one and I was able to play various games at their houses (none of my family this time however). For about 2 years I tried to convince my parents to get me one for Christmas or my birthday, to no avail. Then for another year or so I simply asked to be allowed to buy it myself with my own money (yes, I actually worked for money back then doing field and yard work). But this was also futile.

Then, in 1989, in the months leading up to turning 12, I was finally able to strike a deal with them; in exchange for them allowing me to purchase my own NES, I gave up my 12th birthday. No party, no presents, no cards, nothing. But, I was finally allowed to buy myself my very first gaming console! Though I did have to get my brother to take me to Toys R Us as my parents refused to do the honor.

The plus side here was that once I had the NES, I actually no longer had to 'ask' to buy anything video game related, I just needed to find a ride.

Because I was so late to the party, I did struggle to not only catch up with 4 years of releases already out, but to also keep up with the latest releases. Living out in the country didn't help either as I could rarely get a ride into town to the nearest store that sold video games, about a 45 minute one way drive (give or take). In fact I remember once ordering a game over the phone with a COD option (Cash On Delivery) which turned the $50 TMNT 2 game into about $80. That was the one and only time I took that option...

One bright side back then was that there was a local chain store that sold used video games, with 3 locations that had a great selection and very good prices.

Move forward few years after I first got my NES, just before the SNES was released, there was a new kid in town that was making significant waves; the blue blur known as Sonic The Hedgehog, created by a company I had never knowingly heard of on a brand new (to me) console, the Sega Genesis (yes, I had played some Sega games before in the arcades, like Golden Ax and Altered Beast, I just didn't know who 'Sega' was back then).

I just had to have this game, which meant having to buy the console. At this time, I didn't know anyone who had a Sega Genesis, so there really was no other way if I wanted to play it, which I did. This meant forgoing new game purchases for a good amount of time in order to save up.

About a year or so later, I finally purchased the SNES as well, having once again forgone new game purchases for a while.

Getting the NES, Sega Genesis and SNES so close together taught me something; when funds are limited, supplying multiple consoles with games is extremely difficult. For me, the NES ended up getting top priority simply because the games were very cheap used, thanks to that great used game chain I mentioned. The SNES took second because of all the NES franchises that carried over, and the Genesis kind of went ignored as I was not exposed to many of its games having known little to no others who owned or talked about the Genesis.

Because of the long droughts that came from having to save up for another console, and the dilemma of what game to buy for which system, I kind of vowed to never again own more than one current (or relatively current) system at a time. This vow has since been broken, but it did last for several years.

After the SNES, I went to the Playstation, and then the PS2. In 2006, the PS3 and Nintendo's 'Wii' launched, with the PS3 being $500-600 and the Wii being $250. Due to other responsibilities, the Wii was the only choice for me, at least for a few years; once my wife and I bought an HDTV in 2008, a PS3 was kind of an obvious choice as it was not only a gaming console, but a top of the line Blu-Ray player. In other words, the PS3 was the perfect accessory for a new HDTV.

Now, what I have outlined so far is only part of the story, even if it IS an important part; having little money to spend on video games is a huge reason to be very selective of the titles you do purchase. The other part of this story is that as big as gaming has been in my life, it has never been a top priority.

In the first part of my life, when I was young and single, music was my biggest passion. I had a huge CD collection and I went to many concerts; just to name a few, I've seen Tool, White and Rob Zombie, Pantera, Aerosmith, Def Leppard, Faith No More, Metallica, and so many more. Many of the bands I saw multiple times. Other priorities of mine, when I was young and single, were movies and going out with friends from pool to bowling to just hanging out at a diner.

The second part of my life started the day I got married and started a family of my own, and then they became my top priority. Justifying a gaming purchase becomes a lot more difficult when you are responsible for children.

Over all I have really glossed over my later experiences with gaming in general, but I think I have outlined a basic foundation; as much as I have always loved gaming, and gaming has been a part of my life from my earliest memories, gaming has not been a top priority. And having to supply about 99% of my gaming needs myself, and having had so much time living pre-internet and out in the country, adding the fact that in my later life that family needs have always come first, I've had to be extremely selective in my gaming purchases.

The worst game droughts for me came when saving up for a new system, but even under ideal circumstances I never had the money to just go out and buy a new game every week. It could take months before I could afford a new game, or even get a ride to get a new game. Because of this, replay value has always been of utmost important to me; any given game isn't just about how good it is now, but how good it will be later and how long that game will sustain me during the droughts.

I know it is very common practice for gamers to buy a game, beat it in a week, and then go sell it and buy another. This always baffled me because of my own perception, but later in life, I kind of attribute it to either gamers having someone else footing the bill, or having no real commitments, responsibilities and/or passions outside of gaming.

But maybe there is something else I am missing in regard to this; please feel free to let me know if you have an answer.

One last thing I'd like to note is that when you have to be as selective as I have had to be, it is beyond devastating to finally make a purchase and simply hate it. And lately it seems like that has been more the norm than anything as I have been deeply disappointed in many of my recent purchases. And what's worse is that it seems like I am the only one to feel that way about at least some of those games, but that's for another discussion.

For completion sake, other systems I owned during their lifecycle include (in no particular order): GBA, DS, 3DS, Switch, PSP, Vita, PS4. Systems I purchased at some point after their lifecycles were over include (again, in no particular order): Intellivision, Colecovision, GameBoy, GameCube, and oh the embarrassing Ouya. I think that's it?

If you have actually made it this far, I want to thank you. Hopefully, if nothing else, I do hope that this overview can give some context to my own opinions when it comes to games and gaming in general. The bottom line, for me, is that the expense of gaming has always been the biggest hurdle; time has never been a real issue because even if I can't play a game right now, I know I will have time later. And when a game has me gripped, I will MAKE the time even if it means giving up some sleep.

Not that that is often a conscious decision; typically speaking, it's never so much of a choice between playing longer and getting more sleep. It's usually looking at the clock and realizing it's 3 A.M. and I have to be up in a few hours. Ooops…

Summary AKA TL;DR

(The following is for those who didn't want to read the entire posting)

-Gaming has always been a huge part of my life, but I never had anyone else footing the bill.
-As big a part of my life as gaming has been, I have also had other passions/priorities.
-Gaming is expensive when you have limited spare funds and other responsibilities.
-Buying multiple consoles often means less money for games, and even less games for any given system.
-A gaming purchase for me isn't just a whim, but a long term investment. Replay value is key to me.
-Limited as my funds have been, I have done the best I can.

(Ok, I suck at summarizing. Thank you again for reading.)

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