We all have our firsts, and some of those firsts end up being memorable moments that we cherish for a lifetime. Luckily, I remember my first video game system. Since I was somewhat of a smart, good, little kid, my grandfather bought me a Windows 95 personal computer for Christmas in 1996. It was my first PC and I loved it. One thing I loved about it was not a game, but something called Lexmark Workshop. With it, I made random doodles, party invitation cards, graphics you could iron on clothes, and comics. It was fun, but my passion at the time were a few things, dinosaurs, space, and cartoons – the three main ingredients for seven year old me. And what satisfied those cravings more than a primitive version of Photoshop was a new passion that I would soon discover.

I was really into DINOSAURS. I knew every dinosaur’s name, and I could spell them too. I also drew them and took polaroid pictures of my toys. I was seriously a dinosaur nut. And what made my craze even nuttier was an interactive medium, I guess a video game, called 3D Dinosaur Adventure. This educational game was an Anniversary edition released in 1996, developed by the current owners of Neopets, Knowledge Adventure. It had a virtual museum, quizzes, an encyclopedia, a maze game, and pictures that used 3D glasses. I already knew a lot about dinosaurs at this point, so it didn’t teach me anything new, but it was still a memorable game that I look back at fondly. The music hits me hard with nostalgia, and it’s mystical-sounding melody amplifies that. Another game that satisfied my dinosaur cravings was a pinball game called 3D Ultra Pinball: Lost Continent, made by Vivendi Universal in 1997, and part of a series of pinball games. I don’t have much to say about it except it was one of the hardest games I’ve played. For details on the story and a download, check out this page at The Collection Center.

Now onto the real games. I owned couple compilation discs, one was a casino game pack that my grandfather and I used to play with each other. I used to be impressed at how good he was at blackjack and poker. The other one was an actual video game pack with dos games. I don’t remember a whole lot about it, but one game I’d always come back to was a space platformer called SkyRoads, developed by Bluemoon Software and released in 1993. I recently learned had a predecessor named Kosmonaut, released a few years prior. This game fueled my imagination for traveling in space and improved my hand-eye coordination skills. I took command of a spaceship with the directional arrow keys, moving it up to go faster and down to move slower. Of course, moving left and right would do what you’d expect, and the space bar springs your ship into the air while the screen moves forward. You need to stay on the correct paths, or you’ll explode or fall gracefully into the cold black void of space. There’s also fuel and oxygen meters that basically do what they are intended to do. One of my favorites and a game I come back to once a year or so.

I had a few licensed cartoon compilations as well. The Animaniacs game pack made Wacko look like he actually died, which horrified me. This Lion King game had three mini-games set in three locations consisting of a maze game, a word game, and a memory game. And Quest for Camelot, another game made by Knowledge Adventure, probably my favorite licensed game on Windows 95, had a few games, a breakout-styled game, a baby dragon raising game, a simple magic potion mixing game, a monster creator, and a movie clip studio.

And what’s a childhood without bootleg games? I don’t know, but I had some, and it was completely legal. Kids Arcade Pack by Wizardworks was another compilation, but a bit more on the child-like side. This blog entry by Justin De Lucia at Super Justin the Blog details the game with an archive link to download it if you’re interested. I tried running them on a clone machine, but I’m better off playing the original games they were based on: Columns, Missile Command,┬áPac-Man, Diamonds, and Pegleg. Pac-Man was called Macman, Columns was Circus Balloons, and Missile Command was Cartoon Command. The other two were “for kids” versions. Macman was great, it had junk food instead of fruit and was my first experience with Pac-Man gameplay, but my favorite of the bunch was Diamonds for Kids for it’s variety and levels. I had a lot of fun with these games, they were enjoyable for what they were, but I wasn’t sure if I liked video games. They seemed liked something that would just distract me if I got really into them. As a seven year old kid, I liked the fact that they were a side hobby on my PC.

My passion for video games didn’t come quickly. I never saw the potential they could bring in my life. I was determined at a young age, to succeed in anything I pursued. Education was one of those avenues, and I did a great job at impressing others with my letter grades. Video games replaced all that. I used to always read books – not anymore. Games took over, and books became a means to an end so I could pass my classes and move on. I still was somewhat of a bookworm, and I guess games were part of that 90’s stereotype of interests. And it was thanks to Nintendo and Rare. Diddy Kong Racing and Super Mario 64 just hit differently, and to this day, are great to spend time with again.

I’m not a PC gamer, I still prefer playing games on television, and lately I’ve been reverting back to the cross-decade of 1995 and 2005. I have a nice couch set up in my spare room, with a CRT TV ready to play anything on my N64 or PlayStation 2/3. I still plan on purchasing a Wii again, a replacement console, as I have all the cords and controllers from my last Wii, and soon my gaming area will be complete, and I can grow old around it like an elderly man in his study… now I want to play Luigi’s Mansion and Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem again.