There was a deal when I was in grade school. There was always a deal.
In an effort to give me extra incentive to work harder in school, my parents proposed that if I made straight A’s, they would bless me with one of the current gen consoles. For the whole school year, if your child wanted to obtain the sweet, sweet nectar that was the newest console or videogame, they would have to buck down and study their brains out. Rather than preach the virtues that knowledge is power, the lesson of “work hard and get rewarded,” simply put, is more effective.
For THIS game-loving kid, the pot-of-gold-at-the-end-of-the-rainbow was a deal that started in the third grade with the Super Nintendo and carried over all the way until seventh. You see, I wasn’t the best student. I was one of those kids that teachers would say, “You’re smart but you don’t work hard enough.” In retrospect, that wasn’t true… I busted my ass off on the interests that I had and just brushed off everything else.
I remember my third grade teacher, who knew about this arrangement, giving me this menacing grin when my final report card of the year had a single ‘B’ among the ‘A’s.’ She made a quip about how if I only had spent more time on the research projects, the Super Nintendo could’ve been mine. Thanks, Mrs. Fitch. Luckily, my parents took mercy on my soul the following Christmas by surprising me with the SNES.
That brings us to 1998: seventh grade. I had already gotten a taste of the power of the PlayStation. I had already pored over every issue of Gamepro and the occasional EGM, soaking up all the previews and reviews. I had already watched the Japanese finale of Final Fantasy VII at my friend Jeff’s house (Fun Fact: none of us spoke Japanese at the time). I had already marveled at the huge character models in the home port of Mortal Kombat 3, which made me feel like a pauper with my SNES port of MK3. To make the anticipation even worse, I had managed to sneak into E3 that year… which is a tale for another day, my friend.
My mind and body were ready. There was just one damn problem – getting straight A’s. Once again, a console escaped me because of my lack of passion for academia. When seventh grade came to a close, my report card read two B’s. I was distraught. I had already seen screenshots for Resident Evil 2 with its female biker protagonist. I had already made plans that summer with Final Fantasy VII (in English this time). Worst of all, I had collected a litter of demos from E3, The Official Playstation Magazine, and Playstation Underground. Even without the system in my hands, I was consuming information like I already owned the system!
Well, summer began Playstation-less. The disappointment actually wasn’t all that terrible because I was able to pre-occupy myself with some SNES classics. It wasn’t too long into June that my parents announced an amazing piece of news. Because they had seen how hard I worked through the year, they were going to get me and my sister the PlayStation anyways. Fireworks exploded out my ears and confetti busted out my nose. It was finally happening!
We went to the Toys R Us twenty minutes from our house to pick up the Playstation. The way Toys R Us used to work was that, for the most expensive items, they kept it in the back and placed tickets of all the stock they had in whatever section the product belonged to. I grabbed the yellow-tinted ticket and handed it to my mom to pay at the checkout. If I had to guess, the elation I felt must’ve been exactly the same, if not more, than when Charlie turned in his golden ticket to Willy Wonka.
The red-bordered PlayStation box went through the scanner with a BEEP and was placed in a massive plastic bag. My heart, at this point, was pounding against my rib cage. When we got home, I decided to take a shower before I opened the box. Why? Because I wanted to get that relaxed feeling of after taking a nice, hot shower associated with my first experience playing MY PlayStation. Little did I know this would be the beginning of a fairly bad case of OCD… but, again, story for another time.
My sister, who was annoyed she had to wait for me to finish showering before she could play, sprinted down to the basement with me and the PlayStation. All we had at the time were the demos I had collected… but by Rachet’s clank, it was a glorious collection. My sister and I squared off in Tekken 3 (which only had Ling Xiaoyu and Eddy Gordo as playable characters) and played Tomagatchi for hours. Well, at some point, the music in Tekken 3 failed to load, and being a dumb, idiot kid, I didn’t understand how machines worked so like a dumb, idiot kid, the following weekend I got my mom to take me back to Toys R Us and exchange it for another PlayStation… you know, in case this first one was busted.
So what ended up being my first PlayStation game? Resident Evil 2.
I had watched a friend play through Resident Evil when I was PlayStation-less and just thought it was the apex of gaming. With my saved up allowance, I had to make a pivotal decision on which game to buy. This was when it took about four months to save up enough for a game, so obviously it was a monumental decision. I had already been burned once by purchasing Mortal Kombat 3 on the SNES and I wasn’t about to be burned again! After some extensive research, Resident Evil 2 seemed like the smartest choice. Little did I know I would be purchasing a gaming masterpiece.
I got my mom to drive me to Service Merchandise. For you kiddies out there, this was a store that sold a wide range of products and had quarterly catalogs. It worked in a weird way because you didn’t physically take any of the products to the check-out. You would carry a notepad they provided at the front, write down the serial number of what you wanted to purchase, go to the checkout, and wait for the item to be wheeled out on this magical assembly line. Anyway, I picked up Resident Evil 2, which, annoyed my mom because she was hoping I’d want to deposit my allowance into a bank and be responsible or whatever. Her annoyance was only amplified when I picked up a Mad Catz memory card.
“Why in the world do you need to get this, too?” she asked.
“Because I need to save the game!”
“Wait, you can’t do that with your system?”
“Nope. I need this memory card.”
At the time, I just had a blasé attitude like, that’s just how things are! But honestly, I can totally understand her perspective now from a consumer standpoint. Don’t even get me started with my dad and how he hates the concepts of strategy guides.
Anyway, Resident Evil 2 started my love (and hate) relationship with the Sony PlayStation. Almost twenty years later, I still possess the same enthusiasm and passion for gaming. I still get that rush of excitement when I purchase a new game. Regardless of final opinion, the promise that each purchase possesses is one of the most intoxicating sensations I’ve experienced in my thirty years on this Earth.
To close, I’ll state my decree: Gaming is good.