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The Game That Defined My Childhood November 25, 2010

Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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For me, my memories are tied deeply into what was great about the times. Growing up, I had very little to enjoy, until I got to high school. But for me, that high school experience was tied into one great game, Metal Gear Solid. In fact, I can’t even look back onto anything I did back in 1999 and 2000 without thinking about what part I was playing in Metal Gear Solid.

The year was 1999. I was a freshman in high school, and for the first time in ten years I was enjoying my schooling. I must’ve chosen the correct high school to attend for me because I was quickly becoming one of the most popular (or at least well known and well liked) students in the school. I wasn’t being bullied and I had tons of friends and peers. I wasn’t dating, but that was because (you’ll hear this common theme a lot) every girl I met already had a boyfriend (by the way this hasn’t changed, where do you single women go anyway? Do you hide in caves? Do you even exist?).

I wrote all this to set the stage about what was going on for me at that part of my life, and my point is I was really enjoying it. My computer skills were sharpening every day now that I had access to computers. Because of the power of PCs at the time, I hadn’t owned a game console since the original NES, and although my sister had her own Sega Genesis, all we really played on it were Sonic the Hedgehog games. When I loaded up my first true PC game in December 1996, I knew that the consoles at that time couldn’t hold a candle at what was really possible, and I swore off consoles as unnecessary.

Then Metal Gear Solid was released in the US. The game that would forever change the gaming landscape. The perfect blend of story and gameplay. The merging of graphics and style. It went beyond what the best movie could offer. In short, the game was perfect.

It was 1999. I couldn’t get to a single gaming site without reading someone talking about its impact on the gaming revolution. I was visiting websites daily with the latest tips and rumors about what the game included. I learned how to unlock secret items after each play through.

I couldn’t take it any more. I had to play this game with a copy of my own. I betrayed my PC roots and I asked for a Playstation for my birthday with a memory card. I figured with my leftover birthday money I could get my own copy of the game anywhere. But I was wrong, every store I checked did not sell it, and this was back in the day where video games were kind of hidden in stores who would rather profit selling clothes and shoes. An Electronics Boutique (now GameStop) was still a year or two away from coming in my area, and stores like Best Buy would take even longer.

I got the game because a friend came through for me. He told me a store near his house was selling it and offered to buy it for me, and to his credit he took the fifty dollars I gave him and gave me a brand-new sealed copy of the game the next day. I could not have been happier that Thursday to finally have my own copy of the game to play! I booted up the game the second I got home and started without break making my way through the game. I wanted the Stealth Camo on my first playthrough, but pretty soon after doing what it took to get it, the game made me feel such an intense remorse for my actions. As Snake put it, “In the movies, the hero always saves the girl…” That line made me cringe at my actions and hate myself for what I had done. Only an expertly written story presented by professional actors could have gotten emotion out of a guy who was raised on first person shooters. Since then, story had always won out with me.

I made it as far as one kid could make it in one night, the second Sniper Wolf battle before calling it quits for the night. The worst part about it was for that entire weekend I was forced to endure a wilderness survival training program. For three days I slept on the ground, learned how to climb mountains and trees and ate trail mix and bagels. All I wanted was to get back home not to just eat normal food and sleep, in a bed, but to finish the game I had started and bring it to conclusion. In hindsight, a lot of what I did there was pretty much what my character was doing in the game, but I was so caught up with wanting to go back and finish my fight with Sniper Wolf I didn’t give it much thought.

The night I got back from wilderness survival school I loaded up my save and picked up the game where I left off. Before long, Otacon and Snake snowmobiled off into the sunset and the stealth camo was mine. I really had grown to like Otacon as a character, he was the classic nerdy type who when thrown into a fantastic situation could hold his own. I wondered, after reading the stories of the previous Metal Gear games, if we’d ever see him again in a future sequel. I had the game finished, and I had a whole week of classes to look forward to.

One year later, on May 12th, 2000, I was sitting at the computer in my Honors Sophmore English Class when I loaded up IGN.com for the first time in my life. I heard that something called E3 was happening in Los Angeles, and the latest rumors up to that point was that there might be a premere of something Metal Gear related at that show. No sooner did I log into the site when IGN posted up a camera feed of the first trailer of Metal Gear Solid 2. The computers at school had no sound but thank you Japan for subtitles! Even on a high-speed T1 connection the download was taking forever, so I wasn’t looking forward to downloading the video off my 56k modem at home. However, the first subtitled line sealed the deal for me. “This is Snake, Otacon do you read me?” I could not have been happier my favorite character was returning, working alongside Solid Snake to bring down Metal Gears all over the world. That Friday was one of the best days of my life. My cousin was the first in my family to get a PS2 and also got one of the first copies of Metal Gear Solid 2. I think I played it more than he did. It wouldn’t be until 2005 when I finally bought myself a PS2 (and boy was I suprised to find my old PS1 memory card still functioned just as well as the day I first got it) and all I can say is thank you so much Konami for the Metal Gear Solid The Essentials Collection.

Whenever you come up against adversity in your life, I leave you with this. The words of Otacon after the woman he loved, Sniper Wolf, was killed. I can’t think of any better words to describe how one is to live their lives through anything.

Otacon: “Snake! What was she fighting for? What are you fighting for? What am I fighting for?”

Snake: “If we make it through this, I’ll tell you.”

Otacon never asked him again.

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