It has to be said that the late 90s was pretty epic all round for a guy at my age. I was soon to be leaving school, I was also soon to become a legal adult…which meant nothing really apart from the fact that everything I had been doing illegally was soon to be legal and therefore ok in the eyes of the law. We hadn’t had much more controversy over video games since the 16bit era, people had come to realise that video games were now emulating real and fantasy world violence but it was to be Grand Theft Auto that stood apart from the rest of the crowd with a big blood stained knife in one hand and a sign in the other that said “Look at me!!”. Looking back at the first installment of GTA makes you really question what all the fuss was about (No offense guys!). It really goes to show how little the media scum and civilian do-gooders have going on in their lives, when a small, pixelated world of top down criminal activity can become a focal point of a society.
Ultimately what you take from a game like GTA is the most important part. Was it that you took someone’s life during a robbery and then were abruptly run over by over zealous local authority? Or do you now think that yes, selling cocaine on the streets, although lucrative, is in fact living your life on a knife edge between becoming Scarface or a shit stabber behind bars.
The minority who complained about the game were often the ones who have never played it and it was the fine upstanding role model, Max Clifford who got the controversy ball rolling. Your background and circumstances obviously play a big part in your early development, not some crooked graphical representation of a city from the view of a pigeon. Before shoddy looking violent video games, the previous generation had been subjected to beautifully composed and well animated cartoons. Young people witnessed a man with a passion for spinach, solve all of his day to day tribulations with simple brutality. Punching and kicking anything that stood in his way, often all for the love of a gawky looking woman. I don’t remember the public outcry to ban Popeye, core values and morals in life are something you may or may not follow depending on your wiring and upbringing. If you are influenced enough by video games to commit heinous acts, the games aren’t the problem. Boredom is a scary thing, never let humans, adults or children, become bored, it leads to awful things…I believe computer games combat this.
I remember entering Curry’s in 1998, which for those of you who do not reside in the UK, it is in fact an electrical store, not a food outlet. GTA had just hit the shelves and I went in to shoplift…I mean purchase the game. I had read the reviews, scanned the screenshots and so, I was looking forward to playing the game as it sounded like a riot. For whatever reason though this game received an 18 rating and because of this, the young man behind the counter couldn’t serve me. Saddened by my inability to crack on and sell virtual crack, I politely asked my Dad if he would go in and buy it for me. My Dad had spent many an hour sat with me, hand drawing the maps of DOOM for me as we ran around level after level mercilessly gunning down anything sprite that moved…he knows it’s just a game and he doesn’t give a flying fuck what you do in a game as long as you’re not stupid enough to carry out ‘missions’ in real life. You join to army to kill legally, and carry out missions all in the name of drugs and or resources. I’m far too lazy for that kind of thing and that’s why I play video games.
If Wipeout and Gran Turismo raised the bar for technical and content excellence in a racing game. GTA took RPG/Action/shooter/driver, to a whole new level. Real stereo audio tracks boomed over sounds of a bustling city, as you joy ride to victory doing favours for local drug dealers and pimps. Originally penciled to be a simple cops vs robbers chase game, the small team of programmers and enthusiasts pooled ideas from their favourite films and TV shows to come up with a totally original idea. The big cheeses funding the operation didn’t want it, at times the programmers couldn’t meet the concepts, It was almost canned at every corner but for some reason, it was destined to be brought to life and beamed into our brains to turn us into violent drug pushing thugs.
The PS1 was now on fire (not literally due to becoming violent) with so much great content, Sony were an unstoppable force at this point. GTA along with other great titles secured PS1’s place as top dog.
After well over fifty hours playtime I can’t say I was any closer to stealing my neighbours car and going on a knife rampage, I had a teenage temperament already, which meant I was naturally either hot, cold or horny or all of the above. Drugs had come long before GTA ever did to. I remember it like yesterday (going against any so called ‘reports’ of cannabis leading to memory loss) my friend and I stood under his porch in the back garden, listening to the heavy rain on the plastic corrugated roof, hunched over trying to ignore the cold. He produced from his coat pocket what I saw him roll earlier and said “Try it, it’s like cigarettes only different’.
Different indeed, I don’t think we stopped laughing for three hours, laughed at the rain, laughed at each other and laughed some more. We went back upstairs and stuck on the Playstation and a beautiful friendship came to being. I didn’t realise at the time that this was illegal, I guess people can only have fun as long as there is a limit to it, enforced by government.
I was no stranger to physical violence either with over seven years of traditional Karate behind me, long before GTA being released. Karate is an age old Japanese method of practicing how to effectively use ones foot to make an opponent’s eyes pop out of their ears. You enter a room full of strangers and quite often you’ll find yourself punching and kicking each other, occasionally being whipped by a teachers belt if and when you made mistakes. Had I used these techniques in anger? Not really, but I had been able to defend myself once or twice, usually resulting with me trying to put someone’s foot up their own ass.
I’ve seen monks from Asia smash pots on their heads and take kicks to the groin from a man twice their size…those bald fella’s haven’t even got a TV so whatever influences them to practice the arts of inflicting pain is anyone’s guess. I’d say boredom.
Smoking plants and playing video games was now what happened between school and eating. It could not have come at a better time as titles that have earned their place in the video game hall of fame, were released within two years of each other. Who can forget the four player split screen romp that was 007 Golden Eye on the N64, running around as Nick Nac while your friend fruitlessly attempts to karate chop you to death with Jaws had me in tears of laughter, not to mention the hilarious animation. Resident Evil 2 stoned was another level of frightening too, with curtains drawn, walking around as a cop who can only move like a cheap educational robot, HI-FI turned up to 11 and the lights off, it certainly tested your nerves.
For me this was a highlight in my gaming history so far. The days when I’d sit with a mate in my school uniform for hours until it was time for me to go, I could take the game home if they let me borrow it and the disc contained the full game.
I still had my Megadrive, I don’t recall when I sold the old girl but I do remember on the odd occasion, slamming in a cartridge for one final blast on California Games, Streets of Rage or James Pond. The sounds, the gameplay and the pad brought on feelings on nostalgia even at such a young age. When I play these games now on emulators, it’s never the same, similar to the thoughts of child hood, it reminds me of how easy going things were back then when compared to the ever maddening, shameless, money grabbing, product placing, non supportive, underhanded, identity stealing, slutty industry it is today.
There are just too many games to mention here, the step into the 3D polygon world of Sony’s powerhouse was only the beginning, but for a lot of us, we were playing reinvented titles of the originals. The Strike games continued with Soviet and Nuclear Strike. We had Micromachines V3 which surprised many as it was just as additive and frustrating as the original. Mortal Kombat was given more content and fighters with the Trilogy, with strong competition in the genre from 3D titles like Tekken and Soul Blade, there were no complaints. The PlayStation, was the first video game console to ship 100 million units, 9 years and 6 months after its initial launch. Gaming was becoming seen as a worthwhile past time and not just the hobby of spotty kids with high scores and corduroy trousers.
In the year 2000, we were going to see what would become the bestselling home console of all time, the aptly named, Playstation 2. It was also the year I left home, had my first house mate and so, the battles continued.
After reading part 3 of the gaming history, you’re probably wondering how could games get any better than Altered Beast. A game that encompassed all manner of things akin to greek mythology, which was one of the few kinds of story book i enjoyed reading in primary school. Greek mythologies, like the bible, were a collection of make believe stories that have been passed on through the ages, to teach and entertain, although when you compare the two, it’s like comparing doing homework to watching WWF wrestling, on a Saturday morning, with a can of cherry coke and a bag of monster munch. Less talk, more action.
The Megadrive really did open up new worlds of gaming for me. True, it was not the only console out there at the time but the huge games library and the fact most of my friends had the same system, it was the obvious choice.
Out of the countless titles I had owned and borrowed from friends, there will always be a small selection that stick in my mind as first-rate. As I didn’t live in the Philippines at the time, at 8 years old I wasn’t legally allowed to work. Most of my gaming library was acquired through the means of blackmailing my parents into thinking buying me Mortal Kombat, would enhance my school grades. As you’ve probably noticed by now with the subtle hints, Mortal Kombat was a favourite of mine, back in the early nineties.
Whilst others were bouncing around psychedelic worlds collecting gold rings with a spinning blue hedgehog, I was kicking people to death in the most realistic yet humours fighting game to date. What was different about this fighting game, compared to the platforms released by the Japanese, were the digitised sprites. Unlike the drawn characters of the early Street Fighter games, actors would have their actions filmed, which would be then digitised into graphic form, using a programmable machine designed to automatically carry out a sequence of arithmetic or logical operations…or as some people like to call it, a computer.
The idea was simple. A 2D fighting game using digitised sprites, truck loads of violence with a cool soundtrack. It’s been done to death but Mortal Kombat is in a league of its own. Since the first instalment back in1992 we’ve seen 18 Mortal Kombat games, each with their own unique style and format. Mortal Kombat began life as a mix of ideas of just four men. Ed Boon, lead programmer, two graphics guys, John Tobias and John Vogel and Dan Forden created the infamous sound. Originally Ed Boon and John Tobias wanted to digitise and use Jean-Claude Van Damme to wonder around, smacking people but it never came to fruition. In the end they settled with some made up characters who were all linked loosely by a weak story line, much like a Van Damme film.
Probably the result of having Van Damme in mind for the game. This smug prick is a action film star but is also good at killing in real life. To prove it, he enters the Mortal Kombat Tournament. He’s topless, wears jogging bottoms and a pair of shades that you can’t even kick off.
Johnny’s special moves consisted of a wobbly ball of green light, a ‘shadow kick’, which was basically the same animation multiplied across the screen several times to indicated a special kick. Finally Johnny’s trade mark move was a good old punch the balls…or lady burger, if you’re playing Sonya.
Not a chap you’d want to meet down a dark alley…actually you wouldn’t want to meet him anywhere. Kano gives as much of a fuck as a headless porn actress. Recruited by the evil Shang Tsung, the mad aussie is as good with his head as he is with his hands.
Kano’s speciality is his glowing knives, which he can throw at an infinate amount of times. Kano’s other special move was the cannonball, where somehow he throws himself at you, using himself as the projectile. A grade ‘A’ lunatic.
Imagine Bruce Lee, give him immortal power and then set his shoes on fire. That’s Lu Kang. Throughout the Mortal Kombat legacy he’s fought everyone, he’s been everywhere but doesn’t have the time for the T-shirt.
His weapons are his hands and feet. If he’s not punching you repeatedly whilst making the kind of noise a person makes when they step on a plug, he’s kicking your ass into next Tuesday. Because he resembles Bruce Lee in many ways, his special moves compile of a fly kick and the ability to fire balls of flame from his hands…obviously some kind of fantastical way of implying he has the power of a dragon but it’s cool nonetheless. Kang’s most entertaining special move is his ‘bicycle kick’, which literally looks like he’s trying to pedal an imaginary bike, using your face as pedals. If you listen carefully when performed, you might here the following, “Moveoutofthewayorillkickyouintheface”.
Sonya Blade is a woman Chris Brown couldn’t beat. She could crush a weak, stereotypical, manufactured black rapper’s head with her thighs alone. Sonya is part of some military outfit who is sent to sort out all of the bother in the Mortal Kombat tournament. It’s a little more than she bargained for and later gets some help from the man mountain that is JAX.
Her special moves are somewhat to be desired in the first Mortal Kombat. Using some sort of military technology she is able to fire a pink energy projectile at her opponent. The scissor kick take down was always quite amusing, she put her ankles around your neck (not in the good way) then pulled you down with so much force you bump your head on the floor, making the screen shake.
Don’t let the straw hat deceive you, Raiden is no oriental farmer. He’s a god like man who can summon lightning, now you’re probably wondering what made him choose a straw hat. In the first Mortal Kombat you learn that Raiden is the organiser of the good guys who fight Shang Tsung and his henchmen in the tournament. Be sure that where ever Raiden is, that’s where the shit’s going down. He has a formidable set of special moves, from firing lightning at you with his hands, to flying across the screen, arms outstretched, palm striking you to death. Undoubtedly one of the best characters in MK and because of that, he’s been in the majority of the titles.
Cooler than a tramp on Christmas day. Sub-Zero is one of the many masked ninja’s in the MK world. Subs has the ability to freeze his opponent with an icy blast or he can lay a sheet of ice on the floor so the unsuspecting foe will slip all over and hurt themselves. He defiantly isn’t the guy who would respond to an accident claim form either, so approach him cautiously. In later games he does develop some seriously harsh combinations, Sub-Zero has proved to be a popular character amongst the veterans of the series. Sub-Zero’s ‘Fatality’ is also something to watch for in this first MK title, this, along with a few other things, resulted in the introduction of the world’s first computer games age ratings.
Hotter than Monica Belluci and Kate Winslet wrestling in melted Cadbury’s chocolate. Scorpion, for his deeds, resides in hell. He is another masked Ninja from a different clan to Sub-Zero and also sworn enemies. Probably my favourite character all round. He acquired another sound sample that has been referenced and used countless times since it was first heard. ‘COME ERE!!’ or ‘GET OVER HERE!’ holds its place as one of the most famous sounds from a computer game. Scorpion’s array of moves are pretty brutal. His spear attack is the move that was given the ‘Come here!’ sample and his teleport punch was rather handy when things got rough.
The game was deemed a bad influence for children and as I have mentioned earlier, Mortal Kombat was stamped with the first age rating. This was also partly due to the ‘fatalities’ in the game. For every win in Mortal Kombat you have a few seconds to perform a button sequence which initiated music at the same time the screen goes dark and the fatality is performed. Sub-Zero’s fatality was to grab the head of the victim and pull the head, along with the spine, out of the body, holding in the air like a trophy. At the time, this was the equivalent of finding a bag of jazz mags in a bush as a teenager, fatalities weren’t listed in the games manual, these were acquired by doing your research without the help of the internet.
Speaking of which and for the benefit of the younger reader, I’m older than the internet, so I remember a time when arrangements would have to be made via a landline (That’s using a phone with a cable hanging out of it) for your friend to come over, sometimes equipped with his/her own pad, for a few hours session on the console. As games progressed, so did the intensity of the competition and due to titles like Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, King Of Fighters, Killer Instinct and the like, champions emerged and soon made names for themselves worldwide.
The beat’em up’s really took off…arcades were full young boys and girls spending their hard earned, showing off their skills and earning some cool points. If you’ve ever been involved in a tournament of any kind, whether it was at home or in the arcades themselves. The competition can get intense but ultimately, it’s exciting, beating your opponent with learnt skills and knowledge is something personal and satisfying.
How games were ever demonised is beyond me. Simulated fighting or killing in a game does not encourage you to beat up everyone you meet, if you have mental issues anyway, it’s not the games fault you don’t know the difference between killing an imaginary foe to bludgeoning your friend with a brick.
The media, as always can’t make up its mind, they’re saying one minute games make kids lazy, the next, their effecting children and they end up shooting their class mates. Not true. It’s probably more to do with the fact uncle touchy has been giving the kid an ultimatum of beatings or soapy bath time and bought him/her a Playstation to keep them quiet. In the end the kids head pops and someone gets the shit end of the stick.
The government would much rather you joined their armed forces and kill for a reason you’re not quite sure of. Why not be like the modern day prince Harry and train to fly an Apache Gunship, hunting raggedy men in the hills of a hot country? I’m getting off topic again.
Coming in Part 5, side scrolling beat’em ups, the Japanese get weird again and something else about me sat on my arse pressing buttons.