This entry to my blog will look into the games that I consider to be the top of the ever expanding pile that I have enjoyed and what they mean/t to me then and now.
I have played a metric butt load of video games in my life. I have 540 (hehe) in my Steam Library and have probably played maybe a solid quarter of them from start to finish. I’ve owned or played on pretty much every modern manufactured game console from the Gameboy to the Xbox One at some point in my life (minus the Sega scene because you know… they weren’t “cool” in the States) and have even started to dabble with VR through the Oculus Quest. I’ve played the classics, the modern era, the AAA’s and the indies but few have ever left a lasting impact on me and my life. This entry to my blog will look into the games that I consider to be the top of the ever expanding pile that I have enjoyed and what they mean/t to me then and now.
I remember when I was about four years old, my great grandparents bought all the grandchildren the OG GameBoy for Christmas. I loved it so much that I begged and pleaded with my parents to get me a night light (this was before back lit screens kids) so I could play on the long car rides to and from grandparents’ houses. The first game that I received for this monstrosity was Super Mario Land: 6 Golden Coins which in my opion wasn’t a horrible game, but I really wanted something more to dig into. I enjoyed Toy Story, Donkey Kong Country, and a few other titles, but I really didn’t fall in love with anything until a little after my seventh birthday. I was at KB Toys (throwback!) and had birthday money to spend. I remember seeing a few GameBoy games that I wanted, but then I saw what would become the ONLY RPG that I could stomach. Staring back at me high above from behind the cash registers was Charizard. Pokemon Red was a defining moment for young Caleb. I learned how to battle monsters, go on quests, and become the best Pokemon Trainer in all of Kanto. This also spurred me into begging for a GameShark so I could catch a Mew and a MissingN°. I bred my flying MissingN° with a Kangaskhan and received a ultra powerful flying Kangaskhan that would rock anyone’s Pokemon team over system link. I made friends at school and traded them back and forth. I even continued to play when the GameBoy Color came out and I received Pokemon Blue, Gold, and Silver for Christmases and birthdays. I will always love my Pokemon Red cart, so much so I’ve dumped the save file and replaced it’s RTC battery so when I finally get around to replacing the screen in my OG GameBoy, I’ll get to relive part of my childhood. I had every iteration of the GameBoy up to the SP then switched over to the DS. I currently have my New N2DS XL running custom firmware so I can play the old ROMs whenever I feel that itch coming on.
Now, the GameBoy was cool, but the PSP…. boy howdy. This was the console of my younger/mid teenage years and the console that I can honestly attribute to my love for modifications to hardware and software on devices. I first learned about CFW (custom firmware) flashing because of this system which led to me jailbreaking my first iPhone and rooting any and all Android devices I came across. This landed me a job with a local telecom in their technical support department which led to me joining their data operations team as a Linux admin and becoming my current form as a Linux System Administrator for the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. Pretty insane, right? But this isn’t about all that, this is about the software and games! The two titles that I recall most from the PSP are Infected, a zombie shooter set in New York at Christmas time and of course Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, which if you haven’t been living under a rock will know exactly what that game is about. Infected was a cool third person shooter with multiplayer that my friends and I would whip out on the Tech Bus or at Lunch and frag each other, but the coolest thing was the Trivum music video for “Pull Harder on the Strings of your Martyr” included in the settings menu which for me at that time as a budding metal fan was super cool. But GTA:LCS is the title that sticks out most in my head. This was the game that allowed me to downgrade my PSP firmware to install CFW and EdisonCarter’s GTA Toolkit. I remember playing GTA:LCS religiously every day for a month even after beating the game using the EC Toolkit to make and modify cars, fly around the map like Super Man, and even played through the entire game while snow fell on my screen in-game. I’ve always had a thing for snow levels in video games, so that was quite the trip. As with my OG GameBoy, I still have my PSP 1000 in decent working order. I’ve had to use packing tape to secure the UMD disc’s clear plastic on GTA:LCS and Infected (I played the piss out of both of them), but they still work beautifully.
Although I’ve owned every manor of iPhone and Android device, I really can’t say that I’ve ever had a “killer app” when it comes to games on mobile devices. There have a been a few titles here and there that I’ve used to pass the time, but nothing that I would say was “life altering”.
The Home Consoles
My first official console was the N64 although I had played my uncle’s NES and cousin’s SNES consoles before I was graced with that powerhouse. I received it for Christmas the year of launch with Super Mario 64. SM64 was the first video game that I ever completed on my own and I remember that day so vividly because my sister and dad watched me complete it. I had played it rigorously for almost a month to collect all 120 stars, beat Bower in the sky, and save Princess Peach from her dreaded fate of being a stained glass window. Even today, almost every night before bed, my son and I watch a speedrun of the entire game and make all the cool Mario sounds (YAAHOOO) together. It makes my heart explode that he loves that game so much at his age. Other titles for the N64 included Super Smash Brothers, Crusin’ USA, Vigilante 8, and my other love Banjo Kazooie. In the same vein as SM64, Banjo Kazooie pits our heroes against an evil witch named Gruntilda that has stolen Banjo’s sister Tootie to extract her youthfulness and good looks to become a sexy youthful hag. Banjo Kazooie is a platformer that I love so much and hope that Microsoft, Rare, and Nintendo can come to an agreement so I can once again play this classic on my Switch. I have a speedrun of myself on Mumbo’s Mountain that isn’t super impressive, but I did complete it without using Talon Trot.
The N64 gave way to the PS2 where I fell in love with Red Faction and Grand Theft Auto 3. Both titles hold a special place in my heart and both currently live on my modified PS2’s hard drive as backups of the original discs! GTA3 was my first open world adventure (which I guess you can call an RPG… so I lied earlier saying that Pokemon Red was the only one I could stand) which I used cheat codes, joined an online community forum, and shared in-game secrets and glitches with other players. It also opened my eyes to the world of talk radio. Chatterbox hosted by Lazlow was the ONLY station that I would listen to the entire time I played the game. I can probably recite all the commercials and most of the back and forth interviews from memory. I really wanted to buy petsovernight.com, but Rockstar still owns it so I’ll just keep my reserve ready for when the day comes that they let that lapse into oblivion. My obsession with Chatterbox led into my older teenage years to find The Lazlow Show, which sent me over to Opie and Anthony, then Howard Stern to finally Joe Rogan. It’s kinda crazy how things work out like that, finding something you’d never been or would have ever been exposed to in my podunk town to falling in love with that type of broadcasting. Red Faction was the first game with geomodification, meaning if you shot a wall with a rocket, it left a hole. I remember my cousin and I using rocket launchers on multiplayer maps to tunnel around and find hidden rooms, weapons, and easter eggs. I attribute my love and passion for digging through computer code looking for hidden treasures to this game. Without it, I would never had known that devs like to hide things inside their code/games for adventurers to find.
The Xbox era. From the OG Fatboy to the Xbox One S, I was a fan. I played a bunch of titles from Gears of War to Call of Duty, but again the defining titles for me was Halo 2 and Halo: Reach. Halo 2 was the first title that I played with my friends over a LAN and had LAN Parties at my buddy’s house together. We would create different game types, have friendly banter, and of course frag each other into the wee-hours of the morning. This cemented our bond throughout high school into our twenties. Halo 2 was also the first title that I played online against other real people. Where I lived, I only had dial-up so when we would have our LAN parties, we’d hook up to the DSL connection and get into lobbies with other nerds around the world. We made friends and enemies alike in our battles. Halo: Reach was the first title that I played and beat in co-op mode with my girlfriend at the time. I know that may sound romantic, but believe me, it was a struggle. I was fairly decent at first person shooters and the Halo franchise at that time, but she was a total noob to anything of the sort (her parent’s were kind of strict towards ‘M’ rated titles). However, even though it was a very difficult play through, that story… oh man that story. I had read “The Fall of Reach” by Eric Nylund and fell in love with the characters and the lore, Halo: Reach stayed somewhat true to that back story. It was also like a “coming of age” story for me personally. I had played Halo, Halo 2, Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST, and now the final (by Bungie) chapter to the story… Halo had been a staple for me since early 2002 at age twelve, so being a twenty year old man and being able to “Finish the Fight” along side Master Chief and his Spartans brought a little tear to my eye when the end credits rolled along. Reach also introduced me to SWAT in multiplayer which is hands down the best game variant in the Halo Franchise and yes I will fight you over it and die on this hill.
The Xbox One S really didn’t do much for me. I did however purchase the Rare Replay and got to experience Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Grabbed by the Ghoulies, and got to relive Banjo Kazooie in HD so it wasn’t all bad. Halo 5’s multiplayer maps were pretty decent as well. Overall, I can attribute my ability to communicate with random folks online and in person to the experiences I had in Halo as well as being able to work with someone that isn’t as savvy at something as you are to complete a common goal.
Finally, the PC Master Race
This section is probably my most favorite/hated. There are so many games that I love and enjoyed growing up and still play today. This is also my most used platform for gaming as I’ve always enjoyed tinkering and building PC’s to make them as good as they can be. The first titles that I remember playing on my uncle’s Apple II are a clone of Scorched Earth and Joust. Both were awesome for their time and really sparked my interest in computer games. Then came my parent’s Windows 98 SE with my dad’s friend putting bootlegged copies of Quake and Duke Nukem 3D. Although I was WAY too young to be playing either title, I did anyways… all while listening to N*Sync and Backstreet Boys (I was like 6-7 okay?). Both of those titles introduced me to fast paced FPS action and took me to alien worlds that I never could have imagined to exist at that point. They both sparked my love for horror and sci-fi which are two of my favorite genres even to this day.
Later into my tweens, The Sims were where it was at. Being in control of a digital person’s life and the world around them was pretty nifty. My sister and cousin would trade off with me on purchasing the expansion packs (kinda like DLC for you youngins out there) with our birthday money until we had the complete set. This led to my love for city builders like Cities: Skylines and Banished. I can attribute my ability to manage my tasks in my day to day life and job thanks to these titles. They keep your attention to detail and managing time/resources effectively.
Now, my two guilty pleasures that fall into they working as a team and communication categories. These two titles have been and will always be some of my top favorite games that I’ve ever enjoyed: Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Fortnite. CSGO was where I met some of my dear friends that I still have to this day. I met Rachel (aka Boner) in a random pick-up game on de_dust2 back in 2014. We played that game together almost every night up into 2017. Around mid 2016, we met Brad (vindication), Hunter (cinex), Alex (wolfNaste), and AJ (romNaste) in another random “one more before bed” games on de_nuke. All of these folks I consider to be my friends even though I’ve never physically seen them with my own eyes. We’ve had so much fun together in-game, have added each other on social platforms, and have shared our lives with one another since the day we all met. That is what CSGO did for my life, especially considering those years were pretty dark and gloomy for me. I met my ex-wife in June of 2017 and my CSGO time dwindled but my friendships didn’t. Once Erica and I were married, her son and I found a game that we could both enjoy together, Fortnite. We would play duos together, play with his friends and mine, and had something we could bond over. It was also the first Battle Royale style game that I got a solo, duo, and squad win on. It led to me attempting to be a streamer for some time and was something that Erica and I could hang out and play (she’d watch and be my cheer section) together when life wasn’t being insane. I still love Fortnite and play it to this day. Even though they got rid of Greasy Grove (Epic please fix), I can still enjoy rockin’ it solo, getting wins, winning umbrellas.
The next time you hear someone say, “You’re wasting your life playing video games.” just remember that without them, I wouldn’t be in my current job, wouldn’t have the ability to speak and communicate efficiently with other humans that I have never met in different areas of the world, know how to manage my time correctly, or learn that there are other things to listen to besides Country Music on the radio. Video Games can be an outlet to let off steam or to have fun, but they can also be used to cultivate your talents, hone your skills, and learn new ways to communicate with your fellow humans.