*PS1 bootup chills*
Thursday, December 25, 1997
I’m six-years old coming seven the week after Boxing Day – Friday January 2, 1998. My main Christmas present that year was a bike (I think?). Got the bike and I was super stoked. I had all the presents lined up for me and the bike was the first thing that was immediately obvious. But lying in front of the bike was a PlayStation shoulder bag. Black and with the PS logo on the front of it, I thought it was just a bag I could use to take with me to school (I was in P3 that year!). On that alone, it was the coolest school bag my folks ever got me.
But it was what was inside the bag that would start me down a path that hasn’t finished in 17 years. It was an actual PlayStation 1. I didn’t realise there was something in the bag, I just thought it was the bag itself! But lo and behold, there was a PS1. I can’t remember the exact reaction I had when I first seen it (although I very much can for PS2 – I’ll come back to that) but needless to say, very happy camper.
I only got two games with it, Crash Bandicoot and Porsche Challenge, and I went nuts on them games for a good few years.
I wasn’t as big a gaming nut at the time, which was why my PS1 library was so barren. I had Crash, Porsche and eventually Spyro The Dragon to do me. Not because we were poor or anything, but because I just didn’t care about other games at the time. I made do with those three games plus whatever demo discs I could get my hands on from OPM as well as rentals from the video shop down the road from me, which led to the discovery of the best PS1 game of all time – South Park Rally.
I didn’t play the likes of Metal Gear Solid; Final Fantasy VII, VIII or IX; Silent Hill; Resident Evil; the Grand Theft Autos or the likes. Looking back, I’m sad to have missed out on those games in their hayday, perhaps especially Final Fantasy now it seems like a shell of its former self, even if XV is looking awesome and Type-0 is also looking fun too.
But I was content with Crash, Spyro and Porsche and whatever else I could get from the rentals/OPM.
The original PlayStation was my first system after playing the NES/SNES (one or the other, can’t remember) with my cousin as well as my brother’s Sega Saturn every Saturday and the Game Boy we had gotten a month earlier to share between me and my sister (admittedly, in hindsight, I was the one who used it all the time whereas I don’t think I ever saw my sister play on it).
Thursday, January 4, 2001
It’s two days after my tenth birthday and I’m at a football camp at the park just down the road from me. I’m done for the day and I head back to the house. My memory’s foggy, but I recall my mum being there as well as my sister and my older brother, maybe my dad as well, and a few other folks I can’t mind. It wasn’t a birthday party – that was already done – but they were there for me. When you see this many people in the room, you mind starts to think “what’s happened?”
My mum mentions to me they got me a belated birthday present. I think she said something among the lines of ‘it wasn’t what you wanted, but I think you’ll be very happy anyways’. The giftwrapped present sitting there on the table, I was disappointed it wasn’t the thing I really wanted, but I was still happy to get the present. There was a part of me thinking it was going to be an Action Man set of some sort. As I slowly rip the paper off, I see the colour on the box isn’t orange – the colour you’d associate with Action Man – but blue. There was a quick realisation of what this could be. I then fully ripped the paper off. And there it was.
It was that famous blue packaging. With the logo front and centre. It was a PlayStation 2, the thing I really wanted more than life itself as a ten-year old boy, the thing I begged my mum two months earlier to get me for Christmas.
And I just lost it then and there. I wasn’t full out crying, but tears were falling down my face. It’s perhaps my most cherished gaming memory ever. I was just so happy. My dad and my sister had to go to Belfast to get the system considering the massive demand for the system had amounted to massive shortages two months after launch. But I didn’t care where they went for it. I was the happiest ten-year old in the Waterside area of Derry for the rest of the day.
There was I being rubbish for the rest of the evening at Ready 2 Rumble Round 2 and Ridge Racer V or the demo disc that came with the system, featuring a demo of the original SSX that I would play continuously until my mum got me a copy of the game two months later. The day after I got my PS2, I had to go just outside the city for the second day of football camp, but before I had to leave, I had two of my friends at the time come into our kitchen come in and play Ridge Racer V so they could see what I got.
If PlayStation 1 was the baby dose, PlayStation 2 was going full in and drinking the heavy stuff, to use the worst piss-poor analogy ever. I still never got round to properly playing Final Fantasy games (although I did play an hour or so of X-2) but this was where my gaming ‘life’ would begin in earnest, if it hadn’t already. Underaged Grand Theft Auto sessions (my mum would let me play GTA III, but not Vice City until she eventually caved), FIFA, Jak & Daxter, Ratchet & Clank, Silent Hill 3, Zone of the motherfucking Enders 2 and thensome.
Of course, there was one game that would, and this is going to sound hyperbolic yet nonetheless true, change my life forever towards the end of PS2’s life-cycle in 2005. That game was Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. I mentioned last week how reading outlets like Eurogamer and Official PlayStation Magazine UK (and to a lesser extent, the old PlayStation World and PSM2/3 magazines) as well as people like Tom Bramwell and Tim Clark inspired me to write about games. But if it wasn’t for MGS3, I wouldn’t have had the seed planted in my head to think of writing about games.
Today, PlayStation – the original PlayStation and as a result, the brand as a whole – turns 20 years old. The system launched two decades ago on December 3, 1994 in Japan. It wouldn’t come west until the following year. 20 years on, Sony is set to release a PlayStation 1-themed PS4 in limited numbers as announced this morning.
With the exception of one or two Nintendo handhelds, my gaming life was built around PlayStation until 2006 when I finally got a home system that wasn’t a PlayStation of sorts, an Xbox 360 with Gears of War and Test Drive Unlimited. When I was on the official PlayStation forums, I would talk about some of my favourite games at the time with people who I would eventually go on to meet in the games industry like freelance games journo Nick Akerman or Bethesda’s Korina Abbott.
Even now, most of my top ten games ever can be associated to PlayStation in one form or another, with my top two being PlayStation-exclusive in The Last of Us on PS3 and MGS3 (at the time of its release anyways) on PS2.
I’m a multi-platform gamer now as the owner of a PlayStation 4 & PlayStation Vita, an Xbox One and Nintendo Wii U & Nintendo 3DS and my job is to write about multi-platform stuff than write exclusively of just one. But needless to say, without PlayStation, I wouldn’t be here as a writer, or even as a gamer, today.
To paraphrase CM Punk: “I’m a PlayStation guy”
Happy birthday, PlayStation.