I honestly cannot believe it’s been twenty years. I don’t FEEL that old, but after checking the math on the official PlayStation blog, it checks out. The OG PlayStation never really made big waves in my circle of friends when it first came out. My friend Bryan had one, and that’s where I was first introduced to Lara Croft, and the bizarre and addictive Jumping Flash, but a lot of us were still playing with our Super Nintendos and it would be a couple years before the N64 came out. When given the chance though, we discovered The PlayStation offered games that were deeper, and more adult, than anything we had played previously. The graphics were pretty mind blowing at the time, especially for someone who had never seen a “3-D” game outside of Starfox. I do have some very fond memories of that weird little grey box, and in honour of 20 years of PlayStation, I’ll share them here. A lot of these memories will involve references to friends of mine that you readers have never met, but my fondest gaming memories pre-internet all involve playing with my buddies.
Renting a console
Well, it doesn’t really need to be stated, when it first came out Metal Gear Solid was kind of a big deal. This was one of the first “grown-up” games I ever played, and it planted a seed within me that would grow into a tree that really, really liked stealth games. However, in order to actually play the game, we had to rent a PlayStation. For our younger readers who just paused and said “what do you mean, ‘rent’ a console?” let me explain. In the long long ago, the time before time, popular movie rental outlets like Blockbuster and Bandito used to offer consoles for rent. Not being the wealthiest kids on the block, we couldn’t afford our own console and this was often the only avenue we could take to play certain games. So for a small fee and mom’s credit card info, we were able to get that sweet console shaped suitcase to take home for a weekend of brain melting, teeth rotting, sleep deprived fun.
On the topic of videogame centred sleepovers, let’s all remember the game that really started the survival horror genre. I know it was a sequel, but I never played the first one, and this is the game that really opened up my eyes to what a game to do to a young mind. I grew up with the Super Marios, the Ninja Turtles, and other safe, kid oriented franchises. When I first saw the monster crawl across the window in the hallways of the Racoon City PD I knew I was in for a late night. Never before had a game made me sweat like that, and there were no internet guides to tell us how to solve the puzzles, or where to find item X. Paul, Derek and myself had to combine our intellects and creativity to figure the game out all on our own merits. Rarely do I get that sense of accomplishment out of a game these days.
Ah, the glories of the compact disc. In an odd sort of way I can’t summon the fondness for in-game cutscenes that I thought I would, as I hate them now. Back in the day though, it was pretty incredible and added a hell of a lot of depth to a medium that up until then was mainly about scoring points and finding secrets. This really pushed the industry forward, and for a while was a solid argument to use anytime someone claimed videogames were childish endeavours with no legitimacy as a story telling device. Thanks to the PlayStation, this entire concept became so ingrained in the industry that they’re now inseparable. Telling a good story became so important to the success of the game that it’s now an absolute requirement.
By the time 1994 rolled around, the battle between Sega and Nintendo was reaching a pinnacle. It was pretty clear that Nintendo was going to reach the finish line first, and gain a monopoly. Sure Sega had the Saturn, and the much-loved but ill-fated Dreamcast, but they were already bleeding tons of cash as arcades died and gaming moved more and more into the living room. If Sony hadn’t entered the game, Nintendo would have been the be-all end-all of the videogame world, and monopolies always lead to stagnation. Sony took a huge risk jumping into that market, as nobody at the time could have foretold how enormous and fiscally viable the gaming industry was going to become over the next two decades. And without Sony, it’s highly doubtful Microsoft would have entered the fray, and just imagining a world without all the beloved franchises spawned from these two companies is scary enough. So thanks PlayStation. Thanks for 20 years of awesome games, from you and your competition.