Ah, video games, an ever-stable plateau in my otherwise turbulent and unstable life.

It was through them that I was able to learn the majority of the broken English that I wield today (along with bootleg Disney VHS copies and surprisingly easy to pirate cable back in the day); through them I dreamed and imagined as a kid when I immersed myself in those wondrous worlds, feeling the excitement of playing that one new game or the exhilarating rush when I finally beat that tricky boss fight after being stuck on it for a while. Through them I’ve forged treasured friendships that I hold most dear.

Gaming around these parts of the world have always had its own share of tribulations and peculiarities, from the lack of official releases & support in most Latin American countries, higher entry barrier costs stemmed from steep import fees & other sharp stabbing taxes, as well as higher retail costs; there’s even some unique cultural differences or interesting cases inherent to the region such as Sega having such a massive success in Brazil. In the case of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, there’s a fierce blanket ban on “Violent” video games inspired by German law (gee thanks, Deutschland) that people took serious at first, but nowadays not so much; or if you want a more surreal case, some games allow you to earn more money than what a Doctor earns here nowadays, now that our government has equalized all wages and everyone earns less than a dollar per day, farming MMO gold tends to be a more lucrative endeavour than working a regular job.

I know it sounds cliché but video games have always been a shelter, a place where I was in control of things in an otherwise chaotic childhood and adolescence.

What follows is a personal account of some chapters in vidya history, a trip down to memory lane as I went from console to console—and then PC, with a few tidbits here and there.

The early days

The first console that I had in my possession was a banged-up Atari 2600 that was passed down to me with a couple games when I was very young; it was so long ago that I can’t even remember all of the games although the boxing one was definitely one that I remember playing a lot, at least during the tail end of my Atari days.

Sometime afterwards I was given an NES console that once belonged to my older cousins, and with that my Nintoddler decade began. I have fond memories of playing an assortment of games such as the Mario series, Jackal, and even that TMNT game, seriously, fuck that water level.

I could never beat this game as a kid, perhaps I should try again when I'm in other frontiers

The Legend of Zelda was a unique experience, I was so bad at it but man, that golden cartridge was so cool; one of my older cousins had the idea of putting small modelling clay dots on my TV where the dungeon entrances and other points of interest were located in the map so that I could have a rudimentary walkthrough right there on the screen.

Did it work? Not really, it was a very short-lived experiment, but one worth trying.

There was this curious bootleg game among the ones that I had in my possession, the cartridge was light gray in color, I can’t even remember what the sticker said but it came with a bunch of games on it, some didn’t even work at all, it also also had Ice Climbers and Mappy.

DuckTales was another of my favorites, I loved the show as a kid, and you’re telling me that it has a video game? Hell yeah gimme that!

That moon theme

I was eventually passed down a Zapper with Duck Hunt, I had so much fun with it. Even though I wasn’t good at games back then (not like I am nowadays lmao) what was most important for me was that the enjoyment I got out of them, every jump, every bleep and bloop, every level clear, ever game over—it was all so cool for me.

SNES

A few Christmas later my mom got me a brand new SNES. God I was so happy that morning, Super Mario World came bundled with it; I was blown away by the jump between Super Mario Bros. 3 & World, I was amazed when I first got the feather and learned how to fly with the cape, the controller itself was out of this world, going from Atari’s one button to NES’s two, and now a whopping six button controller, oh man, it was such a huge leap for me.

I still remember the first time I beat Bowser, several months after that Christmas, we were on a trip back to our beloved Maracaibo, I can still taste the pastelitos and malt that I had for breakfast that morning. 

What I didn’t knew back then was the purpose of that trip: my mom was pregnant at the time and a preeclampsia caused her to miscarriage. I was too young and naïve to understand what had happened beyond the fact that I had lost a brother; Brian Israel would’ve been his name, my mom always had a thing for mixing up things when it comes to names—to have a balance between two polarized names if you will, hence why I’m called Christian Kaleb.

After she recovered we moved back to my dad’s town of Punto Fijo, once things were back to a certain degree of normalcy I eventually got Super Mario Kart and Street Fighter II Turbo, this last one was a special case, I mean c’mon, who didn’t do a hadouken while on the shower as a young kid? I had a tendency of grabbing a red towel and a cap to disguise myself as M. Bison, running around the house.

You can imagine how nostalgic I felt when I recently found that red towel, all tattered and worn out, it no longer has that vivid red but at least the teddy bear depicted on it has endured through time.

I didn’t had an extensive library of SNES games but I was happy with what I had nonetheless, although, thanks to video game rentals I was able to play and try several games for a very low cost at the time, “Eureka” was the name of the place, they sold and rented games and movies, one of those games was Mega Man X.

This bad boy over here marked a before and after for me when it comes to vidya

I don’t know how describe it but for me it felt like the perfect game, there was something about it, the gameplay, the kickass music that still holds to this day, the hidden upgrades and weapons—it all just mixed in so perfectly. 

While it wasn’t my first time hearing about Mega Man games it was the first time that I actually played one. My parents would rent it every other weekend as their budget allowed and each time they did I was ready to input the passwords I had carefully written down to keep going with my adventure.

I had a friend back then during 2nd grade who was also a huge fan of this game, oh man, we would LARP and talk about Mega Man for hours, and when we got our hands on X2 we dialed all that to eleven; it’s a bummer that we would then go to different schools from 3rd grade onwards—we lost contact with each other ever since, I hope he’s had a great life, he was a good pal, my very first good friend.

While I never got a Link to the Past I would also rent it from time to time; beating a rented copy of Zelda was close to impossible though because someone would always wipe your save file or you would get another copy of the game instead.

Mortal Kombat is another notable mention, my dad was told about this “super violent” game that featured beheading, ripping people’s hearts, and all that good gory stuff, so of course we had to try it. Whether or not it was a case of good or bad parenting depends on your perspective, in any case, MK rapidly became one of my favorite video game series, who could ever forget that campy cartoon show?

Come think of it, it’s weird that he used to be so lax about video games, going as far as to play them with me every now and then, Dr. Mario was one of his favorites because he is a Doctor and all that, but after he went full deadbeat mode he abhorred the fact that I played them, oh well.

Star Fox was one of the other games that I would occasionally rent, for some reason some of the levels legitimately weirded me out, perhaps it was the rudimentary graphics or those levels’ ambients—I don’t know.

While I never owned a Sega Genesis I would get to play it from time to time during this era, Sonic, Golden Axe, and The Lion King are some notable mentions. Super Mario RPG was my first turn based RPG experience, it sure took me a while to beat it though; funny though, I was super amazed when my name was said as a password to open a door at some point in the game.

When it was time for my mother, brother, and I to move back to Maracaibo in late 1996 I could only bring one console with me (one of many “your life in a suitcase” moments that I’d go through, one more to go when I leave Venezuela), naturally I packed my SNES, leaving the poor old Atari and NES behind. I often wondered in the past what happened to them—or to be more specific, what did my deadbeat dad do with them as well the fate of my old toys, guess I’ll never know.

Maracaibo has always been a more developed city than Punto Fijo, rental places often asked for credit cards, something we didn’t had access to at the time, no rentals in Maracaibo meant no more Mega Man or Zelda for the time being, and no new vidya for a while since it was a bit of a rough time.

During this time the power port on my SNES was starting to wear down, there was nothing more infuriating than playing a game and have the console suddenly power off, thankfully one of my uncles fixed it for me with a temporary solution that gave the battered console one more push at life.

The last two games that I got for SNES were Yoshi’s Island and Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, the former was one that I played nonstop, I would not rest until I had collected every flower, every red coin, and unlocked every special stage on it.

Just as it had happened with my old consoles, when the time came to move to Caracas in early 1999 I had to leave most of my stuff behind, by that time I had an N64 with four games so I left my SNES behind at my grandmother’s apartment, I never saw it again.

Club Nintendo

Not to be confused with Nintendo’s former loyalty program.

There was a time before the Internet, before Kotaku, before IGN, before Polygon—a simpler, but better—much better time (insert your 30 year old boomer meme here).

Finding news or information about video games wasn’t an easy task, sure, you could find some imported magazines here and there, but in the case of Venezuela at least, those were only available in the big cities (such as Caracas or Maracaibo), and they would be in English, language barrier and all. 

In 1991, a brand new magazine dedicated to Nintendo video games started circulating in Mexico called Club Nintendo. By 1992 the magazine started to circulate in many Latin American countries, including Venezuela.

C21
Look at that price before Chavez and Maduro started axing zeroes off our currency, simpler times indeed

Club Nintendo rapidly became the best way to get information about all the latest and upcoming Nintendo games, you could also learn a few cheats, tricks, or read some brief walkthrough guides, great stuff.

I would always ask my parents for the latest copy, eventually I started to religiously save money to get every new edition, I read every new issue like it was gospel, I kept buying and collecting these even after moving to Caracas in 1999, I stopped purchasing them about a year and a half afterwards though.

As Internet access became more widespread over the course of the 00s the magazine became overshadowed by gaming websites, they would then pivot to an online publication and whatnot, keeping their Nintendo-centered approach, until their eventual twilight.

MissingNo, countless tips or cheat codes for SNES and N64 games, E3, these are but some of the things I learned thanks to this magazine; while my infant self was no expert in the matter (not like I am now) I can definitely say that the articles they wrote were leagues better than what you get from today’s websites, at least they talked about video games while not shoving down their politics under your throat, even if the magazine was a 100% Nintendo-biased publication.

Arcades

Punto Fijo was a very simple and small town (it still is), plagued with electricity and water problems way before shit hit the fan in Venezuela. I lived there from 1991 (if memory serves me well) until late 1996, there were no “malls” in the real sense of them or even fast food chains until shortly before we moved, so when arcade places started popping up a few years prior it was a blast of big news.

There was this brand new arcade place called “Wake Up” that was not too far from where I lived; small, cozy, and all kinds of amazing, seeing all those arcade machines was a whole new gaming experience for me.

The guys that ran the place were really passionate about video games in general; they would often post weekly challenges for certain games and award you good amounts of free play coins if you were good enough to clear them, the challenges ranged from simple things like reaching a certain point in a specific game or beating them altogether.

Cruis’n USA, Killer Instinct, Mortal Kombat, these are three games that I loved to play a lot, their After Burner cabinet was one of their crown jewels not because the game boasted amazing graphics, but because the whole rotating pilot seat cabinet was very unique.

When I moved to Maracaibo KidsFiesta was the place for the occasional arcade fix, styled like those pizza and party places you’d see in America, it certainly was more expensive than Wake Up so I had a limited amount of arcade play time, there was also the fact that their arcade section was more of a afterthought side wing rather than the main focus of the place: food, ball pits, and more.

In the case of Caracas, DiverXity and Yamin Family Center were the two places I played arcade games at, the latter was more arcade centered than the former (which was also focused on food and certain attractions rather than arcade games themselves). By this time it was something I did even less often, no point in spending money on arcades when you had a modded PS1 at your disposal—but we’ll get to that in a bit.

Arcades came to Venezuela with a bang and vanished with a whimper, the costs involved in importing and maintaining the cabinets made them less profitable as time went on, they were vastly outdone by console rental spots, setting up a few consoles with a swappable rotation of games incurred in higher profits and cheaper costs when compared to regular arcane machines.

Nintendo ULTRA 64

Around 1995 (if I’m recalling my own timeline correctly) the same older cousin that let me play Sega Genesis and helped me with Zelda back in the day showed me a magazine he bought while he was visiting, while it was in English it showed all of these available consoles that weren’t an SNES, for a kid that only knew about Nintendo this was very eye opening and mind blowing.

Atari Jaguar? Woah, sweet, new Atari!
3DO? Damn!
PlayStation? Wait, what’s that?
Sega Saturn? Sheeeit!

And then—the Nintendo ULTRA 64! Holy fucking shit my dudes.

Just look at it

Of course, myself, being the Nintendo fan that I was at the time was awed at such revelation, a brand new era in gaming beyond my beloved SNES; the controller looked so cool and oh my God, FOUR controller ports? The future was indeed bright. 

Club Nintendo certainly did its part in hyping the Ultra 64, dedicating a considerable amount of their pages over the course of several issues to it, covering every aspect of this upcoming console, its controllers, games, graphics, all that hot stuff. Killer Instinct’s arcade intro didn’t do much to help the situation either.

I had no idea when I’d get my hands on one, but I was more than prepared, I already knew that there were three ways to grab the controller, how Mario 64’s camera was to be controlled with the C buttons and all those fine details; when they started publishing information about the Nintendo 64DD addon they mentioned this outlandish concept, that you could plug the console “online” and play with other people around the world, damn, that was some future shit right there, my mind went places thinking of the possibilities.

Days before our departure to Maracaibo I went to a friend’s house, let’s say he was one of them rich spoiled kids, and there it was, the absolute madlad had a brand new Nintendo 64. I was blown away by the graphics, holy shit that joystick, that 3D Mario, that 3D everything, seeing pictures in a magazine was one thing, but seeing the console in action and Mario traveling through Bob-Omb Battlefield was something else, remember that this was a time before the Internet, so yeah.

I won’t forget that week of July 1997, the week of my 4th grade final tests, I went with my mom to a bank to cash in a check she got, it was a retroactive bonus that her new job owed her, it was a pretty nice bonus (different times in Venezuela and all). And with the cash in hand she surprised me by driving to a vidya store and buying me a Nintendo 64 with Super Mario 64.

I was so happy man, so happy, the only condition was that I could play that day for a while but then I had to go back to my studies cause I still had a week ahead of tests. Once that week was overit was showtime.

Who needs rumble when your little brother is moving the table while you play, talk about immersion

I carefully read the console’s manual from top to bottom but I misinterpreted one crucial detail, while I had read the warnings about not removing whatever was inside the memory expansion slot I thought it meant not removing cover itself, so when my brother in an act of pure infant innocence removed it while the console was powered on I panicked lol.

It took me about a month to get all of the 120 stars, I only had one N64 game so I got the most out of it, once we got some more furniture and other stuff my mom got me my second game, Killer Instinct Gold, as well as a second controller so my brother would eventually play with me, ever play coop Mario 64? Just plug in the 2nd controller and let him think he’s helping. :^)

No wonder he's 1000x better than me at fighting games, he's been playing them for so long

Protip: check that rad as fuck red car VHS rewinder next to the TV, screw you, I had the best VHS rewinder in the world, it was red so it rewinded tapes three times faster than your regular rewinder.

Star Fox 64 followed as my third game, then Diddy Kong Racing was my fourth, for some reason Wizpig terrified my brother so I had to avoid playing his levels when he was around, then Goldeneye followed suit halfway through 5th grade, suffice to say, it was my first FPS game.

Just like with my SNES, my N64 library wasn’t very extensive, as time went on I got Ocarina of Time, having been unable to finish a Link to the Past I was determined to beat OoT, and you can bet your ass that I did. This is also the only console that I saw myself getting more than two controllers, the joystick on the original gray controller was too messed up, and my brother kept bullying his black one.

The only game that I got for it after I had long moved to a PS1 was Majora’s Mask, Perfect Dark was among the last N64 games that I played, used to borrow it from a friend.

PlayStation, modchips, and cheap vidya

Sometime during 1998 I went to a friend’s house to do some school stuff and play some video games, his older brother was away so he snuck into his room to pick up his console, a PlayStation.

That was my first interaction with one, we played some Crash Bandicoot until he bought up the big boy. 

Holy fuck, a Dragon Ball game, mind you, this was during the time Dragon Ball Z was airing for the first time in Venezuela—Frieza Saga episodes to be more precise, so the hype was real, very much real.

Dragon Ball was great and all but the Nintoddler in me was strong, N64 remained my focus all the way until summer of 1999 when at my older cousin’s insistence I was bought a PlayStation (we were all living in the same apartment, so things were a bit crowded back then, I have no qualms saying that I had to sleep on a mattress in the floor due to space constraints for a couple years).

Their reasoning was simple, there was a way to get video games for cheap on it, saving a lot of money in the long run, behold, Modchips.

My PS1 came bundled with one game of my choosing, I was completely unfamiliarized with PS1’s game library, so my older cousin insisted that I got Tenchu: Stealth Assassins, and boy was it a good choice, he also got a PS1 that day but opted to get Gran Turismo instead. My PS1 also came with the Volume 9 demo disk, the one with MediEvil, Metal Gear Solid, Brave Fencer Musashi, and others.

With our consoles in hand it was time to get that fabled gateway to cheap video games, he carefully browsed the ad section of the newspapers and picked one out of several people offering modchip services (I miss this simpler Venezuela so bad, at least things worked back then).

His deal was straightforward: for 25,000 Bolivares (before zeroes were axed) Manuel would come to your home, install the modchip, and give you a burned game of your choosing as a freebie; an hour or two later and bam, my PS1 was now able to play all those juicy pirated copies, he also offered to sell pirated games, delivered right to your doorstep. 

The game I picked out of his free game offer was Dragon Ball: Final Bout, one that people were super excited about during those days, getting an original copy of this game was virtually impossible in Venezuela (and in many parts of the world for that matter), but pirated copies were available everywhere and anywhere, it was a game that alongside Super Smash Bros was available to play in the video game store I used to frequent in Caracas, boy that game certainly did not aged well. 

Huh, Goku vs Goku, guess that's where FighterZ got it from...

I passed down my old N64 to my brother when he was as old as I was when I was given that old Atari—time is a flat circle indeed, although he would also play on my PS1 console from time to time, Spyro was the first game he got, it was his first actual platformer.

And this is the moment were things changed in the region, the reign of Nintendo was over, and a new rule when it comes to gaming in Latin America began: Whichever device has the easiest, most accessible modchip/CFW solution will win in that generation, period. A rule that has remained true even to this day.

Modchips were a great, and quasi mandatory investment, during those times the chip and its installation would cost less than a third of what a retail PS1 game would go for, and it allowed you to play pirated copies in a complete hassle-free manner, there was no drawbacks to it, no risk of getting your console banned from PSN or Xbox live, nothing, pure and absolute win-win.

Pirated Games were a blessing, they would cost less than a tenth of the price of an original retail copy, hell, you could cut that price down a bit if you wanted a naked copy of the disk (no replicated cover or disk sticker, just a regular CD-R with the game’s name written on it) 

The relatively cheaper price of the console itself, and the easy accessibility to modchips and pirated copies is what made Playstation the undisputed king of consoles here through the fifth and sixth generations of consoles whilst lowering the entry cost barrier for gaming in the region; if you were one of the lucky ones with access to those brand new CD burning hardware and had the knowledge required, you could duplicate discs and get in the booming business.

The market was rapidly oversaturated with pirated copies, you could find them anywhere in any street and every corner, that astounding flood of copied games plus CD burners becoming more accessible made the PS1 pirate game market overflow with supply, reducing the prices of them, grinding retail game sales to a near halt. It is not uncommon to still see kiosks showcasing some very old copies here and there.

Retail stores stopped importing most legitimate copies aside from the big names, rearranging their PS1 sections to accommodate their large selection of pirated games. Without hesitation, Mega Man X4 was one of the first pirated games that I got, after a prolonged absence Mega Man was once again part of my life.

Yes, I was ready for Round Two.

Final Fantasy, Alundra, Metal Gear, Tomba, Pepsi Man, Spider-Man, Resident Evil, Rampage, Gran Turismo, Tony Hawk, I had almost everything, even Kill Thrill (it was not until much later when I realized this was an unreleased game, yet it was so easily obtainable here)

When it comes to Final Fantasy, I botched my first FF7 run cause I was utterly clueless to what I was doing, I missed so many Materia upgrades, so many weapons, even Yuffie and Vincent flew under my radar completely; Final Fantasy 8 came to me in a troubling time, during the beginning of my parent’s long and drawn out divorce, it certainly kept my mind distracted during a low point in my entry towards adolescence.

I still have my PS1 somewhere, but the disc reader is faulty and I have no idea where are the cables stored at, if they weren’t discarded without my knowledge that is.

Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, and Xbox

This is a period of time that I was blessed with having more than one console at a time, try doing that in Venezuela nowadays lmao.

My good old modded PS1 continued to be my main source of video games all the way until mid-2001, when in a surprising move my dad send me some money that I added to some savings in order to get a Dreamcast—the console we needed but not the one we deserved. I got it at a nice discount since the store wasn’t selling them as much as they had originally expected and Sega had already announced that the console was discontinued earlier that year.

It was quite the jump in graphics, and just like the PS1 before, playing pirated games was easy peasy, most pirated games worked straight away, while those that didn’t required the use of a boot disk—I had one called Utopia Boot Disk. Unlike PlayStation, there wasn’t a wide selection of games to choose from, but what few there was had quality.

A few weeks later we moved to this apartment I had to get surgery to fix both my big toes’ bones (something was wrong with them and my nails, so it caused a lot of pain and lots of ingrown nails, it had to be corrected before it worsened). This surgery kept me bedridden for a while, but I had my Dreamcast to accompany me through the process, I couldn’t even wear shoes until April 2002 or so.

During the first months of my recovery I played a shitload of Phantasy Star Online, sure, it was a pirated copy so no online for me (not like I could pay for the subscription either or play without internet), but the offline was more than enough, this is the first time I started using white hair on my character creations, something I still do even to this day.

Aside from PSO I had Episode I Racer, Sonic, RE: Code Veronica, Marvel vs Capcom, Omikron, Jedi Power Battles, Blue Stinger, Cold Fear, Crazy Taxi, and a couple more. Funny though, I got a pirated copy of Gundam Side Story 0079: Rise from the Ashes way before I knew what was Gundam, I just saw some cool robots on the cover and that’s all it took for me to buy a copy—two years later I saw my first Gundam show, Gundam Wing, when it aired on Toonami.

I eventually passed it down to my brother as I moved on, recently I found it stored on a box, the VMU still works, it’s been a while but my save files are still there.

As for PlayStation 2, I got mine as a gift from my mother’s side of my family, the first pirate copy workaround that I employed was a combination of a boot disk + memory card dongle. The first pirated PS2 game copies that were available came in CD-R form, with some games being spliced into several discs in a tacky but clever workaround.

My first copy of Devil May Cry was like this, it was split into three CDs, approximately one third of the game each, when your disc stopped loading and you’d get a black screen then you knew it was time to swap to the next one, it happened a few times as you were halfway on a mission.

Onimusha was a mess, split into three discs too, but it required constant swapping and was prone to freezing while doing so, it wasn’t a pleasant experience. The only legit PS2 game that I got was Final Fantasy X because at the time there were no available pirate copies of it, the same happened with Metal Gear Solid 2 but I borrowed a copy from a cousin.

A few months later (early 2002) one of my aunts got me an Xbox, I got Halo with it, the timing couldn’t be more perfect because a week later the country went onto strike and the failed coup against Chavez took place, with no school I had a whole week of Halo, good times.

Morrowind for Xbox was my first entry in the Elder Scrolls series, I got so immersed in this world, played it nonstop, had the Vvardenfell taped on a wall at some point too.

My mom went to San Diego for a medical conference and got me Star Wars: Obi Wan, for the remainder of 2002 I swapped back and forth between PS2 and Xbox, when modchips were available for Xbox I got one right away.

And then I fucked up.

Good job Kal...

My Xbox was modded and flashed with Evolution-X, for stupid reasons I tried to update it and botched the re-flash process, I bricked my Xbox like a moron, repairing it would had costed more than what I originally paid for it (the mild and humble origins of the Venezuelan inflation) so I left it as is. I sold the few original xbox games that I had, and sold the salvageable parts of my console (HDD, DVD drive, etc), so at least I got some of the investment back.

And this is how I got into PC Gaming, all because I was too much of a moron to try and fix that which wasn’t broken.

Nonetheless, I kept my controller so that I could play Xbox at my cousins’ place from time to time. When the French leak for Halo 2 arrived to these shores we got into that right away, sure, the game was in French and we had no idea what the hell were the characters talking about (Master Chief and Cortana speaking French, it’s just not the same), but that didn’t stopped us from having fun, we beat the game way before the game was sold on retail stores in America.

By 2005 I took a look back at my PS2 because my PC was no longer keeping up with newer games, so I got a new modchip for it and grabbed some games right away, I wasn’t going to miss on Devil May Cry 3 was I? By this time DVD copies were the norm instead of the extravagance they were during the early days of the PS2 modded scene in Venezuela.

While my main focus was PC gaming my PS2 became my ancillary source of video games. Alongside DMC3 there was God of War, the Onimusha sequels, MGS3, and so many others. I remember Gran Turismo 4 copies being quite expensive because it required a dual layer DVD to work, those weren’t exactly cheap back in the day.

I squeezed as much entertainment from my PS2 as I could, sadly, the disc drive started to malfunction around summer of 2006.

As for Venezuela, PS2 remained strong even after PS3 and Xbox 360 were out, once the slim models became mainstream they were the cheapest entry point for gaming, a similar trend to what happened with PS1, which had a longer lifespan thanks to its affordability.

Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3

Ah, the mid 00s, such an innocent time for gaming, we all remember the E3 conferences were they announced the Xbox 360 and PS3, the boomerang controller, 599 usd, Ridge Racer, weak points, massive damage, good times man, them /v/ shitposts.

By summer of 2007 I had enough money saved to get an Xbox 360, I got myself Perfect Dark Zero to go along with it; this time I was ready to not repeat the same mistakes I did with my original Xbox, even if it meant a slower influx of video games, so I didn’t got one of the early modchips because they weren’t 100% reliable, all the RRoD news swayed me from doing it right away too, someone I knew jumped on the modchip bandwagon as early as possible—their console didn’t lasted long.

Mass Effect entranced me from start to finish, it’s such a shame that the franchise was killed by Bioware’s incompetence and EA’s greed, when I bought a retail copy of it games were not costing ten times as they used to back in 2002 when he still could still trade freely in foreign currencies, inflation was real but it wasn’t the monstrous thing it is today.

In 2009, during one of my mom’s abroad conference trips she got my brother a Wii, and myself a PS3 with MGS4 bundled with it, once I landed that Embassy job a few months later I started to get more games for both consoles. Ironically, during that time I could afford games yet I lacked the time to play them.

Naturally, Xbox 360 began to sell more around these parts when the pirate scene was more stable, forsaking Xbox Live (or risk getting banned from it) was a downside that didn’t bothered many, nonetheless, with both Xbox 360 and PS3 came a new trend for those that wanted cheap video games without modding their consoles, a concept known as “Paid Gamesharing” This is something that is still a thing with Xbox One and PS4 right now.

Want that new Assasin’s Creed but can’t shell out the money for it? Well, for just a few million you can get access to a dummy account that has that particular game bought digitally; you can login to it, download it, and play it—with each console’s inherent limitations when it comes to doing this though.

At the face of economic turmoil there’s always innovation, even in video games.

Handhelds

This one is an odd case, they’ve never been a crucial part of my gaming, but they’ve been there for sure.

I got Pokemon Blue way before I had a Game Boy Color, I played it through Pokemon Stadium on N64 (the Pokemon craze of the late 90s and all), it was not until December 2000 when I got a GBC with Pokemon Silver.

Pokemon Silver is the first game that I ever made money off, availing myself of my English and with enough Internet browsing I learned how to dupe Pokemons. I had already transferred my legendary/important Pokemons from Blue to Silver, so I duped them en masse, I had a whole school ready to buy my Mewtwos, Zapdos, Articunos, Moltres, etc.

Sure it wasn’t a lot of money, but it was enough for a 13 year old Kaleb to get some snacks here and there.

Nintendo DS had a huge success here thanks to R4 and other flashcarts, I shared one with my brother just to play some games from time to time.

When my brother was diagnosed with Arnold Chiari I used some of the money I had saved from my job to get him a nice limited edition 25th Anniversary Zelda 3DS, I got myself a regular one to play with him, Mario Kart mostly.

Naturally, once CFW solutions became available for 3DS I supercharged our handhelds with it, he still enjoys Smash Bros and Pokemon on it thanks to it.

PC Gaming & the Internet

My first interaction with the concept of PC master race gaming goes all the way back to the early 90s. My dad had a computer at his workplace and one of his colleagues gave him a box full of 5 1⁄4-inch diskettes that had copies of games alongside the basic DOS commands needed to run them, I can’t even remember all of them but Commander Keen is the one that I remember more vividly out of the bunch.

The first FPS game that I saw was the original Doom on PC, it was during a night visit that my parents did to some of their colleagues, their son, who was much older, showed me Doom, damn, it was so cool. The adults spent the night playing board games, it certainly was a different Venezuela back then…

When my mom had her miscarriage her gynecologist let me play Prince of Persia on his work computer so as to distract me from his consultation and their adult chatter, all he said to me was “use the arrow keys to move and spacebar to jump”. I never got too far on it of course.

A few years later, my dad bought a cheapass “clone” computer as they were called back in the day, or rather his parents finally gave him the blessing to buy one (long story short, they wouldn’t approve of me touching a computer because I was the filthy son of my mother, the Caruzos are a story for another time).

Anyways, he had a friend of him setup the computer at home, but my dad wouldn’t let me near it, I’d sneak with my mom and try and tinker with it, we booted up that sweet Windows 95, clicked the start button, and tried to work our way from there with minimal success; the PC came with one of them revolutionary multimedia bundles, the Creative CD-ROM drive had a remote control (for which he never installed the software to use); the CD-ROM/speakers combo came with these three original games bundled in addition to a Sesame Street interactive game for children:

Still, my dad wouldn’t even try to install them, they laid there on a small box for months.

After we moved to Maracaibo, my dad (now living like a bachelor once again) surprised us by showing up one day carrying that PC and giving it to us, of course, I had no idea back then that it was because he had gotten a way better one but still, I was happy.

The catch though, was that he left the speaker’s AC cable, so I had no sound until one day my uncle bought me one of those universal AC adapters.

Even if I had no sound I was determined to play those 3 mysterious CD games, after enough miss clicks I was successful in installing Time Commando, it was an amazing game even if there was no sound, so was Magic Carpet II. 

Look at those graphics dude, Reboot ain’t got shit on this. Crusader: No Regret however, would not install, I had no idea what the fuck to do.

“This game must be installed in DOS mode.” Said the installer.exe under Windows, I was like “what the fuck does that even mean?”

About a year later my cousin was staying with us one weekend and he’s the one that figured out what “DOS Mode” was, he finally installed the game. That almost two year wait paid off, damn, Crusader was so cool.

Out of those three games, I only beat Time Commando, Magic Carpet II was a tad bit too complex for me.

At the recommendation of one of her colleagues, my mom got me a pirated copy of Quake 2, it was the first FPS PC game that I owned, and damn, I was blown away by it; there was one problem though, the PC’s HDD was only 1GB; between the upgraded Windows 98, Encarta, Office, and I don’t know what else, there wasn’t enough space to do a full install of Quake 2, I had to constantly uninstall and reinstall from time to time, at least it helped me learn how to do this with ease.

We took our first steps into the Internet around that time too, we used a now defunct dial-up service called Tutopia that had to be reloaded with balance cards; we loaded those in, and fired up the mighty 28k modem.

We each got one of them “Hotmail” e-mail addresses that were all the rave (even though “Hot” mail sounded a bit dirty for me lol), I’d go on Nintendo’s website to get some cheats, but besides that I didn’t do much back then. The only thing I have left of that computer is the old Pentium processor that I kept as a memento.

166 MHz of pure processing power

Two years after we moved to Caracas my mom bought a new desktop computer for her work/family use. Pentium IV 1.4 GHz, 256MB RAM, Nvidia GeForce MX440, and Windows ME.

Now surfing through an astoundingly fast 56k connection I started to look into the world of emulation after having played Pokemon Yellow through NO$GBM that I got off a friend, I grabbed a few NES, SNES, and Sega ROMs from my past and went on a nostalgia trip, I got almost everything that I used to enjoy as a younger kid from those consoles, all the games that I had left behind after moving from place to place were once again at my disposal.

By 2002 we upgraded to ADSL using this big boy over here:

I used this aesthetic piece of technology for seven years until I upgraded our home's network with WiFi

Going from 56k to 256k broadband was a huge leap, and not having to use the phone line meant more freedom, and thus, KaZaA and Limewire entered my life, we also upgraded to Windows XP.

After I dun goofed my Xbox I went back to this PC as main source of gaming, trying several computer games, got myself a pirated copy of Morrowind with its expansions, the first game that I got mods for. I kept wandering through other games until I stumbled upon Jedi Outcast’s multiplayer and then Ragnarok Online, my first big two online games which I’ve written about in the past. I made great friends—and rivals—in those two games, some of which I still talk to even after all these years.

It was thanks to Jedi Outcast’s SDK that I got into making mods, maps, skins, and other pieces of custom content for the clan that I was part of, my first steps in Photoshop, GTK Radiant, and other types of software were taken thanks to this particular video game. I learned what little I know about Hex editing thanks to Ragnarok Online (I honestly wasn’t trying to cheat, just wanted to unlock the camera zoom and enable damage numbers while in War of Emperium)

I’ve played so many PC games over the course of these years across a multitude of genres, from RTS to aRPGs, FPS, racing, fighting, etc. And then there was WoW, one of the games that I’ve played on and off for the longest time, and the reason that I’ve tried so many MMO games in the past.

Wrapping up

Phew lads, writing this self mastur—I mean, personal look back at my vidya history was certainly cathartic, I was filled with so much nostalgia as I went through my memories, so many good times—some of which were a blessing as they took place in less than stellar circumstances.

Once again, as my environment changed for better or worse, I always had video games with me—I still do even in this turning point for my life, given all that’s happened as of late. For a man that hasn’t been much of a social guy video games have been a gateway to meet people, learn things about other nations, cultures, languages.

No matter what happens, always remember to have fun when playing your vidya gaems, and I’ll always be willing to play vidya with you.

-Kal

Thanks to A Sentient JDAM for helping me with my broken grammar <3