Pixelitis Picks: The games that started it all…for us

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There’s no accounting for taste at the tender ages of four or five. But at those times when we’re learning our ABCs and our 123s, that’s when our habits and personalities really start to take shape… or some sort of Freudian nonsense like that.

Anyway, it’s those early moments in life when instead of being handed a piece of chalk or a marker, we were handed a controller and told to push a button and magical things happen on a screen. And thus started the love affair with videogames.

Back in those days, they weren’t triple A titles, but some really shiny gems that beckon nostalgia every time we think back. It’s starting to get fuzzy and really pixelated, but take a look back at some of the games that got us into gaming in this week’s Pixelitis Picks.

And don’t forget to share your stories in the comments below.

Pokemon Red  (Game Boy) got me into gaming.

Pokemon Red screenshot - Pixelitis PicksI remember getting Pokémon Red like it was yesterday. My parents called me away from my homework to present me with my very first Game Boy Color, along with the game and the official player guide to go with it.

I spent that night at the family dinner table where I chose my first starter Pokémon and traveled all the way to Viridian Forest, where I achieved my dream of catching a Pikachu. It made me feel just like Ash Ketchum in the animated TV series.

That was the moment that started my journey into the world of videogames and it was all thanks to my parents. It’s a fact I make sure to remind them of  whenever they chew me out for accidentally waking up the entire house at 2 a.m.

- Spencer Nozell

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles  (NES) got me into gaming.

TMNT Overworld screenshot - Pixelitis PicksBack in ’93 or ’94, in a move that they probably would’ve loved to undo had they known what it would entail, my parents got me and my brother a used NES along with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Tecmo Bowl, Karate Champ and that mind-numbingly awful licensed Ghostbusters game at a yard sale one fateful day.

Although at this point my brother and I were slowly getting enraptured in the Ninja Turtles craze, I let him play with our new device while I busied myself with some action figures. Soon after though, I grew curious of the moving images onscreen that my brother was manipulating with a piece of plastic in his hands.

Once I finally had a go at it, the rest became history. I never had a lull where I stopped playing games. They became a regular and enjoyable hobby for me, and it only escalated as my father continued to purchase games for me, later leading to our own Game Boy and eventually the crowning jewel, the Super Nintendo.

Even though I have a soft spot for TMNT, I admit that the Turtles’ first console outing was not very good. Konami (under the guise of Ultra Games) had a lot of neat ideas: the ability to swap out a turtle on the fly and an overworld map reminiscent of a JRPG that let you access different levels, but it was impossibly difficult with its overabundance of enemies, awkward hit detection and questionable level design.

Nevertheless, even though I never got past that infamous Water Dam level until I got older, I had a blast. TMNT not only got me into videogames, it got me into the music. In no time that overworld theme got stuck in my head and I was humming it aloud any chance I got.

So looking back, TMNT may not have been the greatest game to get started on, but whatever shoddiness that game harbored had no effect on this child who was moving his beloved turtles around with a directional pad and slicing things with the press of a button. It was magical then, and it’s still magical 20 or so years later.

- Patrick Kulikowski

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Duck Hunt  (NES) got me into gaming.

Duck Hunt screenshot - Pixelitis PicksLooking back on my childhood, there are very few memories that stick out. For some reason I remember learning how to whistle, I remember watching my father install a ceiling fan in our Newark, NJ apartment and that pretty much sums up my pre-kindergarten existence.

There is, however, one formative moment that I can still recall like it was yesterday. It has to be the one night over 20 years ago when I first grabbed a Zapper and played Duck Hunt for the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Let me paint the picture for you. At the time I was living in an apartment building with my parents back in the late 80s, my grandmother from my father’s side of the family lived on the floor directly below us. Every once in a while, family from around the area would gather at my grandmother’s place for dinner and conversation, while the numerous cousins would hang out, play and generally get into some form of trouble by the end of the night.

One night, the family got together, but the cousins were either not there or too tired to play. Either way, I was the only child left to sit at the TV while the grown-ups talked about grown-up things. Realizing that I was bored and had nothing to do, my aunt popped in the Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt cartridge in a shiny new NES, handed me the Zapper and left me to my devices.

Hours later, I was a miniature Tom Knapp. Ducks knew me as the destroyer of worlds – the alpha and the omega. I couldn’t put it down. While my cousins were off doing whatever, I was falling in love with a pastime that has since been a major part of my life.

- Andrew Martins

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Sonic the Hedgehog (Genesis) got me into gaming.

Sonic 2 screenshot - Pixelitis PicksNow, Sonic the Hedgehog wasn’t exactly my first foray into gaming, given the fact that when I was four my best friends were two twin brothers that had every game under the sun. My first console was a hand-me-down Sega Genesis from my cousin who won it in some raffle at work and it only came with three games: Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic Spinball and Sunset Riders. It was somewhere around 1994 or 1995 that we were first able to get the console, four years after Sonic had come out.

But clear as day, I remember plugging in the composite cables into my brother’s old-as-heck TV (another garage sale find) and the familiar white background popped up with “Sega!” in bright blue writing. I still get butterflies in my stomach whenever I hear that. It was a bright and sunny day, and the two of us were literally two and a half feet away from the screen, eager to get started. We fought over who got to play first and traded off the controller as we sped through Green Hill Zone and Marble Zone.

After school, I spent a hell of a lot of time trying to pass through Green Hill Zone in under a minute and a half and get all of the chaos emeralds. It was difficult for me at that age, but I loved every minute of it.

Sonic the Hedgehog opened my eyes to the simplicity of videogames. All you needed was a joyous soundtrack, some eye-catching graphics and simple design. I mean, Sonic was a whizzing ball of speed whose job is to bop bop and Super Sonic his way to help all his animal friends. How could you not love it?

- Karen Rivera

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Super Mario Bros.  (NES) got me into gaming.

Super Mario Bros. screenshot - Pixelitis PicksSuper Mario Bros. is not just the first game I played, it’s also the earliest memory I have of my life, one that I cherish deeply because it also directed my life towards where and how I am today. So really I owe much of how I grew up to the game that revived the videogame industry after E.T. murdered it. Funny, yet very fitting.

Even though Super Mario Bros. is probably one of the greatest games to begin the path to gaming nirvana, I didn’t realize how fortunate I was to get this videogame uprising until a few years ago, simply because I was young and naive and hadn’t had much gaming experience.

Super Mario Bros. is highly regarded as the first in a series that perfected the platforming genre. And of course, there’s always that famous World 1-1 tune that nearly every gamer will instantly recognize. I’m sure thousands upon thousands of gamers out there began their videogame life with Super Mario Bros. just like I did.

Nintendo has been great at giving this generation’s kids the same type of  introduction to games as well with New Super Mario Bros. U returning to its recognizable roots, and I’m certain that gamer parents my age know that Mario is the right way to go.

- Allain Richard

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The Legend of Zelda  (NES) got me into gaming.

The Legend of Zelda screenshot - Pixelitis PicksNot only was this my first foray into the world of video games, it was also one of the earliest instances of family activities that I remember. Before I was old enough to understand what ‘NES’ stood for, my parents were dungeon diving with the best of the Hylian heroes.

I remember being camped out in the den of our house, waiting patiently for my Dad to come home from work. I would be nibbling on a peanut butter sandwich, my eyes transfixed on the old-school tube T.V. in front of me. Once my Dad came home, my Mom would turn on the NES and that classic theme song would fill the room. Next thing I remember there were Moblins and Octoroks closing in on my Dad while he planted bombs and tossed boomerangs in order to cut his way through the oppressive crowd.

Our family gaming experiences would continue to evolve and expand, but I will always remember those first, tentative steps into videogames. In fact, one of the main reasons I learned to read was so that I could read the dialogue within the Zelda games. That’s right, I learned to read not out of a preemptive desire to emulate Hemingway, but rather a desire to find out what the old man says when he gives me that wooden sword.

Looking back, the game was time consuming and quite difficult. But that will never change the reverence that I have for its beautifully constructed gameplay.

- Tom Farndon

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