By Torrence Davis
My journey from inquisitive child to hardcore video gamer was an interesting one. I was always intrigued by arcades filled with pinball machines. It was an escape to some place magical. The smell of the old carpet, metal, and plexiglass was like nerd potpourri to me. I LOVED IT! No place smelled like the arcade. The sounds were also unique. It was almost as if the arcade was it’s own music instrument. Whether I was at the arcade itself or walking through a mall that had an arcade, those sounds and smells sent my senses into a wild frenzy that could only be compared to a shark smelling blood.
“Can I have $1 to go the arcade mum?” These are the words I had to mutter most of my childhood. That dollar quickly turned into hundres as the console revolution manifested itself in my bedroom. I was a hardcore gamer and I knew it. It was what my friends and I talked about the most. There was no such thing as a fanboy when the Atari 2600 was released. If you were lucky to have one, you’d be the envy of all the kids in the neighborhood who didn’t have one. Somehow in the course of console gaming history, video game fanboyism was born and I had succumbed to it.
During the 80’s after the North American Video Game Crash, Sega and Nintendo made a huge splash on to the scene. They both offered what appeared to be arcade quality games and graphics that I had never seen before on a home console. These console games were colorful and played beautiful music and sound effects. It was an incredible time to be alive as we were getting the true arcade experience at home on our standard definition televisions. My cousin had the first NES system out of all my friends. I saved up and bought a Sega Master System. We had everything covered. I would play NES games at my cousin’s house and he would come to my house to try new SMS games. We were happy! We loved and respected the industry and the fun it was providing us. It all just made sense right?
Shortly after the internet became a thing, rec.games.video.advocacy was the sounding board for the video game community. Fanboyism was rampant on these boards but they were meant for advocacy so no one was really called a ‘fanboy’ back then. Some of the comments were ridiculous but it wasn’t long before I joined in to defend Sega. I never slammed the competition, I just tried to speak the truth when people were making up lies about my favorite video game company.
Nintendo was somewhat shady though. I remember when they got the console license for Tetris on NES. Like many of the NES games, they weren’t actually arcade perfect. It didn’t have the dancing Russians or good music. It was different. On the flipside was the Tengen version of the game that was arcade perfect. For those of you who don’t know, the Tetris arcade game was developed by Atari, but it was an arcade version of Alexey Pajitnov’s computer game. Tengen was Atari’s console brand. When Nintendo won the license to publish the home version exclusively, Tengen had to take theirs off the shelves after only four weeks. I was utterly pissed, but my cousin actually had the Tengen and Nintendo versions.
Life went on and the 16-bit era hit us by storm. We caught wind of this new Batman game from Sunsoft that was based on the movie with Michael Keaton. I think it was GameFan Magazine that did a huge spread on the game and everyone was just blown away by it. Nintendo, who had their own version of the Batman game, had exclusive rights to all video games with Batman in the title. This exclusivity clause was only for the US. Batman The Video Game was released in 1990 in Japan and wasn’t released in the US until 1991. It felt like an eternity waiting for this game to come out, but when it did, my mind was blown. At this point I hated Nintendo as a company. No one was going to buy their system just to play Batman games and they were screwing over non-NES gamers by doing this. It wasn’t fair at all and it fueled my hatred for the company. Funny thing is, I still played their games and loved them. I just hated the company.
When the Sega Saturn was released, the so called console war shifted over to Sega VS Sony. Nintendo was still there, but because the N64 was cartridge-based and very expensive, gamers were opting for the new joints from Sega and Sony. They had CD quality music, great games, and both were pushing 3D graphics.
At this time, Sony was blowing up and killing Sega. Sega had a more expensive console and Tom Kalinske screwed over retailers with the announcement of an early launch at the start of E3. Retailers were so pissed that they were pushing the Sony console as the one to buy. I didn’t care because Sega sent me a Saturn with all the games and Sony sent me a Playstation 1.
It wasn’t until that second year the Sega Saturn was out that I saw the affect of what Sega had done. There was a lot of games that were due to come out exclusively for the Saturn that were now coming out for the PlayStation. Even worse, some were even made to be exclusives on Sony’s platform. Tomb Raider was going to be the premiere AAA title for Saturn and later became an exclusive series on PlayStation. Most of the games on display at E3 were PS games. I couldn’t believe what was happening. There were rumors that Sony was paying developers off to put their games on the PlayStation. I don’t know if there’s any truth to this, but it seemed plausible to me at the time. Again, I became angry with the competing publisher. As much as I hated Sony when this happened, I still loved their games and their console.
The PlayStation domination was insane. It was all anyone was talking about and the fanboy war was fueled by the fact that Sony had real 3D processing power and Sega was lacking. PS could do gouraud shading but Sega had to fake it on the Saturn. There was also the issue of true transparencies on PS and faked transparencies on the Sega Saturn. Once again I jumped to Sega’s defence. I remember arguing that in Toshinden for instance, you couldn’t tell that Sega was faking it unless you paused the game to look at it. I was becoming a Sega fanboy and didn’t realize it.
When Sega announced the Dreamcast, I got my first taste of it at CES in Vegas. I got a chance to see Sonic Adventure before most of the world. I was so amped I bought my first Japanese console on Ebay and drove to LA to pick it up in some parking lot in Vietnam town. I was a full-on Sega fanboy and nothing was stopping me. I knew the Dreamcast was going to ‘Make Sega Great Again’. I knew there was nothing Sony could do to stop Sega from being successful with this new 128-bit console.
The US launch of the Dreamcast was one of the best I’d ever seen in the history of gaming. They had all the genres covered and the best football game ever made. Life was good… until the PlayStation 2 was released. The PS2 had the coveted DVD player built into it. The launch was horrible and had nothing worth playing and Fantavision was their premiere exclusive title. It didn’t matter though, everyone wanted a DVD player and the PS2 was cheaper than most of the top brands on the market. Deep down I wanted Sony to feel the burn of defeat. Not to the point of quitting the industry, but just enough to be behind Sega. Little did I know what was going to become of Sega after the greatest console launch in history.
After Sony passed Sega in sales and was picking up steam, Sega invited me into a special conference call. I had no idea what it was about. I was at work and told my boss to leave me alone for a bit as I was on an important call from Sega. He knew I was a journalist and I had just recommended the console to him and his wife. I called in and Sega dropped a huge bomb on everyone. They announced that they were killing the Dreamcast brand. Almost instantly, a part of me died inside. I couldn’t believe what was happening. They had the best console, online gaming, and the best launch in history! What in the hell was going on? Sega basically said they couldn’t compete with Sony dollar for dollar and decided it was time to end their hardware reign and become a third party publisher. It was a sad day in gaming for me but I had already reluctantly bought a PS2 with Fantavision. I had a ton of money stashed away and they had a stack of the blue boxes in Target so my roommate and I each bought one.
Shortly after I bought the PS2, I bought a GameCube and then later an Xbox. Again, I was reluctant to buy the Xbox. I had some money stashed away and when I saw the demo for Wreckless, I lost my mind. I had to have it so I bought the console. Star Wars is the game that sold me on the GameCube. It looked just like the movie and I had to have it!
Before I knew it, I had six consoles sitting on my desk. I had a Sega Saturn, PS1, PS2, GameCube, Xbox, and Dreamcast. Even though I was Editor In Chief of VGT.com and had a responsibility to my readers, I was buying this stuff because I wanted to. I wanted to have access to all of the exclusive games. I had become a game connoisseur and I sure as shit didn’t want to be left behind if another console failed. Yes, I had issues with some of the publishers making the games and consoles, but I didn’t let that stop me from enjoying the work that the developers were doing. I got caught up in the whole fanboyism thing, but it melted away on its own due to my passion for gaming.
Looking back on all those years and how I transformed my mindset, I thought it was important to not only admit that I was once a fanboy, but to also note that I matured into a full fledged hardcore gamer: the one I started out as in the 70’s. I didn’t change for anyone else but myself and luckily I changed before the popularity of the internet. My console and publisher loyalty has been stripped away and I tried my best to help other gamers see the light. The fanboyism in today’s gaming culture is saddening. There’s really no reason for it. Gamers need to learn that it’s not about the box that plays the games, it’s about playing the games themselves and it’s something we should all be celebrating.
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