Another summer rolls around once again. Maybe you’re off on a nice holiday somewhere or having some much-needed time off to relax and catch up on some gaming. Maybe finally finish that new Zelda game? Or maybe, like me, you’ll be working and wishing you were doing the above. One of my ways of coping with these situations is to look back at some of my summer memories and bring that into the present. Creating a sort of holiday mediation. Out of all my pleasant summer memories, some featured gaming, which will be the focus of my summer-themed article today. So thank you for taking the time out to enjoy the sunshine to read my piece.
Road Trip With the Game Gear
Young folk today don’t realize how good you have it with your mobile phones and Switch consoles, all of which can have their batteries easily recharged. Back in the early 90s, portable systems ran off batteries. If you were sensible, you had a Game Boy with decent battery life. But to a young child, that monochrome screen is just not as attractive as the vibrant colour Game Gear, a portable system which took 6! AA batteries probably lasted around two hours, if you’re lucky. Yes, you could connect the system to the mains and play it that way but that kinda defeats the point of a portable system.
During Summers when I was younger, we would always travel all the way down to the Isle of Wight to visit my Grandparents, who retired over there. This involved a long car ride, followed by a ferry ride, followed by a shorter car ride. It allowed ample time to keep busy. I could have read a book, but instead, I had a Game Gear and a copy of the original Wonder Boy to keep me going. A port of the popular 2D arcade game that many confuse with Adventure Island. This was my first entry into the Wonder Boy series, so one could say my love for the series budded from there.
I had endless fun running to the right flinging hammers at snails, and carefully weaving through all the hazards the game threw at me. The skateboard power-up was always my favourite memory. It granted you an extra hit, but you constantly moved to the right, making platforming much more challenging, leading to many comical deaths. Yet I still always grabbed it when I could because it just looked cool. I always attempted to make it my mission to attempt to complete this before arriving at our destination. But as mentioned, often the batteries failed, and there was no saving in this game.
The other crux was I also developed car sickness, so often, long bouts of car gaming were out of the question. Still playing this now reminds me of those times, getting stuck in traffic and tuning out my parents arguing. After a long hard trip, there was this beautiful sea view from my Grandparents’ bungalow to look forward to.
That Time I Won at Competitive Gaming
To this day, there still is a retailer in the UK literally called GAME. Americans may call this the equivalent of GameStop. One summer, this retailer hosted a summer gaming convention typically titled GAMEfest. This was back in the PS3/Wii era of gaming, where you could wander around a show floor playing demos of various games at kiosks for titles yet to be released. Outside of playing these games, some kiosks had competitions, and this was one of the super rare moments in my life where I actually won at some form of competitive gaming.
That game was Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. It was deathmatch multiplayer where the player with the most kills won a T-shirt which lightly advertised the game. I was pretty fond of the first two games, so I thought I would try. Now I generally suck at competitive multiplayer games. When I was forced to play Call of Duty at university, I was often the worst on my team. The only game I was partially good at was Halo, but that was probably due to the excessive amount of times my brother insisted we play the first game over and over on legendary difficulty.
Back to Uncharted 3. Things were going about as well as I expected. I scored the odd few points here and there, but I was barely making a dent in the leaderboard. However, there was a fire in me that wanted to win so I pressed on. It was the last 10 seconds of the match, and I was still trailing behind, but then I caught a glimpse of a group of players up in a tower, and in a rare instance of skill or possibly guided by a higher power, I threw a grenade.
By some luck, all the players hugging or high-fiving up there didn’t move away from the obvious intrusion, which is marked on the screen to players as a warning. It exploded; I took the top spot and won. I was one happy loser that day. I was proud of my silly T-shirt, but eventually, that pride would wear off, and I would donate it years later. But my evidence of competitive dominance remains a fond memory.
Continuing on the theme of conventions, I also attended a lot of Comic Cons. It was my wife’s fault. Before we were dating, I had never even considered attending one of these, but after being dragged to a few, my inner geek could not contain itself, and I was smitten.
One of my favourite cons, which is long extinct now, was Kapow Con. A small con in London which had a nice mix of panels about popular TV shows and showcased a bit of gaming. It was here I demoed Portal 2 and even got to witness one of the IGN podcasts live in person. My wife even managed to nab an awesome painted poster of the bizarre film Rubber, a film about a killer car tyre. Look up at your own risk.
During the height of our con-ing, I would pack my 3DS and collect unsure amounts of Street-passes. This started back when the limit was only ten passes at a time, and I would be flipping open my handheld almost constantly to collect them and grab puzzle pieces; it sounds tedious, but I loved doing it. Sadly I never finished my Kirby puzzle.
But one of my best gaming memories by far was meeting an artist named Duncan Gutteridge. You may not recognize the name, but you may know his work. His most famous art in gaming was his front cover of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 on Mega Drive. The famous picture of Robotnik grabbing the number 2 with an angry grip while Sonic and Tails hold a rebellious attitude poses below.
My love for Sonic has faded over the years and is nowhere near as strong as when I played this as a youngling back in the day. However, meeting Duncan and chatting about his art rekindled that childlike glee in me. I ended up purchasing several of his Sonic pieces which he happily signed for me. Sadly I am yet to live somewhere where I can hang these on a wall. But one day, I hope that will change.
The Find of all Finds
Another hobby my wife and I share is going to car boots (flea markets) and thrifting in charity shops. This was a fun activity that began when we travelled back from a holiday in Bath one year. Bath is a beautiful town in England, not to be confused with the thing you need after a stressful day of work or a messy dog walk. On our travels home, we saw a sign for a car boot sale. With only six British pounds in our pocket (one pound of which was needed to gain entry), we thought we would have a look in and see if we saw anything cool.
Strangely to this day, this remains one of the best hauls we have ever had. In this session, I grabbed a copy of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Xbox, Home Alone and World of Illusion carts for Mega Drive and several loose PSone games, including the Spyro games. So that was the origins, but there is one find that to this day beats them all. I was having one of those rare days off, and I drove past a town that was having a yard sale, something quite rare in the UK, at least where I was living.
I wasn’t having much luck, but I was sure getting some good exercise walking around various houses. When I reached the last stall, I saw a big plastic box filled with boxed Master System games. No system, sadly, but it was quite the collection. Easily over 20 games, some even with manuals. I adore the Master System box art. Something about the simple math paper look feels so iconic to this day. I was pretty happy, but my luck didn’t end there. Driving home, I spotted a farmer’s barn, of all places advertising a yard sale.
So I pulled in and entered what appeared to be a dark and creepy setting. Nothing of interest to me, mostly machine parts, as you would expect to see. But I walked further out of curiosity, and that curiosity was rewarded. Buried deep in a corner was a small box and a bag. I opened the bag first, as it had the N64 logo. Inside was a console with the expansion ram included, two controllers and several loose carts. Including Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Castlevania and Banjo Kazooie.
This alone was a great find. But then I opened that box; it was like opening a treasure chest. Inside were the manuals in great condition but buried beneath that was a fully boxed copy of Resident Evil 2 for N64. I’m a huge fan of this series and I always wanted this port, but eBay prices are pretty silly for this one, so I never bite. Some higher power was whispering, ‘you’re welcome.’ To this day, this is still the best find, although I still enjoy seeking out treasure with my wife and now a smaller person too.
Thank you for reading my summer gaming memories. Maybe you have memories to share, be sure to add your own stories in the comments below.