What Game Made You Fall In Love With Games?

Image: 3DO / Heroes of Might and Magic manual

It wasn't the first game I remember playing, but I don't remember a game's manual as vividly as Heroes of Might and Magic 3.

The shot above, taken from the HOMM3 manual memorialised on the site for the fan-made Wake of the Gods expansion, is one of two images I remember the most. It's a sketch — concept art, perhaps — of the seventh tier angel unit. It's not a sketch of the archangel, the upgraded version and one of the most powerful units in the game.

I don't know why 3DO or Jon Van Caneghem, the developers and lead, included that specific sketch. But I remember it, along with the arch devil resting between what looks like mountains, vividly to this day.

HOMM 3 launched in 1999, so it wasn't the first game I played. But I was still at that age where our family cared deeply about Christmas, and since it was a house full of nerds — an engineer and programmer, one future programmer, one gamer and a mother who wanted to spend more time with the future nerds, so she showed everyone how to wipe the floor with Myst and Riven — video games for gifts was a common occurrence.

Digital distribution and sales have fundamentally changed the Christmas gaming experience. My parents would have gone bonkers if they knew they could have spent $50 to get my brother and I five or ten games each as kids (although how Steam treats family accounts isn't really conducive for a family that plays together).

But back then, everything cost $79 or up. EB Games was still called Electronics Boutique, although the company hadn't found its penchant for going all-out with the fire hazards. And not everything in the British or American game magazines (which my Dad got for us as kids, because it was what was available overseas whenever he went on shore leave) made its way to the humble EB Campbelltown branch, or Australia, as my mother and I discovered when we tried repeatedly to look for a copy of Pandora's Box for over a year.

So asking for games took a degree of faith. You never knew if it'd live up to the hype, or if the full game would keep you entertained for as long as the demo might have. HOMM 3 did, and from time to time, continues to make me smile now. It runs on a potato, gracefully, and the community behind HOMM has produced some astonishingly good campaigns and additions, including a faithful restoration of the sci-fi Forge faction 3DO originally wanted to release in their first expansion (but abandoned after its initial reception).

It's not uncommon that people fall in love with games well after playing their first game. A lot of the experience is dependent on prior knowledge — not necessarily the franchise, story or characters, but simpler things like a controller, basic camera movement.

I asked Tegan the same question while writing this story, for a bit of extra perspective. I knew she grew up with a SEGA Master System, and Alex Kidd was her first game. But the game that did it for her was Tomb Raider — a strong female archaeologist, the graphics on the PlayStation, a such a well-designed action-adventure hitting her at the perfect time.

So I put the question to all of you. Most remember their first game. But what was the first one you played that you fell in love with, and the one that made you fall in love with games generally?


Comments

    Everquest
    Monkey island
    Oh man the feels.

    As a child my brother & I received a Sega Mega Drive for Christmas (thank you richer American Uncle) it came with The Lion King and I still remember when my brother and I beat it.... that was the first of many games.

    Pokemon Blue came next and I can still remember sneakily playing after lights-out. Then I got a PS1 my first game, Hexen before my PS2 and GTA3.

    Fast forward to today and I'm still finding games that leave lingering memories.

    Going old school games ... Night Driver and Space Invaders (honourable mention to Yie Ar Kung Fu - Arcade). If we're talking PC games ... Gorf (VIC-20).

    Am I really that old now? ;-)

    I was hooked on games from the start when I first played a Space Invaders clone by Broderbund on the Apple IIc. It basically cemented a lifelong love of computers in general and sparked my interest in software development.
    What really excited me though was seeing friends play Raid Over Moscow on the Commodore 64 as it opened my eyes to the potential future of video games. Then when I had the chance to play games like Bubble Bobble and Wonder Boy in arcades I once again saw the exciting future of games and it's basically just been a constant series of events like that that have continued to renew my excitement and love for video games over the years.

    So hard to tell. The 80s and early 90s are a blur of childhood gaming. Ever since I was a toddler I was fascinated with buttons, and used to regularly call random strangers on the phone. So naturally, I was entranced by the arcade game tables in the fish and chips shop with asteroids and space invaders on them, and I was always enthralled by the machines used by my friends' parents at their homes - whether atari 2600 (river raid, frogger, asteroids!) or commodore 64 (Spy Hunter!).

    I think the real love affair started with our first personal computer - the trusty 286. Mum had acquired it and WordPerfect to assist with her assignments for going back to university... but it also came with ArticFox (and no manual, which made for a steep learning curve) and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?

    The old 4-colour CGA with Cyan and Magenta 1985 version.

    Mum bought us a fold-out chart showing every flag of the world, and we kept notes on loose-leaf foolscap paper inserted in our encyclopedia set. She taught us the basics of how to look up information and let us run wild. We failed a lot before we finally got it, but that was probably the beginning of really loving games for more than just the ‘ooh pretty lights’ direct feedback, and everything that could come up around them.

    From that point on, it was consoles, gaming magazines (Nintendo Magazine System!), shareware floppies bought from racks at supermarkets and electronics stores, bedroom walls plastered in game posters, turning up to school early to make use of the Apple Mac IIs for Oregon Trail, learning to draw from concept art lovingly copied over and over out of elaborate manuals (early Blizzard game manuals were legendary for this), and Mum’s early forays into software piracy, receiving floppies from tech-savvy friends and going to the library to photocopy disassembled code wheels and manuals.

    Mum must’ve spent $80 of 1990s money (massive at the time) to buy us a copy of Gumboots Australia, which recaptured that Carmen Sandiego magic, but with more detailed local information and the additional gameplay layer of managing your finances through choosing transportation methods and taking on part-time jobs.

    I’ve LOVED gaming for a really long time, but I think the first game that turned it into more than just ‘idiot box’ platforming was Carmen Sandiego.

      (Just checked against inflation. A $80 game in 1990 would've been worth about $150-160'ish 2019 dollars.)

    It's way too hard to remember back that far to the pre-NES days, but I'm fairly certain it would have been an old Apogee game called Pharaoh's Tomb. Was nigh on obsessed with it as a kid, though could barely get through the first couple of levels myself so it was mostly just me bugging Dad to get through more of it.

      Totally forgot about Apogee games. Looking back if it wasn't a Lucas arts title I was playing as a kid then it was most likely Apogee, especially commander keen and monster bash.

    Do pinball machines count? If so then terminator 2.

    If not then playing secret of monkey island with my dad on pc or devil's crush/dragon's fury on the megadrive.

    The first game I can remember that I truly loved was Street Rod on the Amiga 500. I could only win races with automatic transmission so I had to get my dad to win the last race in the game for me whenever I got up to it.

    It was just so neat being able to upgrade your cars and having loads of variety as you could buy and customize any car in the game.

    Grand Theft Auto Vice city.

    It was the first game i ever purchased myself on a computer that could actually run games.

    I played games from the commodore 64 era onwards, but would never own more than 6 per generation.
    Fallout 3 was the game that made me go "oh hang on. this is really good shit" and it kinda became a really big thing in my life.

    I remember a game demo we had when I was a kid, Crystals of Arborea. One of those games that stuck with me (Might have been due to the game crashing after you got up to a certain point). The game that cemented RPG's as my favourite games though was Baldur's Gate (And then no 2)

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