My first taste of gaming was in the early 2000s, in the midst of the PlayStation renaissance. The family PSOne was filled with hits like Spyro the Dragon, Crash Bandicoot, MediEvil and Ape Escape — all classic games I cut my teeth on. There was nothing better than settling down to a nice afternoon with my family at the age of 5 or 6 and taking turns tackling each level.
There was a formula we all followed, particularly when it came to Crash Bandicoot. My brother would take on the adventure levels in Crash 3: Warped. My sister and I would play through the Coco jet-ski and tiger-riding levels. And my mother would play through all the harder bits we couldn’t get done, including the dreaded underwater levels.
See, there was a time when my mum was an expert gamer. When our family got a PSOne, none of us were old enough to have the finer motor skills required to pull off high speed chases or get every hidden box in Crash Bandicoot. Mum was always there for those moments.
As time went on, the gaming landscape changed with us. My siblings and I grew up and got jobs. Eventually, my brother and sister moved out and the annual tradition of Crash Bandicoot and Spyro playthroughs vanished. While we did occasionally leap back in for a weekend speed run of Crash‘s best levels by the mid-2010s, the tradition was mostly gone.
The popularity of platformers also waned during this time as poor entries from both Spyro and Crash on the PS2 killed the excitement for the franchises. My mother and I tried to make Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly and Crash: The Wrath of Cortex work as weekend romps, but both games were a major disappointment and didn’t have the magic of the originals.
After the fortieth and fiftieth playthroughs, the PSOne hits were also getting old, fast. As were the worn-down and sticky controllers we played with.
For a good five years or so, the annual tradition was no more — and my mum’s gaming habits took a major plunge because of it. The last decade has been a rocky one for truly good platformers, and it was near-impossible to find a game that she really connected with. I tried getting her into Skylanders, but she found that boring. LittleBigPlanet didn’t strike her fancy, either.
More than that, it was getting harder to find time we were both free and had the energy to play together.
But then the remaster for the original Crash Bandicoot games was announced for PlayStation 4.
For the first time in nearly a decade, they got my mum playing (and enjoying) video games again. They also re-birthed family game nights, and my entire family came over at launch to play the games together again nearly two decades after we’d first started our adventures. Muscle memory is a fantastic thing, and all of us were able to hop in and enjoy the games once again.
The later announcement of Crash Bandicoot 4 was another turning point for my mum. I hadn’t seen her excited about gaming for decades, but every few weeks she’d ask when the game was due to come out because she was excited to play.
Eventually, in September 2020, we finally got the platforming Crash sequel we all deserved. And it was hard. So hard my mum immediately disliked it. After looking forward to the game for so long, the tweaked gameplay and additional collectables were a major disappointment for her. Plainly, it sucked to see.
The game requires a near-impossible amount of finesse and button-fiddling that she initially couldn’t get her head around. In addition to the classic controls, you also have to control Quantum Masks which give you abilities like changing gravity, phasing objects and super-spinning. Gone were the days of simple, platforming goodness. This game required you to plan, think ahead, search around every corner and pull off difficult button-mashing combos to survive.
After spending a decade mastering the controls of the original games, the complications of It’s About Time were a confidence-breaker. But as we played through the game together, she slowly started to improve. The ‘newness’ of the game was a major surprise, but with time and practice she started to get better. Sure, the game got harder as we went on, but the mounting challenges were more exciting, and she was improving at a rapid pace.
At the halfway point, she had a request: after purchasing consoles for her children for over three decades, she wanted her own PS5 to play with.
Of course, this request came at a time when PS5s were in scarce supply. I’d only managed to nab one for myself because I’d been awake early to cover the PS5 announcement event when the consoles first went live in 2020. Getting the console in 2021 was another matter entirely. But I waited. I watched all those trackers. I stayed tuned to social media. And when my co-workers finally spotted a live Amazon link, I managed to grab a console for my mum in secret.
After decades of her surprising my siblings and I with Christmas or birthday consoles when we were young, I was able to surprise her one night when she came home, exhausted, after work. Her excitement made the struggle worthwhile — as did watching her dive into Crash Bandicoot 4 solo with newfound skills.
After months of working her way through the game, she finally completed a major level at 100% this week. She got every box, the hidden gem and all the wumpa fruit needed for a high score. As you can guess, she was very, very excited about it. So was I.
My mum isn’t a big time gamer. She struggles with a lot of the difficult Crash Bandicoot 4 levels. But she’s finally getting the hang of the game. It’s been an absolute delight watching her re-discover her passion and history with gaming, and to see her owning her own console after three decades of being at the mercy of her children’s gaming whims.
Through the PSOne, my mum helped introduced me to gaming. On this International Women’s Day, I wanted to thank her for it. Without her, I wouldn’t have discovered Crash Bandicoot or Spyro. Without her, I wouldn’t enjoy gaming nearly as much as I do. Without her, I wouldn’t be where I am today, writing this article.
Watching her get back into gaming after so long away has been wonderful, and I can’t wait to introduce her to all the great games she’s missed out on over the past few years. There are fantastic worlds out there for her to discover, and I’m excited to finally get the chance to give back, all these decades later.
Here’s to you, mum.
Happy International Women’s Day from all of us here at Kotaku Australia. Today’s the day to celebrate all the wonderful women in your life, and everything they’ve done for you.