I believe there is a ‘moment’ where every ‘gamer’ goes beyond being a mere mortal, who enjoys the odd Playstation session, and becomes the pixel loving juggernaut he or she is today.
I mean, quite a lot of people have played computer games. My dad has played computer games. Heck, even my Grandad has played in times past – trying to take an interest in the blur of colours his grandson has immersed himself in.
But very few would consider themselves to have graduated beyond more than a passing interest in video games. Neither my father, nor my 92 year old grandfather would be described as being a ‘gamers’.
But for the ‘hardcore’ there’s that one moment, that one event that forever entwines their soul, their passion, their love with this digital pastime.
For me the moment came with the drop of a Coke can.
In late 2000 I picked up a little game called Shenmue to play on my (criminally underrated) Sega Dreamcast – it rocked my (gaming) world.
Prior to Yu Suzuki’s masterpiece I had been very much of the ‘casual’ gaming mindset. I mainly flittered away on sporting games, largely of the NHL persuasion to go along with another deep love of mine (ice hockey if you haven’t done the math yet), but I also sauntered through the snow on Goldeneye, cleaned the rage from the streets on Mega Drive and hunted xenomorphs on my trusty Sega Saturn. I’d enjoyed my gaming experience, but I’d never really considered myself to be much more than a casual lover of computer games.
Then I bought a can of coke.
Wait, what? You can buy coke in this game? Holy shit! YOU CAN BUY CANS OF COKE IN THIS GAME!
Yep, the most mundane of every day activities changed the way I thought about gaming. My hitherto attitude of simply picking up a controller and looking to score a few goals, shoot a few enemies or casually trudge through a couple of levels was gone – I was one with Ryo Hazuki. And then with Ryo Hayabusa, and more recently with the man from Vault 101, and many protagonists in between.
Perhaps it is best summarised by this marvellous ad from Sony from a few years ago:
Shenmue left me seeking more. Yearning to explore, craving greater satisfaction than a mere ‘You have completed level 1’. First person shooters needed a storyline to sate my appetite. Open worlds needed to be truly open. Racing games needed the edge of your seat thrills messrs Hill, Schumacher and Hamilton feel (well, sort of).
All this from a coke can.
Though I’d be amiss not to include this little slice of gaming humour in an article about Shenmue:
Until next time.