Imagine: it’s February 1996. A young, bright-eyed lad by the name of Jon rushes home from school to find the latest issue of Game Informer, his favorite magazine, waiting in the mailslot. This kid loves video games more than pretty much anything in the world (besides Batman, maybe) and this is his monthly peek behind the curtain into that exciting, colorful universe. What’s coming out? Which games are totally rad? GI had all the answers for him. But this month, something decidedly different and creepy-looking was waiting on the cover…
Now, aside from vids and the Dark Knight, Jon’s third favorite thing in the world was zombies. Obviously. He’d seen Night of the Living Dead at way too young an age, but instead of transforming him into a little deviant like you might think, it engendered in him a healthy love for horror and an appreciation of George A. Romero’s undead creations. Today, he was giddy, because the game on the cover of the new Game Informer looked like it was ripped straight out of one of Romero’s movies.
Resident Evil. The name didn’t make much sense, but delving into GI’s extensive coverage excited Jon to no end. Your character and a small group of allies struggle to survive against the shuffling masses of the undead, hiding out in a creepy mansion. You had to deal with limited resources and the clashing agendas of the human survivors you teamed up with…just like in the movies! But there was more. You also had to battle monsters and mutated animals, and unlike the characters in Night, you played as a team of badass commandos who were armed with powerful weapons with which to put them all down. How could it get better?
Game Informer’s crack team of reviewers gave the game outstanding marks, and there was no way that little Jon could be more pumped about it. Time to start hassling dad to go and buy it. But then he noticed something in the section at the top of the review. The game was for something called PlayStation. Jon thought he recognized the name, but didn’t really know what it meant. But then it occurred to him–he couldn’t play this game…because he didn’t have the thing that ran it. He had “Genesis”. He had “Game Boy”. He had “Computer”. But no “PlayStation”. He couldn’t even think of any friends who had one, and he even knew someone who played on a Super Nintendo! Jon quickly lapsed into despair.
A couple months later, Game Informer ran a long, extremely detailed strategy guide covering Resident Evil. How to beat the whole game, laid out from start to finish. Jon pored over it intently, gleaning bits of story and gameplay from the somewhat vague prose and accompanying screenshots. He still didn’t have a PlayStation, and he didn’t know how to get one, so this would be the closest he could get to playing his dream game. He read it over and over.
Later that year, the big gaming news around the schoolyard was the new Nintendo 64. It was coming out! It had a new Mario game! Jon had read about all this new stuff in Game Informer too, but alas! It was just as alien to him as the PlayStation. But then George Dorfler got one. George was a rich kid who had just moved from Florida and his parents had bought him one the day it came out. Everyone at school was blown away, and he recounted how great Mario was and how it cost his parents $200(!!!).
Jon started to understand. These expensive, exotic things weren’t necessarily out of his reach. He was in fourth grade, goddamnit! He could start demanding these things that seemed to only exist in the pages of his magazines, and by God, he might get them!
And so, with dreams of Mario and Star Wars games dancing through his head, he started a campaign to get himself an N64. The PlayStation and Resident Evil–which he now had the knowledge to obtain!–were sadly forgotten.
Fifteen years later, Jon is an independent man of the world. He makes his own decisions, has his own money, and he buys his own games. He’s owned a lot of consoles and titles since he was a kid, and video gaming has taken him to places and shown him things that he never could have imagined back then. He’s started a revolution in Half-Life 2 and sailed the high seas of Zelda, but he never ended up getting that one game.
My friends, after all this time…I have bought Resident Evil and accomplished something I’d left unfulfilled since childhood. I can hardly believe it!
Mundane? Probably. But tonight I’m going to pop this sucker in and feel like a kid again, and that is going to be pretty great. Maybe I’ll dust off the old Game Informer strategy guide for some help.
Check back for updates on my progress!