RPS Asks: What’s Your First Gaming Memory?

By John Walker on December 2nd, 2013 at 9:20 am.

Go back. Go waaaaay back. What’s the very first thing you remember about gaming?

It may be an advert. Perhaps it was that terrifying talking testcard, demanding it be plugged into a Sega? (Oh God, in French it’s even worse.) Or perhaps it was seeing an older brother or sister shooting someone in the head, scarring you for life.

For me, it was a Pong clone. One of those bizarre wood-finished home gaming kits that played four or five games, including Pong and variants of it. But that’s blurry. More coherently, it would be the ZX81, and watching my dad play text adventures. An experience that has permanently seared “exam” into my brain as a word that means to look at something closely.

So tell us – when was the first time you encountered gaming as a concept? And don’t be shy if that’s Tennis For Two on an oscilloscope, or Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare on an Xbox 360.

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336 Comments »

  1. aldo_14 says:

    Playing Frogger on an Acorn Electron with a wonky tape loader.

    • CookPassBabtridge says:

      BLOING BLOING BLOING BLOING BLOING BLOING
      BLOING …. BLOING BLOING …..
      BLOING
      …….
      BLOING BLOING BLOING sploosh
      “ARSE!!”
      *press press press press press press press *
      BLOING BLOING BLOING BLOING BLOING BLOING BLOING BLOING BLOING

    • habeebtc says:

      My first gaming memories undoubtedly were on the Commodore64 which my parents bought as both a home PC and gaming machine.

      Jupiter Lander, Radar Rat Race, and other various cartridge games etc. at first. Then as we got older and more sophisticated, Red Storm Rising, Beach head, Deja Vu.

      I got a bit older, and started trying to make my own text-based adventure games in C64 basic. I don’t remember much from those games, but I know they were extremely buggy and short (no more than a couple of moves you could make until permadeath). But I recall my younger brother recounting that one of them had a loop where it said, “you get hit in the head with a chicken!”.

      Anyways, I’m a software engineer of sorts now, and try to avoid chicken loops in my code where possible.

  2. Tatty says:

    A Defender clone on the ZX81. It was the only game I had for months which wasn’t a question mark chasing an asterisk around the screen.

  3. Syra says:

    Zool 1992 maybe? I was living in scotland and playing it on amiga at 5 years old with my brother…

    • rustybroomhandle says:

      Zool! Brought to you by Chupa Chups… Chupa Chups in the background… Chupa Chups in the foreground… Chupa Chups seared into your brain!

      • warthog2k says:

        Loved Zool :) (About the same time the 7-up sponsored ‘Cool Spot’ came out too IIRC).

        Side note – the Chupa Chups logo was designed by Salvador Dali!

        • Zanchito says:

          Wow, didn’t know it, and I’m spanish.

        • soundofsatellites says:

          OH GOD YES! I think for me it was 1993 though? We got a 386 that came with zool, wolf 3D and the crappy Barbarian game you had to control with mouse/F-Keys… Cool Spot was a bit later for me. From then my Dad and my sis were big on adventure games: f*ck yeah LOOM <3

          • CookPassBabtridge says:

            No wayyyy! Really? Keys and mouse? Barbarian was joystick on the Amiga. Push up and fire to decapitate. Used to really upset my friend as I did that move all the time. He got angry and I whipped him with a joystick plug. Felt soooo guilty for ages

          • Johnny Lizard says:

            You may be remembering two different Barbarians: the Psygnosis one with the action menu and the Palace one with Maria Whittaker.

        • Sherlock1986 says:

          Googling that Cool Spot game and seeing screenshots brings back nostalgic memories, thanks! I played and loved mediocre computer games, sometimes without even realising how bad they are, back then apparently. Judging by my Steam collection – some things never change.

        • DigitalImpostor says:

          The McDonald’s game Mick and Mack: Global Gladiators was also released around that time.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Pushover a puzzle game bizzarely branded by Quavers for about as far as the intro and then mostly dropping the premise, was actually really good.

    • Lambchops says:

      Ah Zool, I have fond memories of it but imagine I’d find it terrible now, although the product placement may be so egregious that it somehow manages to be amusing rather than irritating.

  4. CookPassBabtridge says:

    My uncles Atari console running Pong was the first I ever played. The console reminded me of wooden ashtrays so I thought it was dirty :) Manic miner was “my” first game though. My dad bought a C64 when I was about 6. It came with loads of games and the other two I loved were ghostbusters (“He THHLIMED ME”) and paradroid. Ahhh good times

    I never got past screen 5 on manic miner though. Must watch a lets play or something. That game was tough. I could also never get past the marshmallow man at the end of ghostbusters. I remember my heart pounding and being sure you had to go when he was mid jump. Years later I found out you had to go when he was on one foot. I can still see squashed 8 bit Peter Venkmans when I close my eyes :( OLD GAMES WERE HARD

    Edit: Also, that BBC gameshow where kids had to play Paperboy. First Class I think it was called.

    • Arathain says:

      Oh neat! I never did work out the Marshmallow Man timing, in many attempts. I kind of want to try that now.

      • CookPassBabtridge says:

        I know, it was like HOURS of effort, getting to the end, hitting “B” when a Marshmallow Alert happened, and then every time I get to the gates of Zuul …. squish. Nobody steps on a ghostbuster in my town!

        Except they did. Repeatedly. I was also always sad that Ecto 1 was one away from being the crappest car as well. Riding along in basically an Ecto TR-7 just didn’t feel right.

  5. rustybroomhandle says:

    ZX81 here too. Only had 1KB, so games were ones typed in from listings in magazines.

    First consumer-gaming memory is an Asteroids cabinet, and first at-home one would be either The Hobbit or Mugsy on ZX Spectrum – don’t quite remember which came first.

    • Kreeth says:

      Oh lordy, that sounds like mine. First “gaming” experience was trying to work out where I’d mistyped something on the ZX81 my dad borrowed from his school. Sometimes we got a game to run. Sometimes.

      • CookPassBabtridge says:

        Oh god yeah I remember my dad typing thousands of lines of BASIC into our C64 to make a helicopter sound. He must have spent eons on it.

  6. WeltEnSTurm says:

    Lemmings. We had a PC in our elementary class with Pac Man, Lemmings and that kind of stuff and each break we’d fight over whose turn it was to play.

  7. unmightysten says:

    Mine is Frogger on the Commodore Vic 20, but I don’t have any other gaming memories between that and the explosion of gaming memories from the Speccy, which most notably include Bumpy by Loriciels, and the brilliant Turbo Esprit!

    • gringo says:

      Ohh, i too had the vic-20 but i forgot the name. Tut-Ankh-Amon?
      What stays in my memory is ofcourse king’s quest 1…playing with two hands on the arrows :D

      ..and then, i fell in love everything sierra on-line released :)

  8. Flit says:

    Dropping people on horses in StuntCopter. The Mac SE had TWO disk drives!

  9. Skeletor68 says:

    My Dad and uncles playing Duck Hunt on the NES.

  10. Zanchito says:

    Watching my father assemble a ZX80 and playing Avalon (or it might have been Dragontorc)

  11. Meat Circus says:

    Manic Miner

    I’m all about the Willy.

  12. Keneb says:

    A game called SIM on the Acorn Electron. You flew around with a jetpack and at some point got attacked by Channel 4 logos. I probably encountered pong or something before that, but it’s my earliest clear memory.

    Citadel on the same system is the first game I remember being really captivated by.

  13. warthog2k says:

    Probably also a Binatone pong clone (“Tennis”, “Squash”, etc) when I was about 5.

    I was given an Atari2600 shortly after and enjoyed Combat, Air-Sea Battle, Indy 500, Keystone Capers, River Raid etc.

    My first gaming ‘love’ though was definitely Atic Atac on my ZX Spectrum 48k+

    • Wther says:

      Thank you, dear chap! I’ve been searching (half-heartedly, admittedly) for the exact pong / squash / light gun system I had, given to me by my grandad when I was about 5 or 6. A Binatone TV Master.

      My first actual game was QBASIC Gorillas, followed a couple of years later by a Linux shareware version of Abuse which I played in silence as we hadn’t ever had a reason to invest in a sound card.

    • jrodman says:

      I remember playing a pong clone a bunch and everyone else in my family being tired of it already. I had to make friends and drag them over to play because it was a miserable single player experience.

      I was less than 5 year old though, so don’t really remember the brand and so on.

      I have much clearer memories (age 5) of playing Atari after my dad bought the console in 1979 or so. It came with the cartridge Combat which was basically Atari Tank, the home version. We added game #2, Air Sea Battle, not sure if that was for take-home day or a bit later.

      My favourite was Surround, but playing Air Sea Battle was fun enough with 4-5 people on a giant TV at a neighbor’s.

  14. Soulstrider says:

    Playing Caesar III in my cousins computer, I sure treasured every time I got to play it since my cousins usually wouldn’t let me.

  15. Fanbuoy says:

    I think my first gaming memory is playing an old Swedish text adventure called “Stugan” (The Cabin) in my dad’s office. Then again, I encountered gaming very early on, so it’s not easy to remember exactly. Stugan was gooood. Stugan was haaaard. Especially when you had recently learned to read. I should really look it up again.

  16. pakoito says:

    Going down to the bar arcade to play Hammerin’ Harry. As of my own game system, it was probably an Speccy. A boy and a girl in a split screen labyrinth with spiders, their moves mirrored. If anyone knows the name…

    And one game that has my fondest memories but can’t find is an early windows bomberman indie/clone with all the powerups, map editor, lots of modes…

    • Zanchito says:

      I remember that game too. It might be up in one of the Spectrum revival websites. Si necesitas la lista, te la paso. ;)

  17. noom says:

    Spellbound’s the one that sticks in there most. Half an hour loading it from cassette on our Atari 800, usually for it to just not work. Even when it did I couldn’t get anywhere anyway… :(

  18. Volcanu says:

    Watching my cousin playing Super Mario World – then playing it (very badly) myself.

    My little mind was blown and from then on it was more or less all I could think about and I pestered my parents incessantly for a SNES.

  19. nervouspanda says:

    A binatone home video system which had various clones of Pong. I played Gridiron, not really knowing what Gridiron was.

  20. NathanH says:

    I remember when I was very young we borrowed a computer from someone else in the family. It had a few games on it but I have no recollection at all about them. I remember that each one was named after a train from Thomas the Tank Engine though, and you started them by typing RUN THOMAS and so on.

    I am told by my parents, but don’t remember, that at some point (perhaps when I first went to school?) someone asked me if I could spell run and my answer was “r-u-n return”. I think it was quite clear how I was going to turn out from that age…

    In terms of games that I can remember the actual details of, it was probably a couple of clones that my father wrote on our Amstrad—Pong, breakout, bomber, things like that. I also vaguely remember a game at school when I’d be about 5 that involved catching falling shapes in a truck.

  21. bunyoka says:

    Speccy for me too. Jetpack or Android…. or Gunfright? Not sure, that’s blurry for me.

  22. GernauMorat says:

    Super Mario Land on my transparent shelled original game boy!

  23. riksteri says:

    Playing Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Dragon’s Lair on NES, comparing the two and trying to decide which one of the two offered games I wanted to keep. I had to choose one. I chose T2. I still haven’t beaten it. Now I also have Dragon’s Lair (haven’t beaten that either).

  24. DukeOFprunes says:

    Watching my bro play Fort Apocalypse on our old Commie64, a rather intimidating sidescrolling chopper game. Soon after that, the first thing I played myself was Rygar on an arcade box. It made me feel bad-ass.

  25. bovine3dom says:

    It was a racing game within ‘Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing’ for MS DOS. My father allocated time for TV and other ‘bad’ luxuries based on how much time I spent educational endeavours. Needless to say I spent countless hours learning to type and have dreams about that awful engine noise.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YRn-HwZPRZ8 – 20 seconds in.

    • Lambchops says:

      Hah, I remember that racing bit in Mavis Beacon teaches typing well. Can’t knock it I suppose, I am pretty decent at typing!

      It saddened me some years later when I found out that Mavis Beacon was a fictional creation; as a kid I’d always wondered how she earned her reputation as such a great typist and whether there was anything else she taught.

  26. lili says:

    Surprised that this hasn’t been mentioned already, but Tetris, anyone?

  27. Maritz says:

    Wizball on my friend’s C64. I must have been 6 or 7 years old and we were both rubbish at it. About a year later, my dad came home one day with an A500 and Paradroid 90. My sister and I used to play it with one of us doing the joystick movement and the other doing the fire button. Good times.

  28. Cerzi says:

    Playing Golden Axe on my friend’s Megadrive when I was 4 or 5. Earliest PC gaming memory though? Star Wars: Dark Forces, on another friend’s Dad’s PC, must’ve been about 9. A year later we had our own, came with Bioforge, Terminal Velocity and Descent – played the fuck out of all of them.

  29. Rao Dao Zao says:

    We inherited a Spectrum ZX from somewhere, so possibly Paper Boy or that weird one where there are pairs of boots marching around a yellow maze. Or that Mission Impossible game where the level select was choosing a floor to get off the lift at.

    My memory is hazy because it didn’t last long without breaking, okay?

  30. The Dark One says:

    I don’t remember the sequencing exactly, but it’s either the bundled QBasic games Nibble and Gorillas, or Oregon Trail/LogoWriter on my elementary school’s Apple IIs.

  31. Timberwolf says:

    My first gaming-related memory is probably not playing a game, but my dad’s discovery that bits of Lego could be gainfully employed to stop the tendency of chips within the family Acorn Electron to de-socket themselves at critical moments. I was using that to build a tower, stop computing with it!

    After that, it would probably be Escape from Moonbase Alpha on the enhanced, Lego-Reliable(tm) Electron. I’m sure I was better at it 25 years ago than I am now…

  32. finalfanatik says:

    ‘Helping’ my dad play through the original C&C: Red Alert. I took it upon myself to watch the minimap for the baddies.
    The first game I remember playing was a PC adaptation of the Battleship boardgame. That was so cool. I can’t even find it anymore..

  33. Captain_Coke says:

    I believe my first gaming memory was something like Dig-Dug on Atari (I guess?) played it with a two-button joystick. I was 4 or 5, tops and neither had a console or a pc so that was very new indeed for me…

  34. Insidious Rex says:

    The earliest I can remember was a Spectrum. The game was probably Stop the Express, Kokotoni Wilf or that educational Maths game where an Octopus grabbed numbers or something.

  35. NailBombed says:

    Oddly enough, the first time I came across gaming was a ZX81 as well, Mazogs, 3D Monster Maze, The Hobbit… but the BBC Micro was the first one to really get me into the idea of gaming with Elite.

  36. Jams O'Donnell says:

    My very first gaming memory is Flight Simulation on the ZX-81, though I can’t really remember much more than that it existed and I saw it running on our telly, so I’m not sure that counts.

    After that, it’s going to be something on a BBC, but I have no clue what games I played in what order. Likely suspects for first game are: Chuckie Egg, Manic Miner, and Repton.

  37. communisthamster says:

    I remember being 3 or 4 and my nursery school had a BBC acron/micro, and there was a spelling game or a card matching game, or and edu/adventure game called Grannys garden. Either that or an LCD tetris game my dad bought to play on holiday.

  38. christmas duck says:

    Pac-Land on the Spectrum, not sure if I actually played it at all or just watched my older brother, I definitely remember trying to sneak a go when he wasn’t around and being greatly disappointed that the audio cassettes I’d pick up from other rooms of the house did not actually also have games on them (I was 4 so this reasoning made sense at the time).

  39. King in Winter says:

    Well if it counts, that’s probably Donkey Kong game & watch handheld game, the two-screen one. And if it doesn’t, then gaming with Commodore 64 a few years later. Can’t quite remember what was the first game since we had dozens and dozens cassettes full of pirated games, but one that perhaps had the biggest impact would be Elite (closely followed by bunch of other games).

    Also, I can’t quite put in correct timeframe when it was when I wasted quite a bit of coins playing Xevious in the corner of a local kiosk / bar.

    • Hydrogene says:

      Game & Watch by Nintendo must count surely! My first gaming on the G&W was Mickey Mouse egg catching. I can still hear the “music” playing in my head. My brother had the Popeye game, which was less fun than Mickey Mouse. At the time, I dreamt of getting Donkey Kong, with the two screens.

      On the PC, my first game, years later, was GATO, a submarine game, and Summer Games by Epyx. Played on the keyboard, obviously.

  40. c-Row says:

    Must be the Vectrex with Clean Sweep (Pac Man clone) on it at the fashion store my mum worked at during the first half of the 80s. They already knew how to keep the kids occupied while their parents were trying on clothes.

  41. linea says:

    I think it would probably be playing Alley Cat on my dad’s IBM PC XT in 1984 or 85. Which makes me a PC gamer for almost as long as it is possible to have been a PC gamer for. I still know my 16 times table off by heart from watching the RAM integrity check slowly tick up to 512KB…

    I also remember going down to the games shop (we lived in Germany at the time) and buying floppy disk compilations of mostly ASCII-graphiced shareware games. And also of being very jealous of friends who had c64s and Spectrums!

    • GROM says:

      same here, the xt had a monochrome screen and I was amazed when he got a 286 from work and we could play that game in ega graphics, oh the joy!

  42. Themadcow says:

    It was one of many variations of Pong on my Dad’s GRANDSTAND games console using a controller where you basically had a knob you could rotate in either direction.

    From my own personal gaming experience it was playing a game called American Football on my Amstrad CPC464.

  43. boundless08 says:

    First gaming experiences was playing James Pond 2: Robocod and an old top down indiana jones game, can’t remember the name, on my dads old windows 3.1.

  44. man-eater chimp says:

    Playing Diddy Kong Racing on the old N64. I’m young.

  45. Henke says:

    Terry’s Big Adventure on my cousin’s C64. It was like a cartoon but you could CONTROL the little guy and make him run around by pressing left and right on the joystick! It was amazing.

  46. sleepisthebrotherofdeath says:

    Smurf: Rescue In Gargamel’s Castle on the Atari 2600.

    It took me and my dad forever to be able to get past the first screen – which was to simply run and jump over the fence. If you got it wrong, you died. Trouble is you had to be pixel perfect and those joysticks really sucked.

  47. marrakoosh says:

    I have some genuine issues with my first gaming memory – it’s all blurred and I don’t know which was first; my Game Gear or my Amiga 500+. For the Game Gear – playing some Mickey Mouse castle game, and specifically a Toy level which I would get stuck at one point, because I didn’t know where to go. Specifically, it was to the far left of the level and there was a toy train, pumping out smoke. But I had no idea I had to jump on the smoke clouds to carry me to a top platform. I got to that point on the toy level and continually had to suicide as I had no idea what to do. I accidentally discovered I could stand on the smoke after I got angry and spazzed out, jumping everywhere and he stayed on the smoke cloud.

    For the Amiga – playing Striker. Some football game I got with a four-game pack (included Lemmings, Pinball Dreams and then an early incarnation of Photoshop called Deluxe or something?). Anyway, i found a hole in the game whereby you would get your player, run up the right wing, cut into the edge of the box, shoot and curl the ball away from goal. It would slow down the ball, the keeper would dive over it and it would curl onto the line and then over the line. I beat Qatar as Italy, 70-0 this way, playing actualy 45 minute halves. I have no idea why I did it though.

  48. dogsolitude_uk says:

    Getting a Spectrum in 1982 and playing ‘Thru the Wall’, a breakout clone written in Spectrum BASIC! A friend of the family bought me a game called ‘Helichopper’, and when I discovered I could buy games for £1.99 I was in the Woking Toys R Us whenever I could get down there buying stuff by Mastertronic and from the firebird silver range. Eventually got Manic Miner and Jet Set Willy…

    Which brings me on to your choice of lead picture: ‘The Forgotten Abbey’ in Jet Set Willy. I spent weeks trying to get past that screen! You had to time your jumps with absolute 100% precision, and it was the only way to get ‘Under the Drive’, that mysterious entrance glimpsed under the front door.

    • Jonfon says:

      I went through this too. Spent AGES trying to get past that screen, just to be looped to somewhere I’d been before. “AAAAAAARRRGH”

      My most cherished memory is getting my Speccie for Xmas in 84 or 85. And having no idea what the loading screen was doing when we got Horace goes Skiing to start loading. “What on earth is this? Why are the edges of the screen going crazy? WHAT’S THAT HIDEOUS NOISE???”

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      Same here – Thru the wall, which came with the Speccy 48k.

      I think the first game we bought was Hungry Horace. Then Horace and the spiders, and some game where you scrolled left to right dropping bombs on buidlings getting lower with each pass.

      My sister, my Dad and I spent ages trying to map the whole mansion in JSW (which is quite hard as it doesn’t quite work like that!).

      Not forgetting The Hobbit of course – though at the time it was a bit old for me (I was 6!), so that was more watching my Dad and sister play.

  49. thekelvingreen says:

    I remember the wood panelling on the Atari — more games machines should have wood panelling — and being terrified by Battle Zone. That seems to have put me off consoles until the Master System 2 came along as it was all Acorn Electron and Commodore 64 after that.

  50. dicenslice says:

    Dark Forces. It came in a pack of Star Wars games with Tie Fighter, Supremacy, and Rebel Assault.

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