My Gaming World ’92-’93
1992 – 1993 was a time of change for me as a young buck. My family and I moved from Maryland to upstate New York, resulting in having to change schools and make new friends. Fortunately, I had plenty of things to occupy myself with during those times. My parents had no problem subscribing to cable television so I always got my fix of Saturday morning cartoons and shows like ‘Are You Afraid of the Dark’ and ‘Ghostwriter’. I also took a liking to collecting and reading a lot of books by Bruce Coville and R.L. Stine. When all else failed, pizza seemed to remedy any situation. But, what always kept my sanity afloat were video games, and those two years had a lot to offer for my budding mind.
In 1992, I was introduced to the growing resurgence of PC gaming. Growing up in the Asian community, it was a common mindset amongst parents to look down on video games, with the strict belief that the medium was “a waste of time” and served as a “threat” to scholastics. I was amongst the lucky few who had an SNES at home. Meanwhile, my less fortunate family friends didn’t have the pleasure of growing up with a gaming console, however they were fortunate enough to be allowed to play PC games. At the time, a lot of educational software was around so our parents didn’t see any harm in playing on the computer.
Among such friends were a pair of sisters who introduced me to a lot of memorable shareware and PC games, among them being King’s Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow. This was the first point-and-click game that I ever experienced and it was certainly mind boggling. At first, the game seemed rather corny, the premise involving Prince Alexander of Daventry in his travels amongst the Land of the Green Isles to save his beloved Princess Cassima. However, unlike most able-bodied heroes, Alexander had to rely more on his brains than his brawn. A lot of puzzle solving was involved, and instead of stabbing adversaries you had to rely on your wits in outsmarting and smiting foes. For a boy who had been growing up on Mario, Zelda, Mega Man, and Sonic, this game was incredibly difficult. But I couldn’t help but feel compelled to continue playing. It was new, it was different, and for a sidescrolling kid, there was an undeniable air of sophistication and maturity that surrounded it. Without a doubt, KQVI challenged me to expand myself in the early days of my gaming career.
The PC experience didn’t stop there. Next were a pair of brothers who introduced me to Wolfenstein 3D. This was the first FPS that I played, a most unforgettable experience. My eyes were widened and focused the whole time (I don’t remember if I blinked), trepidation flowed through my fingers, and I knew deep down that I was playing a title that was as prophetic as it was controversial. It was one thing that I was shooting down Nazi soldiers with unrelenting fury, but the corridors I traveled were adorned with countless swastikas and Hitler motifs. Despite knowing that BJ was fighting for the side of good, and the décor was all for the sake of adding to the tone, I couldn’t help but feel a bit confused and uncomfortable with it all. Parents and teachers raised us to understand the evil of the Nazis, and I remember quietly thinking to myself if it was okay for a little boy like me to play a game that showcased their mark. Of course now, it’s no big deal to me, but I’ll never forget how a game stirred such apprehension. I again felt the need to broaden my horizons.
Exposure to mature games didn’t end with 1992. 1993 saw the release of Mortal Kombat II. I barely knew what I was doing with MK1, but I still thought it was awesome and it was just as awesome that a sequel actually came through. I remember seeing the MKII cabinet for the first time at a local arcade. My young eyes scanned over the character select screen with much delight. The ninjas had gone through some interesting design upgrades, my favorite character at the time, Reptile, was officially brought into the fold, and there were ninja babes! Then I saw Baraka, and winced. I always thought that Blanka was the ugliest video game character ever, but Baraka scared the hell out of me. It didn’t help that the stages were demonic in appearance, and some of the fatalities were more gruesome to me at the time. It took me a while to stomach it all but I eventually gave the game a try a few days later. This was the first fighting game where I paid attention to certain things. When I saw a special move I liked, I watched how the older kids entered the commands, and some of them were nice enough to show me the ropes. So it came to pass that my first fighting game combo was with Reptile: Forceball to uppercut! Hey, give me a break, it was epic for a pup like me to pull that off.
The Mario Library
It was during ’92-’93 that an anthology comic book, Super Mario Adventures was released. This was a collection of the manga-styled monthly comics that was included in the years’ publications of Nintendo Power. It included an interesting take on the Super Mario World and Super Mario Land 2 storylines.
I was clearly being welcomed into the fold of genres outside platformers, but my love of sidescrollers still remained with me and it grew stronger one fateful day when I browsed the gaming magazine rack at Barnes and Noble. Opening up a random magazine led me to learn about the upcoming Super Mario All-Stars. I was barely able to contain myself as I stared endlessly at the stills of Japan’s commercial for the game. And to this day I still remember the line quoted from Shigeru Miyamoto: “Buy this game for the glory of Nintendo!”
Here’s a little known fact about me: I never actually owned an NES. Instead, I had the original Nintendo Famicom. My parents purchased one for me in Taiwan and we brought it overseas. I was popular for a time in elementary school for the fact that I was probably one of a single hand count of kids who owned Super Mario Bros. 3 before anyone else in the US. This was the original version where despite being powered up with a fire flower or super leaf, getting touched by an enemy shrunk you automatically, the western release was more merciful in having you returned as Big Mario.
Another fun fact: The Famicom was inferior compared to the NES because it didn’t take long for the system to die on you. So sadly, I was unable to beat Mario 1 (but I watched my cousins beat it repeatedly which had me worshiping them as gods for a time) and Mario 3 in their original 8-bit format. Super Mario All Stars gave me the chance to finish what I couldn’t before, plus it gave me the chance to also play and beat Super Mario Bros. 2, a game that I could only play by visiting my friends’ homes. At the time I didn’t understand that Mario 2 was based on Japan’s Doki Doki Panic, which got a Mario makeover for its US release, prompting it to be regarded as Super Mario USA in Japan. Though it took me an additional few years to do it, I finally beat those games before the end of the 20th century, notches that I wear proudly on my belt.
Looking back, 1992 – 1993 was a great time to be a gamer. It wasn’t just the titles or new technology, but for me, there was a lot to learn about the concept of ‘change’. Kids my age went through changes all the time, but the chance to experience a revelation of how change can spread on a global scale was far and few. There was no denying it, an era of change was coming for video games and it foretold a cataclysmic magnitude that would shake up the planet. As a child, it was a bit overwhelming to take in, but not without joy and much needed celebrating. I still remember parents discussing video games as something silly that could never hold a rightful place in the world. You know what the best part was? They were wrong.
Was there another event or title for these years that changed your gaming life forever? Let us know in the comments below.