Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I can fondly remember many excursions to friends' houses in order to briefly play Contra and Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!, among many early NES titles. As games evolved however, so did my devotion to them. Copious amounts of time were invested by my friends and me in competing at Goldeneye 64 and WCW vs nWo: World Tour after school and long into the night. Videogames were always a great form of entertainment, and a major way to bond.
However, I never really thought about videogames, until I experienced Half-Life. Despite having played an innumerable number of first-person shooters, I had never been so engrossed as I was with Valve's debut title. I was introduced to an amazing immersive and cinematic quality through complex scripted sequences and never breaking character. Non-playable enemies, friend and foe alike, demonstrated an unparalleled intelligence, whether striking up a conversation or throwing a grenade. All of Half-Life's elements created a level of intelligence, atmosphere, and story that I had never imagined possible from a videogame. The opening train ride alone glued my jaw to the floor.
Upon finishing the game, my views on videogames were forever changed. I was no longer satisfied with treating games as toys, objects to play with in order to interact with my friends, and immediately discard upon completion, both physically and mentally. After playing Half-Life, I realized videogames could be emotional and artistic experiences, combining elements from so many other mediums, such as books, film, and music, to create something so much more fulfilling.
A few games have shaped my expectations of the videogame industry as a whole, but perhaps none more so than Half-Life.
I guess if you wanted to pick the one moment that turned me into a gamer, it could have been when my parents first bought my brother and me an Atari 2600 as kids. That was the beginning of many hours spent indoors dodging multi-colored ghosts and monkey-thrown barrels, instead of visiting that great, big yellow ball in the sky. But if you want to know the moment that really cemented it for me, it was when I began to play the original Zork.
From the moment I stood in that field outside the white house with the mailbox in front, to when I was first eaten by a grue in the dark, I was hooked. That began a lifelong love of adventure games. I still have fond memories of King's Quest and the Gabriel Knight series. I remember introducing my college roommate to Phantasmagoria. We stayed up until 5 AM so we could beat it. Just recently, I rediscovered Monkey Island and discovered Sam & Max.
But, it all started with Zork. Although it had no graphics or sound, it managed to capture my imagination. It was the first game I played that showed me that video games could be more than mindless button mashing; they could also be a vehicle for great storytelling. Great games, to me, are like interactive novels. I want to finish them, not so I can unlock all the achievements or top the leaderboards, but because I want to know how the story ends.
So how about it? What moment turned gaming into a lifestyle for YOU?