This is the story of a young man with a passion…A passion for being an Otaku. A boy and his slime.
Video games have literally been a part of my entire life. Every significant event/moment in my life has had a video game associated with it, whether directly or indirectly. Although my interest in games is subject to periods of waxing and waning, there is no doubt that for me, video gaming has been the defining entertainment medium of my life.
Even when I was a kid growing up in Arizona in the 1980’s, I grew up in a gamer household. The first video games I ever played were Donkey Kong and Pac-Man. I would stare entranced at the colorful animated characters for as long as I was allowed. While video gaming is taken for granted these days, being available on a plethora of consoles, PCs, handhelds, and even cell phones, back then it was indescribably awesome to be able to manipulate images on a TV screen. It was with my mother that I shared an early love of computer/video gaming. At home, we had a TRS-80 computer and then an Atari XE computer. With arcade games ported from the under-appreciated 5200 as well as tailor-made games, the XE was my main gaming appliance, and I’d head for it every day after homework was done.
At the age of 10, my best friend at the time got a Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas, with Super Mario Bros/Duck Hunt, Metroid, and The Legend of Zelda, which came on a bright golden cartridge packed with colorful manuals and maps. We played Zelda with a fierce obsession. Every day after school I’d head for his house and we’d play. We even had an ongoing Zelda pen and paper RPG. One day, during an art lesson, I drew a picture of a scene from Zelda and handed it in. Instead of being annoyed, my fourth-grade teacher told me that she and her husband were playing through Zelda and had gotten stuck. Since I was further along than they were, would I mind making them up some maps and giving them clues on how to find the game’s treasures? I happily obliged. I was proud that I was teaching my teacher, for a change.
It was on the NES that I played the first examples of what has become my favorite genre of game, the RPG. Dragon Warrior introduced me to the world of Japanese RPGs, while Ultima: Exodus introduced me to American-made RPGs, albeit with a Japanese face-lift. I was enthralled with these imaginary worlds, and eagerly sought out more such experiences on consoles and on the PC. However, it would not be until several years later that I would find myself fully immersed in RPG culture. It was also through the NES and through RPGs that I was introduced to Japanese animation, in the form of the little-known Dragon Warrior anime that ran for about 10 episodes in the US before contractual disputes between Akira Toriyama and the anime’s US licensee canceled it. The anime characters looked very much like Link and Zelda, which made me an instant fan. Since then, I have always associated video games with anime, and vice versa. My favorite anime are Ranma 1/2, Project A-Ko, Spirited Away, and Ah! My Goddess.
My favorite T-shirt
For Christmas of 1989, I was the proud owner of Nintendo’s revolutionary new handheld Game Boy. I thought the Game Boy, with its monochrome-green screen, was the greatest toy in the world, because I could now play Super Mario Land and Tetris anywhere I wanted to, as long as I had batteries. For my birthday two weeks later, my mother got me a rechargeable battery pack, which probably paid for itself in less than a week. I still have my original Game Boy.
After my friend and I had a falling-out, I stopped playing console games for several years. My only source of home gaming was my Game Boy, and I turned to the arcade scene for my gaming fix. Konami’s licensed beat-em-ups were my passion at first, as they allowed me to play two of my favorite TV shows, TMNT and The Simpsons. Then one day, I saw Street Fighter II and was entranced with the eight selectable fighters, including the green beastman, Blanka and Chun-Li, the first widely popular feminine video game character. Mortal Kombat proved even more entertaining, and for two years, any spare change I could get would quickly get plugged into a MK machine. Ultimately, the difficulty of being able to play arcade fighting games on demand got the best of me. I petitioned my parents for a 16-bit console for Christmas, and was rewarded with a SNES. Even better than MK, the SNES came bundled with The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. I don’t have to tell you I was hooked from the word go. Christmas 1994 was one of the happiest ever.
I was back in the thick of the console gaming world. I eagerly watched the launches of the Sega Saturn and the PlayStation. My 1996 Christmas gift was a Nintendo 64 with Super Mario 64, an absolute marvel of technology. But something was missing.
And I found that missing something in the fall of 1997: Final Fantasy VII.
Final Fantasy VII was an obsession even before I finally played it. My life was going pretty rough at the time, and I was running on neutral, to say the least. I made money doing odd jobs, but lacked any kind of ambition. Final Fantasy VII’s fantastic visuals and epic story entranced me. Indeed, I credit FFVII with being the game that changed my life. I bought the game first, with nothing to play it on. That was my motivation. I got out, got my first 9-5 job at Wendy’s, and motivated myself during those first couple of weeks by promising myself that the first thing I would buy with my first real paycheck was a PlayStation to play FFVII on.
This self-imposed incentive worked wonderfully, to the relief of myself and my folks. While I cherished the game systems I got as gifts, my PlayStation was a gift I earned for myself, and I was proud. For the next year, I bought a game every paycheck – Resident Evil, FF Tactics, Parasite Eve, Lunar, and countless others. I still own these cherished classics today.
When my nephew came to live with us, I babysat him a lot and we’d watch the Pokemon cartoon. By the time he was 3 he could clearly identify favorite Pokemon. Today, his love of gaming is as strong as mine. He still loves Pokemon, but I’ve also introduced him to classics like the Final Fantasy series and Lunar. When I see him immersing himself in the games I enjoyed in my youth, it’s almost like playing them again for the first time.
It was Final Fantasy VIII that saw me into college, and given the game’s “school” theme, quite fitting. During a rough patch in my life following college, I drowned my sorrows in Tales of Symphonia.
It was with Dragon Quest VIII that I bonded with my future wife and my stepdaughter. We played that game together for several months. I hadn’t had that much fun with a game in a long time. I also played Resident Evil 4 with my stepdaughter. Every time she heard a chainsaw she’d shriek! When Pokemon Diamond/Pearl came out, I bought my wife a DS and Pearl, while I had Diamond. We both enjoyed this immensely.
Video games have always been an important part of my life, and always will be. I am grateful to be surrounded by a gaming family with which I can appreciate this wonderful medium called video games. Even my 71-year-old father is in on it. He bought himself a PS3 and is currently playing Resident Evil 5. He says he’s catching up on what he missed.
Portrait of a hardcore gamer for life
My name is Andrew, and I am a Real Otaku Gamer from a Real Otaku Gaming Family.