The other day, my father noticed one of the PC games I was playing and was pretty stunned — not just at the graphics but the overall presentation of gaming today. Growing up, the computer in our home was mostly used for homework, school projects, and of course, Math Blaster. I don’t know that my father knows how deep the rabbit hole of PC gaming goes, or its history, but he remains one of the single most significant figures in introducing video games to me.
Christmas ’95. Our home was chaotic, though little has changed since, but I could feel in my bones that something special was waiting under the tree for me that day. Socks from grandma, a few new shirts for school, and a handful of other less than memorable presents. I quietly consoled myself — a few friends from class said they were going to play (insert console of the time here) during winter break, and I was both excited for them and hopeful for myself.
We were all transitioning out of the living room when my father slyly went to the other room and brought out a gift, not wrapped, and put it right behind me. It was a PlayStation and placed right on top of its glorious box was the game case to a title that would stay with me for years.
My father made it a habit of closing the windows whenever we put on Resident Evil 2. Of course, he enjoyed that because I was the one manning the controls, while he flipped through the game manual and provided tips here and there. Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield were not guests in our home but tenants, coconspirators alongside my father who were all working to get me as invested in this game as possible. And I was hooked.
RE2, Final Fantasy VIII, and Parasite Eve were some of the first titles to expose me to the space narratives delicately occupied in video games and it helped broaden my imagination as a kid. However, thanks to my father, I soon learned about a game that was looking to revolutionize both story and the mechanics of the world it would introduce me to.
Perhaps the most iconic console ever, my Nintendo 64 was the highlight of my early gaming experience. My father had it in the backseat one day when he picked me up from school and I nearly passed out.
There isn’t nearly enough time to express how grateful I am for Rare’s Jet Force Gemini. Its setting, characters, and ridiculous selection of weapons and enemies to use them on blew my mind and was a welcomed reprieve from the heavier games I had been used to playing on my PlayStation.
The N64 in general was a friendlier console, with titles better suited for friends and family but my father could never get the controls down and would just spectate whenever I played Pokémon Stadium or Perfect Dark. He was shocked that such a small piece of hardware could produce the kinds of images and sounds coming out of our television.
I think the most substantial moment for me growing up with a father whose trips to Blockbuster yielded some of the greatest gaming gems of my childhood, was waking up to a PlayStation 2. It wasn’t my birthday or any holiday, we weren’t celebrating or congratulating anything. He just bought it because he always knew gaming was my thing and I remain immensely grateful for that act of love.
My father was heavy into martial arts films and samurai culture, so it came as no surprise that I was holding in my hands the single greatest narrative experience for me to date: Onimusha.
Capcom was proving yet again how powerful story-driven games could be and how lasting their impact remains. The game’s take on Japanese history infused with fantasy elements captivated and astounded both me and my father, to the point that I vividly remember leaving my console on for multiple days as I searched stores for my PS2’s first memory card (apparently they were difficult to come by in my neighborhood at the time). To this day, Samanosuke Akechi is still one of the most dauntless, bold, and selfless heroes in gaming I’ve had the immense privilege of getting to engage with.
My father hasn’t played any of these games, but he was always around for the intense boss battles, odd puzzles, and credit screens. He’s that way in my own life too, quietly watching me navigate avenues he’s inspired me to travel while providing whatever insights he can. He hasn’t stopped being blown away by games and continues to ask if there are any new Resident Evil titles, and while I’m well into adulthood, buying my own consoles and choosing my own games, he’s never far behind, amazed and taken aback and enjoying the ride.