[Welcome to Game Start, an ongoing retrospective where video game editors and personalities share their tales of growing up gamers. We take a walk down memory lane with Jesse Gregory, Co-Founder and Managing Editor of WingDamage.]
I still remember my first. Afterall, Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! is a game not easily forgotten. The giant, cartoon stereotypes were incredibly eye-catching and succeeding against its punishing difficulty required a sense of rhythm. From that moment on, I was hooked on games.
Fortunately, my parents had the level-headedness to enforce moderation. In the early days, I could only play the family NES on weekends. But we also got to rent a game every weekend (back when it only cost $1). When I wasn’t repeatedly renting Mega Man 3, this exposed me to the system’s increasingly expansive library. The blue bomber and the portly plumber cemented my love of platforming while the Gradius spinoff, Life Force, got me started on shmups early.
When the GameBoy released, the prospect of gaming on the go was too irresistible to pass up. In order to get one, my brother and I pooled together bags of change until we had enough to afford it along with The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. The man behind the counter who had to count it all probably has a bounty on our heads.
The first console that I could completely call my own was the Super Nintendo. The very same one is sitting behind me right now (hooked up) and it remains my favorite system of all time. My first SNES title, Cybernator, blew away my expectations of what games could do. So many long running series I loved had their best installment here including Super Metroid, Mega Man X, and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (sorry, Ocarina of Time). And thanks to the official region-free conversion kit (read: a rusty set of pliers to break off two plastic tabs), I’ve even had the joy of running imports on it.
I co-founded my current hub for games writing, WingDamage.com, with my brother (and lifelong co-op/competitive partner and GameBoy joint owner), Jonah. This opened up exciting new opportunities including having my work appear on Kotaku and writing a few features on game music for Joystiq.
I would excitedly visit the Sound Test mode in each game that had it and record each track onto cassette tapes by holding the recorder up to the speaker. It was a far cry from the quality of the soundtrack CDs I would import from Japan later in life, but back then this was all I had and I loved it.
Eventually, this love of game music began manifesting itself in new ways. As I discovered electronica, I decided I wanted to create it. Naturally, I began work on a number of video game remixes. Now, I compete fairly regularly in game remix competitions in the OverClocked ReMix community while appearing on albums like Mega Man 9: Back in Blue and the upcoming Gunstar Heroes: Be Aggressive!
By the time the PlayStation hit, I started writing a few game reviews with a friend and put them up on the same site I hosted my music (which would later be scrapped in favor of MainFinger.com). By 2009, I co-founded my current hub for games writing, WingDamage.com, with my brother (and lifelong co-op/competitive partner and GameBoy joint owner), Jonah. This opened up exciting new opportunities including having my work appear on Kotaku and writing a few features on game music for Joystiq.
Yet one of my favorite things to do is get together with fellow writers to record a podcast. Nothing beats chatting about games with old friends and new faces. These days, you can hear me talk about all things gaming on “Barrel Roll!“, share thoughts about game music on “Sound in Action”, and rant about Mega Man on the incredibly esoteric “MegaCast”.
I may lament the shrinking role of local multiplayer and the mass closing of arcades, but even I have to thank the internet age for connecting me with so many other people who share my passion for gaming. When I pop in a modern shmup like Eschatos and am able to compete for high scores with somebody across the world, I know that old spirit I grew up with still lives on in a new form.
Jesse Gregory is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of WingDamage.com, but you can also find his work published on Joystiq, Kotaku, SideQuesting, and The Mega Man Network. He’s likes Mega Man games a bit more than he probably should and can be caught listening to game music almost any time of day (when he’s not remixing it).