This is part of the Blaugust series!
This has been such an integral part of my creative life, but I realized that I have never once put this all down in writing nor told this full story. So I’ve decided to use Blaugust as a time to talk about The Game That Changed My Life (furthermore known as TGTCML).
The game that changed my life happened the summer of 1992, when my younger sister and I first rented a game called Final Fantasy II for the SNES. This is now better known as Final Fantasy IV, but at the time, we knew nothing of Japanese game development, etc. etc. etc.
The summer of 1992 was a good summer. I was 14 years old, and had landed an almost full-time summer job babysitting neighbor kids just down the road. Yeah, looking back on it, I was way too young for that kind of job. But the kids were behaved, the pay was good, and it only lasted a few weeks overall.
What it did give me was the financial freedom to buy the coolest new game system at the time, the Super Nintendo. I grew up a Nintendo fan-kid. I fell in love with Super Mario Bros. the first time I picked up a controller at my cousin’s house. While I had dabbled with RPG games like the original Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior, it was really Super Mario World that I wanted on the SNES.
Back then, my parents would go to the local rental shop at our Pharmor and pick up the cheapie movie rentals. They always let us rent one video game for 99 cents, and the very first one we chose for the SNES happened to be Final Fantasy II.
We’d never played a real JRPG with a full storyline and characters we could care about. We never even knew that kind of thing existed in video games. What proceeded to happen was love at first sight and a lot of this:
I mean, we went from a cool story about a Dark Knight who went up on a mystical mountain, turned into a Paladin, and ended up riding a whale to the moon to meet an alien race! Heck yeah!
Sadly, buying the system took all the money I had saved, and buying games for us was not something my parents did very often, so my sister and I worked tirelessly to save up recycle money and our tiny bit of allowance for months before buying FFII in November that year. I remember we bought it for over $60 – no joke – brand new at Lowes of all places!
My sister and I played that game over and over and over again. Like the good books and movies of our childhood, this became a part of my young-teen years. Only a few years before that, I’d discovered the world of fantasy fiction through accidentally reading The Hobbit and then devouring The Lord of the Rings. Also, just a note, 1992 was years before the Internet existed for me! So, FFII was just the right game to not just introduce me to JRPG gaming, but into a new sort of fandom I never expected to find.
To Be Continued!
What an amazing first chapter! I wish I had a game I was this passionate about.
Thank you! It’s weird how this one game created a domino effect that still influences so much in my life today.
Yes!!!!! My younger brother and I had a very similar experience with FF IV! We had both enjoyed gaming before, but that was the first time we saw how much you could do with a story in a game, it made a huge impression on us. In ’92 we would have been 9 and 8, though, so I remember playing FF VI more clearly. It really is amazing how certain titles get into your head and heart and stay there. 🙂
FFIV was first for us, but FFVI was also another amazing title. It confirmed the story-driven and character-driven direction that the series was going at a time when most other games couldn’t come close!
My Final Fantasy IV experience was almost identical. I recall the rental period was three days and over the course of that weekend I pretty much played nonstop, beating the game and then starting over so I could play more.
Haha… awesome! We didn’t quite beat the game during our 3 day rental. But the funny thing is that we rented it again a few weeks later, and our save game was still there! It always pays to save in the last slot. 🙂
I’ve never touched an FF game in my life, especially not in my youth. But it must be nice to be able to trace your gaming career back to one definitive title in general!
I’ve tried, and I can’t. The closest I’ve hit is Age of Empires, back in 1998, which not only made me a serious PC gamer but kindled my passion for history. Oh, there were many games before that, on various last-last-gen consoles and handhelds, but I still don’t know if any count as GTCMLs.
And you discovered LoTR 7 years before I did! It would’ve been Ancient Greek to me in 1992 though.
I played plenty of games before FFII, of course, but that’s the game that made me realize where gaming could go in the future. That gaming could be something more than side-scrollers or adventure games. It was like playing a novel, which was astounding at the time! It really opened the door to a lot of imagination and creativity for me at that young age.
I’ll talk about where it all leads to in the next few posts!
Always fun to hear about your past. 🙂 It almost makes me want to write a post on a similar topic…
Go for it! I’m sure you have fun stories to tell, too! 🙂
Pre-internet gaming was something special. I miss the days of being surprised by releases or the quality of a game I took a chance on. Other than magazines, I had no clue about most of the games I was buying or asking for.
These days, I come at new purchases fully armed. It’s less fun, but I don’t lose as much money that way on bad games.
I agree. It has its ups and downs. It also comes with a lot more expectations on games to be completely awesome and perfect. I remember back then, even if a game wasn’t perfect (they usually weren’t), I could still enjoy it. Just wasn’t as much criticism as there is now.
Great writing prompt! I’m going to have to think on this for a bit. I loved hearing the first bit about your experiences with FFII!