Sonic the Hedgehog and my dad will always be linked. A strange statement on its own, but allow me to explain. If it wasn’t for my dad, I may not have had the same passion for videogames that I do today. I may not have this site, or my desire to be a journalist, writing about games and technology. So when I read about the 20th birthday of Sega’s mascot, the memories came rushing back to how Sonic and my dad got me started with gaming.
In 1991 I was six years old, every Saturday I’d take a walk into town with my dad and he’d run his errands and I’d get a book, a toy or a comic. The electrical store in our town was part of a larger company that my dad worked for (and still does today), he took me in one Saturday to see this new games machine they had set up for customers to try out.
By six I was no stranger to gaming, there was a ZX Spectrum in the house already. My mum can even recall times before I was born when she had to read out the code from magazines (no demo discs in those days!) to my dad typing away on the rubber keys. Occasionally she’d accidentally miss a bit of code, resulting in my dad being just a little bit annoyed when the game/demo didn’t boot up and he’d have to start over.
So I had already been given the odd supervised dabble with the Spectrum, but when I saw the demo reel of Sonic running on the Mega Drive I was just blown away. I had no clue about graphics, processors or that the Master System even existed, what I did know was that what I was watching right there was the coolest thing my six year old eyes had ever seen. Then the controller was put in my hand and I realized I could actually play this thing right there in the shop.
For a few weeks the Saturday trips my dad and I would make always ended up in the electrical store for a shot of Sonic. I don’t think I ever got very far, I was far too busy making this little blue guy run as fast as he could. After about three or four weeks of this my dad turned to me after telling me to finish up and said: “Would be nice if we could just take one of these home. What do you think? Want to just get one?”
I was stunned, and I couldn’t get the word yes out my mouth quick enough. He totally surprised me, it wasn’t anywhere near my birthday and Christmas was a while off still. In the early 90s videogame systems weren’t all that common in UK households, so this was a huge deal. Looking back now I can see he’d obviously planned it, discussed the details with my mum and then went for it, but when I was six he was my hero. Today he still is my hero, but for much different reasons.
The biggest influence on my love of gaming has been him. He bought the games I played, listened to my pleas to buy this game or that game, and when it came to purchasing new hardware he was the man with the cash. After the PlayStation was released he pulled a similar stunt to the Mega Drive day in ’91, when I came home from school to see a new PS1 sitting there with Battle Arena Toshinden (I LOVED that game!).
As I grew up we played together, often sharing duties between who played the game and who read out the instructions from the guide book. Resident Evil, Final Fantasy 7 and Tomb Raider were all classics we shared together. Had my dad not been so keen on gaming, I never would have had the opportunity to experience so many of these games as they came out. It wasn’t just the interest in games we shared, he’d come to my football (soccer) games every week, hail, rain or shine. With games though we’d cooperate, compete and joke around, he was as much the kid as I was.
Our house really was, and to an extent still is, dominated by games machines. As I type my dad is playing Assasin’s Creed on the Playstation 3 in the living room. We don’t play too much together these days, however with me being older I can share the financial burden of being a gamer, I guess in a way I’m paying him back.
To say “my dad is my hero” can sound clichéd, but only now can I understand why people say this. From rock stars to politicians, so many of them cite a parent as their biggest influence as to why the do what they do. As I look forward to attaining my degree and looking to where my writing career takes me, I know for certain it all started in ’91 with Sonic, my dad, and myself in that electrical store.