While I’m certainly not among the oldest of gamers out there, being only 24, I am old enough to remember a time when the playground was the biggest source of information a young gamer could get. During this magical time when the Internet was still in its infancy, and only the super wealthy and the super nerdy had access to it, it could be rather difficult to learn about a secret, cheat code, or even how to beat a certain boss. Back then, most gamers had only the knowledge passed down from older siblings or gained through conversation with other gamers in their age group—who most likely got their information from an older sibling to begin with.
When I was in kindergarten, my dad purchased a Sega Genesis for himself; but seeing as he had very little free time, it eventually became mine. My uncle, who lived with us at the time, was also a gamer and had games such as Mortal Kombat and Golden Axe. One day I came home from school and saw my uncle was playing Mortal Kombat, only something was different about it: it had blood. I asked my uncle, and he told me about something called a “cheat code” that unlocked the blood and, being the awesome uncle he was, wrote down the code and showed me how to utilize it. My mind was blown; this was the first time I had ever heard of a cheat code. So what did I do with it? I told everyone about it on the playground the next day, obviously.
Soon after, I came to the realization that a lot of games had cheat codes, and each recess the playground would become a sort of battleground to see what information I could gleam from other students and use after school. Things like the ability to fight Reptile in Mortal Kombat, or access the debug mode in Sonic the Hedgehog, became legends, that few students actually believed because of their shear difficulty, or the obscure nature of trying to achieve these feats.
As time went on, the playground became more than just a place to spread cheat codes and secrets, as a new wave of gaming was about to take hold of my generation and grip it tight: a wave called Pokémon. Younger gamers probably don’t realize just how big of an impact Pokémon had on people in my age group; hell, my cousin who is only six years younger than I doesn’t get it, but Pokémon was a phenomenon. Imagine playing under your bed spread with the volume turned all the way down so you could stay up until the wee hours of the morning without alerting your parents, just to train your team a little bit more and cream your classmates in battle at school the next day.
As I entered middle school, the Pokémon craze began to diminish, and soon a new hot game would take hold: Halo. This could simply be due to the rural location I grew up in, but school was really the only place where you could meet up with fellow gamers and actually play together. During the Halo years, students at my school would stay after and borrow one of the school’s TVs, hook up an Xbox, and play multiplayer for a few hours, until the janitor began shutting the lights off and locking the doors.
Nowadays, if you want to know something about a game it’s only a Google search away, but back then you really had to socialize and step out of your comfort zone in order to gleam some game information—that may or may not be true—off of another student. Though I certainly prefer the way things are now, part of me will always be nostalgic for that magical time on the playground.