Of tyres, bots and the classic 90s

C:\> cd c&d

Very simply put, the above-mentioned DOS command was the beginning of my tryst with gaming. The game was Car & Driver, a racing game from Looking Glass Studios and published by EA. The system was a ‘revolutionary’ Pentium II-based PC, belonging to a friend. You see, I didn’t have a PC at the time, way back in 1995-96. Every weekend, I sunk my teeth into this game, amazed by the cars I saw, the tracks they plied on, and I still remember the fun I had racing the Ferrari F40. Consider that my prior gaming experience included Dangerous Dave, Paratrooper, Jump-jet and a certain Prince of Persia; all nice, especially PoP (how couldn’t it be), and hurriedly played during breaks in school. But C&D was a different thing altogether. I was absorbed by the game, mystified by the art of racing, and gaming was never the same again. That this game redefined the way I looked at computer gaming would be a gross understatement.

Yes, the roots of my interest in gaming were clearly in the PC, and it has remained that way for a very, very long time. Following months of C&D, one fine day, my friend called me saying, “You have to come and see this new game I’ve just got, it’s too good”. What could I do? Within minutes I was in front of his comp, about to be absorbed by something more amazing still. It was One Must Fall: 2097, developed by Diversions Entertainment, and published by Epic Megagames. No prizes for guessing where Epic has reached today.

If C&D was my first crush, without a doubt, OMF was my first love. Never has a game held my attention, or triggered my imagination in the way OMF did. The magnificently-designed robots battling with each other in fantastically interactive arenas were breathtaking to behold. I vividly remember my first encounter with the mysterious Raven in his Pyros robot, in the final of the North American open, with me in a red Jaguar. He moved like the wind, with his flame throwers torching me at will. I was blown to bits in a minute, utterly defeated, but never happier. That was my first real gaming challenge, what we in today’s terminology refer to as ‘boss battles’. Till date, OMF remains among my favourite games, and I’d love to fight it out with friends or AI, even now, minutes before my eyes shut, my brains begging me to sleep. That’s how compelling this game is.

Yes, my friend’s PC was the great white box of happiness. But on my 11th birthday, I received a box of happiness of my own. It was a Media Little Master video game console, complete with a 64-in-1 game cartridge. I got my first taste of Mario and Luigi, Road Fighter, Mahajong and a host of other games. Childhood, with quirky traits of its own, combined with my now-insatiable appetite for games, led to me buying more such game cartridges. What followed was a plethora of games that we today refer to as classics, such as Double Dragon, Contra and, of course, Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. I remember how once an entire birthday party of mine was centred around a Street Fighter tournament; all my friends battling it out to face me, the birthday boy, granted special rights to contest the final, by virtue of hosting the event. It was grand, 16 little guys, barely taller than the dining table, all hooked to the TV set, buttons mashing, mouths wide open. It was the stuff of childhood nirvana.

Now, more than two decades into my existence, this small account directs me to recollect all those days, that moulded my interests and fascinations. It forces me to admire just how far time has taken us, not only in the ubiquitous aspects of health, wealth and knowledge, but in the far more subtle, but no-less inspirational and formative hobbies that added different facets to our personalities.

From where I’m seated right now, on either side of me lie the length and breadth of my decade of games. On one side, I find my trusty Little Master, gathering dust and lying unused for years (twinge of guilt, notwithstanding), and on my other side I see my spanking PlayStation 3. Ironically, I can’t help suppressing a smile, as I hark back to an old cliché, courtesy Fatboy Slim. You’ve come a long way baby…

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