What’s your first gaming memory? Is it your dad’s Atari 2600? Struggling to figure out how to use the controller on your older sister’s Nintendo 64? Or just staring and watching your grandma play Windows Solitaire? We can all remember an early experience with seeing a video game, maybe the very first time we ever saw one.
At the DICE Summit last month, I asked several game developers about their earliest gaming memories, and as you might imagine from a group of people who grew up in places all over the world, I got some wildly different answers. (Responses have been lightly edited.)
Ru Weerasuriya, creative director of Ready At Dawn
The one that stayed in my head was probably Spy Hunter on BBC Acorn Electron. You’d load it on a cassette tape. You’d put it in there, played it for I don’t know how long and hope that you’d loaded it correctly. What you got was literally two lines of road and a square for the car. It was green monochrome. And you’d hear the da-na-NA-na-NA-na-na. It’s ingrained in my head.
Nate Bihldorff, localization manager and “Nintendo Guy,” Nintendo
It was—wow. I was gonna say a Nintendo game but it goes prior to that. It was an Atari game, and it was actually a game called Shamus that was played on an Atari that had a tape deck. And Shamus was a game where you’d go and explore for a little while and all of a sudden this thing would come out of nowhere and kill you. It was this existential dread that was like… I don’t know. But I kept playing the game. I must have been eight or nine. Despite the fact that I failed over and over and over again, it was still something that I wanted to keep doing. It was fear.
Maja Moldenhauer, artist and producer of Cuphead
Oh my gosh. You’re going to laugh at this. Duck Hunt. I was like five years old and it was just the coolest thing in the world. My very first memory was Duck Hunt, but my more memorable memory was definitely Super Mario Bros.
Kotaku: Would you put the gun right up against the glass of the TV?
Yes I did. I was like, look how good I am! My brothers would always let me do it to let me think that I was good. We’d constantly fight over the controllers.
Dominic Matthews, commercial director of Ninja Theory
Barbarian on the Spectrum 128K. I think that was probably the game that I remember making an impact on me. It’s a one-on-one fighter but it was basically all about the spinning-sword decapitations. You do this sword swing and chop the enemy’s head off and then a little goblin comes along and takes the head and carries it away in a bag. I reckon I was maybe six or seven. I had an older brother. Now I love combat games. So that’s where it started.
Nina Kristensen, co-founder of Ninja Theory
I played Day of the Tentacle, and I remember the intro sequence from it to this day. With the car going over the hills and everything. It’s burnt in my brain. It’s probably not the first thing I ever played, but it’s probably the first engaging early thing with a story that I ever played. I was really into it.
Brendan “PlayerUnknown” Greene, director of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds
It was an Atari 2600 that my dad brought home from when he was traveling. I remember that it was just loaded up with games. Bubble Bobble in the arcade was the first game I remember strongly. I loved that game.
C.H. Kim, CEO of PUBG Corporation
My first video game experience that I remember was playing Pong at my cousin’s place.
Shuhei Yoshida, president of Sony Interactive Entertainment Worldwide Studios
Something like a black-and-white ping-pong game for two players. This was at an arcade. Some copy [of Pong], something like that. I was amazed that something like that could be done. I became a big fan of video games already. I was like four or five years old.
Ashraf Ismail, director of Assassin’s Creed Origins
Oddly enough, the first game I remember playing, I think it was—you know those old-school handhelds, way before Game Boy? I forget the name of it. My second game was a Ninja Turtles version of that. It was some kind of pseudo-platformer with a bit of combat in it. It was super low-res. But I remember I played it—I don’t know how many hours I put into that thing, but it was the only game I had. I remember it died on me. I overplayed it. It physically just stopped working at one point. It was heartbreaking.
That was my first real love of a video game. I was in love with that experience that I was having. It just goes to show that experience is really what it is [all about], at the end of the day, beyond just the pure technology aspect.