Friday, 8 June 2012

The Nintendo Versus Sega Days

This article was orginally written for Forces of Geek on Thursday 31st May 2012.
Back in my pre-adolescent days when I thought boys were icky and girls were too girly for me, I found a friend in video games. There were others that did the same. In the early 90's consoles were considered a luxury item and though there were few of us back then, we were quickly conscripted into two clear factions. Depending on how we chose, our interactions and friendships would change dramatically.

Between them and us there was a single question.

Nintendo or Sega? 

You had to take a side. There was no excuse, no third option, no cries of "I'm not playing", you had no choice but to pick a side and commit - it was that important!

It may surprise you given my love of a certain tights wearing, ocarina playing, Master sword wielding elf (I still maintain that my favourite video game series of all time is The Legend of Zelda) but my answer during the war was... well... "Sega".

There are a few reasons as to why, first and foremost because the only consoles in my household (other than the Commodore and an Atari) were a Sega Mastersystem and the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis for yanks). But even then, this choice wasn't exactly made wholly by me. I was far too young to buy my own console and any input I had was ill informed and laced with ignorance. Like most kids who just want something so blindly, I subscribed to the "That one!" acquisition principle.

 Thus the choice was largely influenced by my parents. I specifically remember my Dad always wanting me to play 2-Player Columns with him after school and on weekends Mum and I would see who could get the furthest in Alex Kidd in Wonderland before losing all our lives - we hadn't yet bought a save card - back in the dark ages before internal hard drives.

Irrelevant of how influential I had been on the selection of the brand, I stood by the decision passionately. I idolised the Sonic the Hedgehog games, read the comics and always felt proud when I was able to explain to my friends that Dr Robotnik used to be called Dr Kintobor before he became a fat, evil, animal hoarding maniac.

Again, before the advent and rise of the internet, attaining tidbits of knowledge was considered an inside trade, which added to the amazement of my school friends when I pointed out that "Robotnik is Kintobor backwards!"

I quickly became the go-to-girl for all things Sonic and I was incredibly proud... until certain other kids in school acquired SNES'. Then all anyone cared about was stupid Mario and his lanky brother.

I didn't get it. To my younger self, the idea of a game about plumbers sounded boring. A blue sprinting hedgehog might have sounded crazy but we were living in a world where McDonald's kids parties were all the rage and a giant rat taught four mutant turtles to fight an organisation of purple ninjas! A blue hedgehog was run-of-the-mill by comparison.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was fun, the level design was interesting and you saved defenceless animals from a mad scientist - it was practically charity! How could I go from rescuing cute animals to locating a Princess stupid enough to let herself get caught over and over? Although, we all know she secretly wanted to, right? How else would Bowser have so many kids?! Too much? You just can't handle the truth!

As far as the 16-bit consoles went, the Mega Drive had the superior processing power and speed, the only thing the SNES seemed to have over it was a multitude of RPGs titles and an exponentially growing fan base. After months of peer pressure, I eventually discovered the genre and caved... then begged my parents for a SNES.

Sadly, Father Christmas brought me a bike that year (stupid fat man, never forgave him). Subsequently, I never owned a NES or a SNES. Sure, I'd played on the NES at my cousin's house and it was there I discovered the Zelda series but I never owned a Nintendo console until the N64. That was the advent of my Nintendo days, my teenage rebellion had begun. Mario Kart, Super Mario 64, Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask, Bomberman 64, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, Goldeneye, Doom, Earthworm Jim.

I was a full on Nintengirl, and Sega slowly fell away.

That is, until I was seduced by Sony in my late teens with their shiny Playstation. Long gone were the stalwart days of my youth, when I vehemently fought in the Sega corner before finally succumbing years later. I had a little money, I knew how to manipulate my parents, I did as I pleased, I saw the PS1 and I bought it. Ha! But deep down I still retained that distorted sense of loyalty, which lay dormant until sometime in the mid 2000s.

It was around this time that I bought an Xbox from a friend for £60 and I thank God I found Halo. My Xbox opened me up to the notion of a gaming community. I had regular LAN parties and friends over to play games. It was amazing. Which made it all the more difficult to watch Sega's defeat and Nintendo selling out to casual gamers and families, from the corner of my eye.

Today's "Sega or Nintendo?" question is "Xbox 360 or PS3?" and it's still quite the rivalry. Unlike the brief period of mass financial success (when everyone owned an Xbox, a PS2 AND a Gamecube - myself included), people have to choose again. There are those who don't take sides and own all... those who have the money and neutrality of Switzerland.

Part of me wants to be Swiss; I kind of want to purchase a PS3 but I feel too involved in the Xbox 360 Community to let it go... that and I've got a pretty decent gamerscore and wouldn't want to leave it behind for the Playstation trophy room equivalent.

The war will always continue and though the consoles may change, the faction loyalty can not. Hundreds of pounds/dollars for the console, hundreds for the peripherals and hundreds for the game, my war chest simply cannot accommodate playing both sides.

And there will always be that little girl in me, with a judgemental frown on her face, feet planted firmly in the ground and a copy of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 grasped tightly in her hands.

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