I did not invest much time or money in video games while growing up. I did own an Atari 2600 and my parents purchased a Nintendo system for me when it became popular. However, these gaming devices, for the most part, did nothing more than gather dust. At the same time, I rarely visited any of the video game arcades which had reached their apex when I was in grade school but were still around during my teenage years. In college, I occasionally played Doom or Civilization on a friend’s computer, but that was about it.
That all changed in the summer of 1996. I had just graduated from Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia and had decided (for the moment anyway) not to attend graduate school. I found a job with a local mail order pharmacy and used the cash I had received from my graduation party (along with some money from my mom) to buy a new computer. A few days after this purchase, I was shopping in Wal-Mart and happened upon the Electronics Department. I perused the PC game selections and found one, X-COM: Terror from the Deep, which had been discounted significantly.
I decided to purchase the game and for about a week, I spent more than eight hours a day playing it. I would come home from work, eat dinner, and then fire up X-COM. I usually wouldn’t put down my mouse and keyboard until 3 A.M. or 4 A.M., which only afforded me a few hours of sleep before I had to wake up and get ready for work. But everything has changed. I had no idea that a typical person like me would be a fanatic player of such game. I didn’t know that I would be wearing funny gamer shirts just like what other people do.
For those people who are not familiar with X-COM: Terror from the Deep, it is a strategy game from Micropose. You are given command of an elite group of aquanauts who are funded by the various governments of the world. Your goal is to wipe out an alien force that threatens the planet. The game takes place underwater and combines real-time strategy elements, such as monitoring for alien vessels, with a turn based feature that consists of exploring and attacking alien submarines and bases located on the seafloor.
I may have played X-COM incessantly; however, I did not enjoy myself during this time. I found it difficult to progress very far in the game. I would often reach a point where my technology was no longer effective against the aliens. Alternatively, I would be progressing well only to have the aliens attack and destroy my base. Most frustrating of all, I would get close to finishing a mission and find that I did not have enough aquanauts or firepower to complete the level; I usually could not remedy this problem by going back to a previous saved position.
While X-COM was frustrating, it nevertheless proved to be the catalyst that turned me into a gamer. I have played numerous PC games since my first purchase in 1996. Even though I now only play a few hours a week at most, I still enjoy them. I have to thank X-COM: Terror from the Deep for spurring this interest.