As may be expected, no single person has had a greater influence on my character than my father. An artistic talent and a creative mind, he was very tactile in his inventions designing improved renditions of cordless kettles and hairdryers hoping to revolutionize electronics. He never did, though one electronic revolution inspired him enough that he wrote his thesis on it: Space Invaders.
My father was never a rich man, but he watched arcade machines keenly, attempting to learn all that he could from their programs. In 1978, when Space Invaders was released to the UK, it was a game the likes of which he had never seen before. “Pong this was not.” For the first time the game appeared to react to the player’s actions; the titular Space Invaders sped up and changed direction based on the player’s skill. This made Space Invaders a different game every time, giving it a replayability worthy of consumer’s coins.
From the moment I was born, a games console was always present in our home, beginning with the Sinclair ZX Spectrum. I was too young to even hold a joystick, yet I would watch with glee as my dad won the 8 bit Olympics or outsmarted a hungry pixel dog.
I was never old enough to truly enjoy the Spectrum while it was still king of our household. Even when I learned how to move the characters around the screen in ways which pleased me, I still had no concept of how to produce a “win” state.
This didn’t matter very much as around 1997 when my sister was old enough to deserve a console of her very own, my father bought her an old Sega Megadrive, a console which shaped what I consider to be exemplary of the medium and would change entertainment for me forever.
Just as Space Invaders had impressed my dad just 20 years earlier, my father taught me how video games were a superior form of entertainment compared to television, as you told your own story on the screen. You interacted with the game, and the game interacted back.
My father watched and coached my sister and me as we repeatedly played Streets of Rage, Micro Machines or Sonic. A keen car enthusiast, he taught us the difference between manual and automatic, when to change gears and how best to approach the courses in Super Monaco GP. In 2000, as he had for my sister before me, my dad bought me my first console, a Playstation 1, and watched on as my love for platformers grew.
After my parent’s divorce in 2003, knowing I was saving up desperately for a Playstation 2, my father bought one to furnish his new bachelor pad. Following my parents separation, some of my favorite bonding moments spent with my dad were him beating me in Need for Speed or him helping me complete missions (read as: conversely destroy cars and murder prostitutes) in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. He padded out his library with more than just driving games though as he bought Kingdom Hearts and Resident Evil: Code Veronica on my sister and I’s recommendations, and even satisfied our Tekken obsession.
Though I know I still would have an amazing bond with my dad without video games, they create a thread that can be traced throughout our relationship. He taught me about driving through racing games, about sharing and fairness from our simple set up I shared with my sister, and by obtaining systems years after their original releases, I was taught about budgeting and the value of money.
So this Father’s Day, I dedicate this article to my father, Stuart Young, the man who introduced me to my first video game , who supported me when I wanted to give up my job and pursue my career in writing and who continues to constructively criticize me, to help me improve, every step of the way.
Share your favorite gaming moment with your father below.