The Gaming Thing

This is it. I’ve now been Indie Gamer Chick for one-third of my life. Tomorrow marks eleven years since I opened IGC, and on July 11, I’ll turn 33-years-old. That’s a not-insignificant chunk of my lifespan spent making dick and fart jokes about video games as a means to actually say how much I like or dislike them. Which, looking back, the formula seems to be dick jokes for the good stuff and fart jokes for the bad. As it should be.

One of the voices in my head is telling me “HURRY UP AND GET THIS OVER QUICK SO WE CAN PLAY CUPHEAD!” The rest of the voices are telling me to burn things.

So, this is supposed to be that time of the year where I sit at my keyboard and tearfully thank all my readers for their continued support and wax poetically about the future of indie gaming. But, this time, the tears aren’t there. Oh, make no mistake, I’m thankful. From the bottom of my heart: THANK YOU to everyone who has ever supported my work here at IGC. I do love you all! No, the difference this year is, for the first time doing this annual tradition, I find myself looking nostalgically at the past. Indie gaming’s future is secure. When I started this blog in July, 2011, self-publishing was nonexistent on consoles, outside of the unloved and unseen Xbox Live Indie Games. Hell, Nintendo wouldn’t even talk to a creator who developed their games from home instead of a “studio, with a security system.” That security system apparently being a deadbolt. I’m not joking. Those days are long gone, and good riddance.

Instead, on this day, I find myself looking back at a life spent playing video games. Once upon a time, I was a little girl on the autism spectrum who had no friends. I also didn’t like to play with toys and had trouble having anything besides TV hold my interest. “You have to do SOMETHING more engaging with your free time!” my dad would often croak. My parents were constantly trying to find something that I could get into. I’d played a PlayStation kiosk at Sears at the mall, and told my parents I wouldn’t mind this. On Christmas morning in 1996, Santa Claus brought me a PlayStation with Crash Bandicoot, and I enjoyed it just fine.

Ever since I started doing game criticism, I’ve given the lion’s share of credit to my gaming fandom to Banjo-Kazooie. But actually, Crash Bandicoot was probably the best possible introductory game for a 7-year-old of its era. It’s sort of all-encompassing of the video game experience. Very underrated as a starter-game is Crash Bandicoot.

I wouldn’t call that specific moment life-altering. Rather, it planted an important seed. A seed that was, perhaps, a little damaged when my first outside-of-Christmas game that my parents selected was, I’m not kidding, BUBSY 3-D. Wow, fail, Mom & Dad! Of course, being just 7-years-old at the time, I didn’t exactly comprehend just how historically bad the game was. In fact, I kind of wanted to like it! I put a lot of time into it. I just didn’t understand why it wasn’t as easy to control as Crash Bandicoot was. These days, as IGC, I’d boil it in oil. But at that age, I was just frustrated by it. My parents redeemed that over the next year with games like Herc’s Adventures (REMEMBER THAT?) or Crash Bandicoot 2 for Christmas of 1997. I’d play them. I even beat both Crash games for the first time.

And then, on my 9th birthday, July 11, 1998, I got a Nintendo 64, along with Banjo-Kazooie, and everything changed. I wasn’t just enjoying this game. I was utterly, completely absorbed by it. Obsessed, really. I beat it about three weeks later, but I wasn’t finished. I wanted to get all the jigsaw pieces I missed, and then every note I missed. As summer turned to fall, my parents couldn’t believe I was still playing the same game. “Didn’t you beat this?” I must have heard, without exaggeration, a hundred times from them. When I finally got the last Jigsaw piece I didn’t have, I didn’t know if it would open more game content or not. When it didn’t, I wept. No joke. Like Alexander, I didn’t celebrate, but rather cried, for there were no more worlds to conquer. And I wanted so much more, and my parents obliged. Over the next few months, mascot platformers like Super Mario 64 and Spyro the Dragon dominated my free time. When my parents got me Yoshi’s Story and it was so pathetically easy that I saw the end credits in just a few hours, and I wanted to see what else gaming had to offer besides platforming.

The answer was: EVERYTHING!

Goldeneye! Blast Corps! San Francisco Rush! NBA Courtside! Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time! Gran Turismo! All day, every day, at least when I wasn’t forced to stop to eat, sleep, or sit with my tutor and do school work (I was home schooled. My first grade teacher sort of broke me for school forever). I lied earlier. Here come the tears. Because I look back at that time and remember how excited I was by every new release, or something as simple as the new issue of a gaming magazine with a demo disc, and it was so life altering for me. I was a really unhappy little kid, and gaming changed so much for me. I’d found my thing, and the amazing thing about video games is they’re always getting better. Anyone who says otherwise is just drunk on nostalgia.

Some of those 007 difficulty missions were a pain in the ass, but 10-to-12 year-old me aced them all. Goldeneye was the first “super difficult game” I beat, though it took a LONG time (like seriously two years or more) for me to actually finish all those 007 missions. I never really got to show off my skills though, as I was the worst of the four kids who played Goldeneye at an autism support group my parents took me to, where we basically would just play Goldeneye for hours. This kid named Bradley James was so good that we’d play 3 on 1 matches against him and be lucky in some modes if we were even able to spawn without dying. Compared to him, the 007 levels were a walk in the park.

I think the final, solidifying moment of video games becoming everything to me had to be the launch of the Sega Dreamcast. My first ever brand spanking new day one console. I got to go get it at midnight on September 9, 1999. I’d be surprised if I ever got up off the couch once after I threw Sonic Adventure on and kept playing well after the time the sun rose. I mean, I assume I must have gone to the bathroom at some point, but I question even that now! By the end of September, when I was getting hyped for a goddamned fishing game, Sega Bass Fishing, it was a done deal. Gaming was everything to me. All I wanted to do. Any time not spent on a game was a complete waste of time It was a three console process that took place over the course of about three years, but by time Christmas of 1999 rolled around and all I wanted was more video games.

The underrated star of the Dreamcast launch lineup. I had Afro Thunder’s stats so boosted that I literally couldn’t lose. It wasn’t exactly a balanced game, was it?

I was 10-years-old when the Dreamcast launched, and I’ve had an up-and-down life since then. A life that, yes, included extended periods of substance abuse. Nobody is the same person they were as a child, and if they say they are, it’s probably because they’re a douchebag. But, there’s something incredibly reassuring that, twenty-three years later, I’m still spending basically all my free time playing games. They’re still totally capable of filling me with a sense of playful awe. That I can still sit down with my father, 40 years my senior, and Angela, my kid sister 20 years my junior, and the three of us can laugh and cheer and high-five playing a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game in 2022 is such a wonderful thing. My parents always were so happy and supportive of my love of video games, and they’d take time every day to watch me play and ask me questions about it, but they didn’t join me.

There were exceptions, like Wii Sports, Peggle, or especially Boom Blox. For a while, we’d bust Boom Blox out at parties. WHERE HAVE YOU GONE, BOOM BLOX?! COME BACK!!

Well, not anymore. Today, we have four Nintendo Switches in our household. Each of us has one, and my Mom puts about two hours into her Animal Crossing Village or her New Pokemon Snap high scores every day, and she’s cuddled up on my Dad who might be beating Ghostbusters: The Game on his own Switch while he’s at it. Angela’s not passionate about gaming, but she plays her Switch a lot, holds multiple digital pinball world records (so does both Dad and myself), and is already a contributor at The Pinball Chick. My family plays games now, too? Who says dreams don’t come true?!

One of the most common questions I get from my readers and my social media followers is do I wish I had gone into a career in gaming? Usually this takes the form of “do you wish you had gotten into game development?” People are always surprised at how quickly and easily I answer that question: no. I guess that makes me somewhat unique among those who grew up as clinically-addicted game fanatics. The thing is, I never thought I could make a game better than the stuff I play. Well, I mean, sure that depends on the game. One of the dumbest clap-backs to a review is “OH YEA, LIKE YOU COULD DO BETTER!” Which, the obvious reply is “than this game? Well, I have no experience, no artistic ability, no technical know-how, but.. yea, I could pull a better game out of my ass than this. I mean, if I actually wanted to.” But, I don’t. It’s nothing I ever remotely aspired to. I didn’t doodle characters. I didn’t map out levels. I didn’t think of wild twists on the formulas I loved. I loved playing games, but I don’t make them. I still don’t. I’ve had ONE idea for a game in my whole life, for a twin stick Tetris Attack-like game, and I don’t even think it would work.

NBA 2K

My other great passion in life is the sport of basketball, and my only REAL regret in life (well, besides the drugs, BUT HEY, four years sober now!) is that I didn’t pursue a career in basketball. I mean, as a scout or GM. Other than golfing, I’ve never played a real sport in my entire life. Besides, I’m 4 foot 11 inches tall and I chain smoke like a steam engine. Not exactly the traits of a great athlete. But, I’ve loved basketball since I was 6-years-old. I get a kick out of how people call me a “bandwagon fan” for the Golden State Warriors, when my first season watching kicked off a historic drought of them not making the playoffs. Ten fucking years, which ended when the “We Believe” squad pulled off a historic upset of the #1 seed Dallas Mavericks while I collapsed on the floor and cried tears of joy FOR HOURS! I thought that was as good as it would ever get being a Warriors fan. Heh. Who knew?

Nah, I didn’t ever want to work in video games. I think that’s a big part of why I’ve been able to find success as Indie Gamer Chick. I don’t have to pretend like I’m a professional games journalist. I’m not. I never will be. I don’t consider myself an especially talented writer, so I think there’s something about not wanting this to be a career that is reassuring to my readers and followers. I don’t have a Pateron and never will. I don’t ask for money and tell everyone who wants to contribute that they can donate money towards epilepsy research. I almost never take review codes, unless it’s for retro collections or games not yet released (and for those, I buy a copy when the game comes out every time). I can be crass, and I can probably be annoying, and sometimes people REALLY disagree with my opinions, but there’s nothing cynical about IGC. My favorite quote comes from Conan O’Brien, on his final Tonight Show.

“Please do not be cynical. I hate cynicism. It’s my least favorite quality, and it doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.”

It’s true. My only real regrets with my body of work is that, early on, I had a tendency to be a little too mean-spirited with my negative reviews. Hurt feelings can’t be avoided when a game gets a less than positive reception. Bad games aren’t cranked out of a factory (insert obvious AAA joke here, Ubisoft or EA or whatever). They’re made by people who are often well-meaning and love gaming every bit as much as I do. One of my best friends today, Shahed, is someone whose game I completely demolished, and he’ll never let me forget it, that’s for sure. I’m happy he doesn’t. It’s a constant reminder: review the games, not the developer. That’s the advice I give everyone who wants to do game reviews. And especially don’t assume any bad intentions.

“COME ON CATHY, WRAP THIS SHIT UP!” And burn things.

Actually, my best advice beyond that is, when you do your thing as a gaming content creator is ALWAYS take time to remind yourself why you fell in love with video games in the first place. Because sometimes you’ll be bored and sometimes you’ll have writers block and sometimes you’ll be stuck with a game that’s so middle-of-the-road that you have nothing interesting to say about it. For the longest time, I was mad myself that I didn’t produce as much content as I used to here at IGC. The next review is for Shredder’s Revenge by Tribute Games. The last of their games I reviewed was Wizorb way back in September, 2011. It was my 101st review!! I had only been open for just under three months! Holy crap, I was turning out reviews like a machine back then! And, I hated that I don’t do that anymore. That I CAN’T do that anymore.

Then I realized something: hey wait, who cares? I have an outlet to talk about games and to jump around and play whatever I want, whenever I want, and I’m not a professional so deadlines and due dates don’t apply. And, what do you know? The last twelve months have been the most fun I’ve had since launching IGC on July 1, 2011. How lucky am I? Eleven years later, and I still have fun with this. Over the last couple years, I’ve found my new #1 game of all-time when I ran through Mario Odyssey a second time. I’ve set pinball world records. I’ve played THOUSANDS of retro games. I’ve conquered Cuphead (and I’m about to do it again!) and Dead Cells and many more. After a quarter century of playing video games, and now having spent one-third of my life now doing Indie Gamer Chick, I’m still having the time of my life, doing the Gaming Thing.

Cathy Vice
June 30, 2022

About Indie Gamer Chick
Indie game reviews and editorials.

2 Responses to The Gaming Thing

  1. erichagmann says:

    I too am thankful that my friends and I can still enjoy games even to this day. We joke about how we will be playing online games in the retirement home, but I can easily see that being a reality. Congrats on finding something that you love and standing by it. Happy gaming!

  2. Matt says:

    What a post! You have got a great history with gaming, and it’s awesome you have been covering indie titles since way before the independent scene became prominent. You are pretty much a pioneer in that regard. And you are also a very talented writer! =)

    By the way, my birthday is also on July 11th! Happy birthday month to us. And here’s hoping many more years of indie gaming playing and reviewing will come to you!

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