If I were to pick a single moment in time when I was most excited about video games, it would have to be around the launch of the Nintendo 64. There was something about the introduction of 3D gaming and being 9 that had me unbelievable stoked for the console. When I finally got my grubby hands on the thing on Christmas of 1996, I was beside myself. Despite following the library of launch titles extensively through EGM (once the greatest publication known to man), there was no way to fully prepare for how different things were going to be.
I still vividly remember hauling the console to my grandparent’s house (where we go for Christmas dinner every year) so that I could continue playing Mario 64 in their bedroom. That game deserves its own post; to this day, it may have the best designed gameplay ever found in gaming.
It was during the summer of the following year that I was given a copy of Goldeneye. Although I had played FPS’s before, like Doom and Hexen, this one was different. First, it wasn’t set in some sort of sci-fi alternate reality like most other FPS’s at the time. Second, it was based directly off of a James Bond film, which is more than enough for any elementary school aged boy. Finally, and most importantly, it offered a full blown 4-player multiplayer mode.
At this point in my life, I was constantly hanging out with friends. At my Mom’s house, there was always someone from school coming over to hang out. At my Dad’s house, I had two good friends and 4 cousin-in-laws that were around all the time. It quickly became a Friday and Saturday night ritual to hole up in my room with the lot of them, surrounded by snacks, and stay up the entire night playing. Whenever there were more than 4 players, the lowest scoring player had to give up the controller. No Oddjob. There was just something about learning the nuances of each level, finding a favorite gun and a favorite character, and blasting the hell out of your closest friends. Online gaming, while great, isn’t the same experience.
Nowadays, people always seem to throw in an obligatory line about how dated Goldeneye feels whenever they mention it. This always gives me the overwhelming urge to smack them upside the head. The game is 14 years old, of course it’s going to be rougher around the edges than games with over a decade’s worth of improved technology; however, calling it “terribly dated” makes it sound like it’s unplayable these days, which is simply not true.
The thing about Goldeneye is that almost anyone born during the 80’s was at the prime age for that type of game when it launched. Whether someone was a Nintendo or Sony fanboy, literally everyone played the game as a kid. Now that I think of it, that’s what makes the Nintendo 64 such a great console for me. Everyone that I went to high school and college with were at the perfect age for that generation of consoles; they were old enough to have a console, but no one had grown out of gaming yet. It’s why every band practice ended with Bomberman 64, or Wayne Gretzky’s Hockey, or Goldeneye. As I was saying, I really can’t accept that Goldeneye feels overly dated, because it was the one game that we could always pull out during college and be guaranteed to have a blast with.
Although I’m a pretty avid gamer, I’ve come to find that in retrospect, there was only ever one or two games that I was really into at a given time. Whether it was a few months, a year, or longer, these games capture a slice of my mindset at different points throughout my life. For Goldeneye, it was that point of my life when I was just starting to feel independent enough to stay up late into the night, but was still extremely close to a fairly large group of people. It was a blip of time when life was devoid of stress and pressure. A time when happiness was a chocolate cake and a RCP90 in the Complex. And let’s be honest, that will NEVER feel dated.