Nostalgia: How Late ’90s Computer Games Shaped my Love for Gaming

As far back as I could remember I’ve always had an interest in video games.

Some of my earliest consoles included the Sega Genesis and the Nintendo 64, both of which set solid foundations for what would be a memorable future in gaming. These consoles, however, weren’t what solidified my love for the medium. It was gaming on the computer.

I grew up in a rough neighborhood near inner-city Los Angeles. As such, we didn’t leave our driveway when playing outside.

An alternative was to boot up one of the multiple gaming options in my home. The TV was often in use so the computer was where I’d go.

The Computer Games of my Childhood

A view from the point-and-click puzzle game Riven. Image Credit: Lutris

Home computers were newer in the late ‘90s and the Internet was still stuck behind a phone cord that plugged into the wall. Without the instantaneous access to the Internet, computer games were where I’d turn for entertainment. 

We had a healthy collection of games, many of which came at a lower price than games for the other consoles. I found myself playing a wide variety of games from Humongous Entertainment. 

My favorite game was Spy Fox: Dry Cereal. This was a short adventure game that followed a James Bond-like fox who aimed to stop the diabolical villain who stole the world’s supply of milk.

Its sequel — Spy Fox 2: Some Assembly Required — captured the attention of my young soul as the eponymous fox worked to save the world fair. 

These games had such an impact on me that I used to walk around like I was the titular Spy Fox, imitating his mannerisms on the elementary school playground.

Pajama Sam: No Need to Hide When It’s Dark Outside was another one that ran the gamut in my old computer. I think I found a connection with the game because Pamela Adlon did the voice of Sam along with Spinelli from Recess, another staple of my childhood.

Image Credit: Humongous Entertainment Games Wiki

While I loved these games, the Humongous Entertainment game that was an absolute home run in my house was Backyard Baseball. I played the original one that didn’t have the pros in it.

This game helped foster my love for sports as well. I loved Backyard Baseball because I could play it with my younger brothers. We used to gather around the computer and watch each other manage a team of unique kids as they gathered for a Sandlot-esque game of baseball..

It wasn’t until I got older that I realized how groundbreaking that game was in terms of representation but that’s a story for another day. Today, I look fondly back on the many hours of playing Backyard Baseball so much so that during the height of the COVID-19 quarantine, I used to watch Cespedes Family BBQ on Twitch as they streamed simulated games.

Few games can match the nostalgia of this game.

And then there were those games that I had no idea how to play and yet still played. I’m talking about first-person puzzle games like Myst, Riven, and The Journeyman Project.

I have many other computer games I used to play such as Sim City 3000, Hover!, and the many iterations of theme park sims. I even used to enjoy the trivia game called Mind Maze that came with the Encarta encyclopedia. 

Image Credit: Rock Paper Shotgun

Nostalgia: Ain’t it Great?

The late ‘90s/early 2000s was such a unique time. It was also a formative time for me in my gaming career because of the unorthodox approach I took working in the computer alongside consoles. 

I guess when you’re a kid, life is simpler. It didn’t matter if you had the most up-to-date console or the hottest games. We had maybe a combined total of five or more games between our Genesis and N64, but that didn’t matter to us. All that matter was the experience

That time was so simple that I remember my dad taking us to Jack in the Box to collect Sega games for our computer. Once upon a time, the restaurant sold them discounted with kids meals. 

As I’m less than a week into being 31, I find myself looking back more and more at this time, basking in the many fond memories. Sheik from Ocarina of Time said it best.

“The flow of time is always cruel. Its speed seems different for each person, but no one can change it. A thing that doesn’t change with time is a memory of younger days.”

Those younger days for me involved huddling around my family’s boxy computer and playing these simple yet enjoyable games. 

Without these games, who knows where I’d end up in my gaming career. All I know is they helped get me to the GameCube era, shaping my future with video games.

Nostalgia is truly an impactful emotion.

Featured Image: WBUR

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