Towards the end of highschool I stopped gaming. For the first time, I had a girlfriend, was preparing to go to college, and had a wicked meth habit. Beyond these time wasting activities, something about video games seemed to have changed. Though I had been a Sega faithful since the Master System, my highschool days marked the first console generation I spent in bed with a Sega competitor. I loved the PS1, but it didn’t carry me through to the PS2 by any means.
More fun than games?
I don’t even remember the launch of the Dreamcast. Murmurs of Sega’s new system made their way through school but I knew it was destined to failure and didn’t have the time to care. Freshman and sophomore years of college were spent playing Diablo 2 with roommates, hanging out, surfing the web and strung out on heroin. Diablo was more an addiction than a game and I don’t really consider it to be more than a diversion. Much like the many cheap women I spent time with in those days, I played Diablo but didn’t actually care about it.
Life went on without games. Sure I played some Snood, along with everyone else who attended college in the early 00s, and maybe even dabbled in some Civilization, but for the most part gaming wasn’t part of my life. Even if I played a little now and then, I didn’t pay any attention to the industry or release dates. Opium was just too time consuming.
Then one day over summer vacation Pat borrowed a Dreamcast from his friend. We played Shadow Man and MDK2. The first left no impression on me whatsoever, but MDK2 was pretty awesome. We went to Blockbuster and rented a few games to see what else this console could do. Evolution was a mistake. We played hours of it because any game that involves leveling up is entertaining enough, but it was a pretty bad experience overall.
I couldn’t find a pic of Jade holding a molten rock shooting giant skull over her head, so just imagine what that would look like with the aid of this Power Stone image.
But then there was Power Stone. Holy shit, was that a fine game. We played with our friend Drew who didn’t even like video games. He liked Power Stone. We swapped out, tried different characters and learned the nuances of firing flaming meteors out of a giant skull all through the night. The experience stuck with me, but lay dormant for a few months. I still had classes to take, homework to copy and crack to smoke. Gaming would have to wait.
And so it waited, until one tragic day in 2001. The Dreamcast was to be discontinued, Sega was leaving the hardware industry. I didn’t think I cared about games, but I had spent too many years arguing the merits of Sonic on playgrounds, trying to convince people that Phantasy Star was better than Final Fantasy, and reveling in my favorite Sega games to not care. I was devastated. Sega was not just a game company, they were what my brother shared with me, what I played with Danny in first grade, and what Charles and I enjoyed in junior high. So many people and memories were tied to this faceless company and their departure from hardware hit me like the death of a friend.
The reviews were wrong, Draconus was good.
I immediately bought a Dreamcast and as many games as I could afford. I told my mother that the system was discontinued so the games may be impossible to find soon, hoping for a handout – which I got. And then I played the games. It was a renaissance for me. Huge Soul Calibur tournaments with friends, manic Chu Chu Rocket games, hours upon hours devoted to exploring the skies of Arcadia, and a full week at my friend Shota’s house doing nothing but playing every game we had (it turns out Silver is shit but Draconus is pretty damned good).
The Dreamcast reignited an old flame. Video games once again mattered. The catalyst for this change may have been Sega’s death, but to me the Dreamcast and Sega’s downfall are too entwined to differentiate. This period of gaming bliss lasted me years into the next generation of game systems. I finally caved in and bought a next gen system in 2003, but my Dreamcast has never left the living room.