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What was the first game that really grabbed you and dominated your life?

Old_Man_Gaming Asks RPS

A few weeks ago, I talked about a number of new features coming to RPS in 2023, and here we are with our very first edition of Ask RPS! This is a new mailbag feature where RPS supporters get to pose questions to the RPS Treehouse team (mostly video games-related, though not necessarily always), and we then answer those questions in public posts for everyone to get involved with. Easy peasy.

To kick us off, our first question comes courtesy of Old_Man_Gaming, who asked: "What was the first game that really grabbed you and dominated your life?"

Come and find out which games had us trapped in the throes of childhood mania below, and why not tell us about your own gaming obsessions in the comments? You might just find a surprise kindred spirit.

Alice0: Quake was the main game I played for a good two years. Not even multiplayer QuakeWorld (we didn't have the Internet until deep into Quake 2), just Quake. I played the shareware episode day after day, slowly learning how to move and aim in a 3D space using only keyboard controls (my jump to mouselook also came only with Quake II). Then I learned the cheat codes and had a blast playing in god mode with all the fancy weapons.

I finally bought the full version after saving birthday money, and soon got into mods through cover discs from cheery RPS fanzine PC Gamer. Every month, new levels and oddities to play with, a wide range of weird, interesting, and clever ideas, some of which were even good. To think, anyone could just make these! I made my own levels too, though I had no way to release them. I even tried making mods, though I didn't know how to code so mostly I fiddled with numbers and copy/pasted other people's work between QuakeC files, hoping it would work. It rarely did, and that never stopped me. This also introduced me to my true passion in life, readme files.

A screenshot of Quake showing the player, and another player, fighting a Quake shambler.

Alice Bee: This is a tough one, because there were loads of games that I loved but that I had restricted access to because The Room With The Computer was my older brother's bedroom. I think, though, the answer is probably Diablo II. I loved being the assassin, but I was never good enough at the time to get much beyond The Sister's Burial Ground. I just replayed it loads.

Ed: This is a tough one, as Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 on the Game Boy Color was an absolute staple of my gaming diet back in the day. Screamer 2 was probably my first PC love, as I often snatched the home PC to rally around rural England or sandy Egypt in my spare time. Moto Racer – the bike equivalent – also had me in a vice grip. I then graduated to the masterpiece that was Muppets Race Mania on the PS1, a kart racer featuring Kermit and co. I remember being elated when I unlocked The Swedish Chef and his hotdog kart.

Players in all sorts of colourful outfits gathered at the Grand Exchange in Old School RuneScape.
Ed is the third pizza cape wearer on the right, honest.

RuneScape, though. The free-to-play MMO took over my entire school year when I first started secondary school, with most morning catchups revolving around the levels we'd gained and the lobsters we'd sold. A lot of us eventually became members, somehow justifying to our parents why our pursuit of level 99 farming required a three quid monthly subscription. The best of times.

Ollie: There were other games that might deserve the mantle of "dominating my life" more, but I still remember the very first PC game I ever played: World Cup 98. I remember watching my Dad play it on the PC, and then asking if I could play. He set up a game where I was playing as the strongest team (Brazil) against the weakest (China PR, I believe).

From that first fateful match, I was hooked, and would spend much of the next 10 years of my life playing football games - though I did move over to PES as the years went on. But the sights and sounds of World Cup 98 are carved forever into my brain. John Motson yelling, "It's there! A classic finish! Oh, I can't wait to see the replay of that!" for the thousandth time. Chris Waddle's derisive, "He couldn't hit a cow's backside with a banjo, this fella!" And of course the opening theme of Chumbawamba's Tubthumping (I Get Knocked Down) every time I'd load up the game. Good goddamn times.

An archvile throws up its arms in Doom 2

Katharine: As a young 'un, I was obsessed with watching my older brothers play The Legend Of Zelda and Zelda II: The Adventure Of Link (the best Zelda) on our NES on Saturday mornings. My young mind couldn't really comprehend the controls or how to beat the bosses at the time, so my own attempts would usually revolve around playing the opening dungeons again and again and seeing how far I could go on the map before being laughed at by Ganon.

Around the same time, though, our first family PC arrived in 1995 with a copy of Doom II, and I think my brothers/parents must have got sick of me asking how to constantly boot it into DOS so I could play it. I loved Doom II, and a lot of its secrets are still engrained into my brain to this day. Big shout out also to the freeware version of Heretic, which I similarly rinsed for everything it was worth. In terms of the first game that absolutely dominated every waking moment of my life and made me wish it were 100% real, though? The answer can only be Pokémon Red. What can I say? I was 11 years old. Sue me.

Liam: Predictably, I spent a lot of my formative years sat in front of the family PC playing whatever oddities my Dad would bring home from the local computer fair. Theme Park. Sim City. Doom II. The Simpsons: Cartoon Studio. Initially I was just obsessed with the idea of a computer in general, and would spend many happy hours sat in a worn leather chair drawing, typing and playing on our beige Compaq desktop.

A screenshot of Dungeon Keeper, depicting a cosy creature bedroom.

This all changed the day my Dad brought home Dungeon Keeper. Dungeon Keeper consumed me. It felt more advanced compared to the other games I had access to at the time. Gloomier. Creepier. I would spend days with my nose pressed against the monitor, commanding my imps to carve bedrooms, libraries and prisons out of the soft earth. I was the villain in this world? What a dilemma for a seven year old to wrestle with. Dungeon Keeper kicked off a life-long love for all things Bullfrog, an obsession that arguably reached its apex a few years later when my parents discovered I was secretly waking up hours before school to build rollercoasters in Theme Park World. How they weren’t awoken by the various clunks, beeps and whirs that accompanied booting up a PC from the 90s is beyond me.

James: Having a schoolteacher for a parent precluded any real timesinking in our house. As soon as I moved out, however, Team Fortress 2 saw a chance to sink its claws in. I grew into adulthood alongside this game: I remember the holiday that coincided with Valve’s first hat releases, playing Prop Hunt to distract myself from a breakup, spending hours in item trade servers… Not even to trade anything, just to pass the outrageous amounts of free time you get during a journalism degree.

The Soldier, Scout and Heavy look at notes on a table in dismay in Team Fortress 2

It’s also the game that got me into PC gaming, because the Windows version had nerfed Demoman and my original PS3 version had not. And if you’re thinking “Is it really worth spending hundreds of pounds and changing the entire trajectory of your professional life just to be killed by Demoman less often?”, my response would be: you clearly didn’t play the PS3 version.

Rebecca: How young are we talking? Because I recall putting what felt like a lot of time into The Oregon Trail and 3D Movie Maker on my family's first PC, purchased circa 1997. But the first game I remember being consciously captivated by was Gabriel Knight: Sins Of The Fathers, which I played with my dad as part of a Sierra-focused point-and-click binge when I was about 10 years old. I have a vivid memory of little proto-nerd Rebecca rushing downstairs to excitedly recap a plot development to my very nonplussed mum. Of course, even if you play the whole GK trilogy back-to-back the way I quickly did, those games are a bit too short and linear to really dominate your life for very long. A couple of months later I'd play The Sims for the first time, and the rest is history.

Box art for the PC game, Sabrina: The Teenage Witch - Spellbound
Big cursed 90s PC energy emanating from Salem the cat right there...

Rachel: I had a couple of non-PC obsessions that pre-date my family’s first computer, but my first infatuation on the PC was the 1999 Sabrina The Teenage Witch double game pack, which included both Spellbound and Brat Attack. I’ve never even seen the Sabrina The Teenage Witch show, I just liked that there was a game about a cool, sassy witch that I could play. Both games focus on Sabrina’s goal of wanting to be a fully-fledged witch, with Spellbound being an old-school point-and-click puzzle game and Brat Attack being much more hardcore with enemies to fight and spells to cast. I loved them both and played them relentlessly.

Hayden: I’m not sure when I first played Pokémon. It’s just always been around, I suppose. I played a lot of Leaf Green as a kid, and I remember being very excited for Diamond and Pearl when I was five. We’ll just assume I came out of the womb with a booster pack in hand (I was, and still am, a big Pokémon TCG player, too).

We didn’t have a fancy PC when I was younger, but we did have this very ugly grey box that could play some arcade games (all very legal, of course). I remember playing, and probably never beating, the Simpsons and TMNT arcade games, and was also a big fan of Outrun. Arcade games aside, my brother eventually got a gaming PC and we put countless evenings into Civilization V. We played hotseat mode at the time, because I didn’t get my own PC until 2017 (just a few short years before I joined the RPS Treehouse). Steam tells me the first game I played on my own computer was also Civ V, so I assume we hadn’t shifted over to Civ VI just yet. That didn’t become popular in the Hefford household until 2018, apparently.

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About the Author
Katharine Castle avatar

Katharine Castle


Katharine is RPS' editor-in-chief, which means she's now to blame for all this. After joining the team in 2017, she spent four years in the RPS hardware mines. Now she leads the RPS editorial team and plays pretty much anything she can get her hands on. She's very partial to JRPGs and the fetching of quests, but also loves strategy and turn-based tactics games and will never say no to a good Metroidvania.

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