Sometimes I get so busy I have a hard time remembering things that have happened just a few years ago. But there's one area of my life where I remember almost everything that's happened in the last 30 years. What is it? Simple. It's my hobby, something I enjoy tremendously, something I live for. It's gaming.
Maybe I sound like some crazy gamer who spends hours alone in his room playing games. It's not true. But gaming has been a huge part of my life, and it's the reason I am where I am today.
I was born in the Czech Republic in 1974. At that time, the country was deeply Communist. Growing up, I didn't have much chance to encounter real technology or even games, because those things were available to only a very few.
In the outside world, the arcade revolution was happening at that time, followed by the first home entertainment systems. But I didn't know anything about it. Since most of the Czech population was forbidden to travel to the West, we didn't know about legendary systems like the Atari VCS, ColecoVision, Intellivision or Vectrex.
Despite these restrictions, there were a few times a year that kids got the chance to play arcade systems at shows that were held throughout the city. Somehow, these guys imported old arcade systems from the West into our country (to this day, I still don't know how they did it without getting into trouble with the authorities.)
My first encounter with gaming was fatal :) I don't remember how much money I spent playing Space Invaders, Galaga, Pacman, Centipede and many others. I surprised my parents by wanting to do the shopping for them. They didn't know I was spending the change on arcade games. Even then, I knew that gaming was something I wanted to be a part of my life.
In 1982 one of my school friends showed me a brand-new home computer: the Sinclair ZX Spectrum. His father worked as a programmer in one of the government computer centers, and during a work trip to the UK he'd been able to bring back this little miracle. I was amazed. Here was everything the big arcade games had, but in a home system and for free.
I spent two years arguing with my parents and making impossible promises just so they'd buy me a computer. Back then, computers were very expensive and difficult to get. You had to find someone traveling to Western Europe to buy one and bring it back for you. I got my first computer for my tenth birthday, and I very much believe that it changed the course of my life.
During the years that followed, I had many computers and gaming systems. I played most of the legendary games, starting with Pacman and moving on to Manic Miner, The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Dungeon Master, GoldenEye, Metal Gear Solid, Quake, Doom, Counter-Strike, Dune, Warcraft, Diablo, Mafia, World of Warcraft, Mass Effect, Batman Arkham Asylum, Uncharted and many others. My passion for gaming turned into a passion for the gaming industry and an interest in the history of gaming itself. I collected as many gaming systems as possible on eBay (I had almost 100 gaming systems and arcade cabinets in my collection at one point) and I had the chance to meet many great game developers and professionals during that time.
I'm sure you can find stories like mine with other gamers around the world. Today they may be professionals in the gaming or hardware business, but they got started with computers like the Commodore 64, Atari XE, Commodore Amiga and many others. Younger people probably have no idea what I'm talking about, because their memories start with the first PlayStation. But it's because of early systems like these that gaming is what it is today.
It would be cool to have a photo gallery of my gaming room from early 80s until today because everything still looks pretty much the same. The biggest difference is that the small monochromatic monitor and joystick with one button have been replaced with a 30-inch LCD with 3D Surround and a keyboard and mouse. Why is everything almost the same? Because the passion for games doesn't change. And it doesn't matter if you are playing Pacman and eating small pac-dots or shooting mutants in Metro 2033.
As George Bernard Shaw said: We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.
I'm Igor Stanek and I'm a real gamer.