I aspired to put a list together of my top 25 gaming memories and I only came up with about 50 in less than an hour. I’ve whittled down the list to a top 25 and this post is going to be long so let’s just get right into it:
(25) Grandma, Grandpa & Dr. Mario [Grandma, Grandpa, Ben]: Possibly where it all started! Grandma and Grandpa played Dr. Mario on the NES quite a lot, maybe even nightly? I’m not talking level 5 low speed casual Dr. Mario either. I am talking highly competitive, button smashing, insult hurling, back and forth competitiveness you could only see at a Hays Sunday afternoon. Grandpa was a master at bombing his opponent, and Grandma has these quick fingers that could slide any block in to any position. They would destroy me every time I played but I’d like to imagine I could hang with them now. I still play it on my switch from time to time and beating level 20 on high speed and watching the viruses get sucked backed up into their alien space ship is one of the most ICONIC video game endings you’ll ever see. Grandpa, if there is Dr. Mario in heaven, I am looking forward to that rematch.
(24)Pastor Dave’s LAN [Pastor Dave, Cody]: The first LAN I ever attended was a Halo LAN at my Youth Pastor’s house. I remember walking down into a basement with about 12 TVs and Xbox’s (Oh goodness the cords) and about 20 guys all whooping and cheering. We played CTF on a big snow map and I had very little Halo experience and I Was just blown away by the whole event. I think it sticks out so much because it was a new Youth Group for me, I was incredibly nervous to even attend, and by the end I was just another Spartan on the Red team. Immediately welcomed into a group I was new to, and of course, the idea of a LAN was born and I would only attend/host hundreds more in the next decade.
(23)Blao! [Ben Hays]: Ben and I could easily make a list of 25 with all our own memories but the NBA Live 2003 dynasty is most likely my favorite. We had a dynasty on NBA live that stretched over a decade, with us constantly making roster moves and adjustments to try to best each other. I remember trading him Steve Francis because he wasn’t shooting well for me and the next year Ben had him and suddenly he had a 3PT Ball icon next to his name (I call shenanigans). It cost me a good 3 years because Ben would absolutely dominate me with him. The game came with a separate CD for a soundtrack which was amazing, and an intro with Snoop Dogg giving the tutorial. It still has a spot on my Spotify with fantastic basketball raps- “block shots like bullet professors” and a Right Thurr remix by Chingy. “Crossover make the whole crowd stir crowd stir”. By the way NBA live 03 is a better basketball game then NBA 2K19 straight up. More player control, more strategy, more fun.
(22)Dock Weekend Zombies [Jon V, Matt V, Decaon, Aaron, Phil, Tong]: Dock weekend was an event where a bunch of teenagers would go stay at cabin, spend the required 5 hrs of helping put in docks at this beautiful oasis on Gun Lake. Then spend the rest of the weekend indoors playing video games. Our game of choice, halo 3 infection. The zombies would fly around with an energy sword at warp speed and the survivors would hide with a BR. We spent many hours huddled in a dead end room on some wacky forge map while zombies threw themselves at us down one hallway. I only got to see these guys twice a year, but it was always a highlight.
(21)Madden Franchise [Gary, Ben, Jon, Matt, Brad, Deacon, Malone, Jordan]: Last year we had 10 guys in a Madden Franchise and played it out several virtual years. Madden is an extremely frustrating game now-a-days but when two guys faced off in the playoffs, there was real pressure. As a Lions “””fan””” getting to experience NFL games that actually matter was quite a treat. Not to mention we did a fantasy draft so we got to build our rosters from the ground up. I spent many hours dumping as many points into Saquon Barkley as possible and had a 99 OVR, juking, stiff-arming, hurdling, beast of a running back in no time (sort of like Penn State Saquon vs Michigan). It was a blast while it lasted and the ability to play games that mattered that much was a blast. Comparing stats, wondering how Malone made John Ross the best WR in the league, seeing Deacon lose to the CPU 13 games, wondering how Matt always won 6 – 3.
(20)Stevie and Joey [Stevie and Joey]: The year is 2015, I am playing League of Legends when I get a random invitation to join a CURSE (chuckling here) chat room and talk to two guys who are on my team while I play. We hit it off, we played a ton of games that afternoon, and would continue to play many games for many more years. It would culminate with Matt Malone and I going to visit them at Joey’s apartment in Ohio a couple years ago. It was a blast, we didn’t play a lot of video games that weekend but we did have a ton of fun. We’ve all spent hundreds of dollars on each other gifting each other skins (as to circumvent spending money on a free game on ourselves). By the way that Dark Star Karma skin looking nice. We started with League but I think over time we have all realized we have so much more in common as people. We are still from time to time texting or chatting about life or games, even when League has hit a low point for us.
(19)Winner Winner Chicken Dinner [Stevie]: Once in a great while we would find other games to play other than League. I recall Stevie and I getting our first win in PUBG. I distinctly remember sitting in a bush at that little house across the farm fields of Pochinki, two teams rushed in as the circle closed and Stevie mowed down 3 of the 4 members and died and I luckily got the last one. It’s such a distinct memory because I remember thinking afterwards if it was possible to have a heart attack from a game. Stevie the ultimate hype man went on an epic tirade of how amazing the victory was, and just like that, the Battle Royale craze suddenly made sense. We whooped and hollered for another 5 minutes, and got back in that plane.
(18)The Karate Kousin [Jonathan L.]: Let me start with this, Crash Team Racing on the PS1 is the best Kart racer ever made. For two week of the summer I would get to visit my older cousin Jonathan in Illinois, I would bring my PS1 and naturally we would play CTR (or Kingdom Hearts) non-stop. Chasing world records on sewer speedway and perfecting our time trial times. I decided I would leave my ps1 with him for six months since I had gotten a PS2… big mistake. I visited him six months later and I had found I created a monster. The learner had become the master. Jonathan had PERFECTED this game, see it was always fun because I was always a little bit better (I wasn’t use to winning at my house, thanks Ben) but when I came back to visit Jonathan, he had become a racing machine. He was so excited for me to come back I actually recall the feeling of him being a little let-down, I wasn’t even a challenge for him now. His records remained untouched by me. I am willing to bet there is a PS1 memory card out there somewhere with some of the fastest ghosts you’ll ever race.
(17)Horde [So many people, Casey, Jon, Gary, Cody, Brune, Greeley’s, Deacon, Vandie, Matt J, Johnson, the list goes on]: Gears of War is a franchise that will always hold a dear place in my heart. The classic “Execution” mode actually captured that intense feeling the BR genre now chases after. From “We Hold B” game-battles to endless hours to watching Matt Joseph play on his brother’s xbox. But when GoW2 came out and we stumbled across Horde mode, nothing will beat that feeling of survival. 5 guys stuck in a tiny house on the “River” map, trying to survive 50 waves of enemies in a mode that probably lasted 4 hours. I still can hear the sound of the bad guy saying “BOOM” right before he shoots his powerful rocket. The best part of that game was all our different play styles coming together to form a team. Jon was just a little too good at sniping in that game, Brune was too good at power weapons, Gary too good at the Boltok, Johnson too good with grenades, Cody too good at wall bouncing, Greeley too good at the hammerburst, Vandie too good at flanking, I miss those days!
(16)Gold House [Casey, Hannah, Mike Gold]: Having a cute girl who is a year younger and a cool soccer playing guy who is year older switch to your small little school is a win. Getting close to the family, now that is nice. Gaining a lifelong friend and a WIFE from the deal, now that is God! But the cherry on top of all this: having a new, awesome, video game house. From coming over to spend the night with Casey (Hannah had to leave) and playing the entire Halo 3 campaign (sponsored by Nos Energy Drinks) in a night. To getting to play all the new Guitar Heroes, playing the Wii right when it came out with my girlfriend’s family, I got real lucky. I distinctly remember Hannah embarrassing me at Wii Baseball with her whole family crammed into the basement, and back then it was a source of embarrassment. Now I look at it fondly as one of the many moments in which my future in-law’s welcomed me into the family. My FIL leaned over before church yesterday and we chatted about the new Gears Beta, it’s a moment I take for granted. But when I sit down and write about this it’s something I cherish deeply. Thank you God for sending me the perfect person and perfect family to be apart of.
(15)“Renting Games” [Ben H]: There was a brief golden age for broke gamers. It lasted a moment in time, but while it was here, it was glorious. The original Xbox technology had gotten so out paced by current tech Ben was able to mod our current Xbox to install games on to the disc drive and we could keep them forever. So, when Ben or I had a desire to play a game, we would go to Family Video, rent a brand new game, 1 Night for 3$, and burn them on to the Xbox. I remember plain as yesterday, Ben and I went to Family video, we put 7 games on the counter. The guy behind the counter asks, how many nights? “1” of course. He looks perplexed, “lot of games to be played in one night.” Ben replies, “oh I think we will find a way.” The clerk laughs to himself and says “modded xbox huh, you know I could refuse to rent these out?” And Ben replies as fast as humanly possible “what is a modded xbox?” we are both smiling ear to ear, so is the clerk… we stare at each other awkwardly for seconds… and finally the clerk breaks the tension, “want to put any money down on this late fee?” “Nope.” …….. “Alright 21$.” RIP modded Xbox, may your gigantically clunky controllers never be used again.
(14) “Parkside Market and Jones Soda” [Joe D.]: N64 has aged the best of any older console. After school as a freshman and sophomore is a clunky stage. You don’t have the freedom to do whatever you want but you have a solid amount of time to sort of play around with. I spent most of my after school sessions at Joe D’s house. I’d grab a slice of ham pizza and a Jones soda and go to his house just down the road from mine. It was great! I had a new bud who loved to hoop and waste time just like me. I think we had other systems to play but for some reason the N64 was almost always the choice. More specifically, Mario Tennis on the N64. Joe would play Donkey Kong, he had perfected this extremely fast serve and would ace his ways to dozens of points, and I would play Luigi and grind out every volley like it was Championship point. I remember making a bad impression with his parents because I called everything “gay”, no real point there, just interesting how language changes. I mean that was only… shoot… 14 years ago….. wait …. half my life ago. Wow, I am double the age of my fourteen year old self, oh no. Send help.
(13) Little Blue Fish with a Trident [Matt Vandie]: Hannah’s friend’s fiance and I were talking one day after being forced to spend time together because the girls were spending time together. And he mentions this fun video game called League of Legends. He shows me a YouTube video of this guy called videogamedunkey and tells me his videos are the best. I go home and download this free game on my terrible PC and voila. I still play this game after 6 years, (and I still watch dunkey). I miss the days of being new to the game. Matt Vandie and I would scroll through a League of Legends app on our phones at work and try to decide which Champion we were going to spend our in game currency on next. Back then, we picked a champ because he was cool! This little blue fish is a tricky little guy who attacks with a trident and his name is Fizz! Oh oh and this guy is big green blob who was engineered in a lab and bounces around the battlefield and leaves goo everywhere! Oh and this girl has gigantic robot fists and is like a rogue cop who just likes to beat people up and has the coolest name, Vi! The magic of learning that game, and unpacking the lore, and falling in love with the complexity, and trying to get level 30, and then trying to get to Silver rank, is a feeling I probably won’t ever get again. Nowadays I play like 8 champs because it’s too hard to be competitive on the rest of the champs that I am not as familiar with. I only play support because it is the only role I am good at. My acute sense of being limited at the game because my skills are not as honed makes me feel old. I remember watching a pro game before I had even started the download, and Meteos was playing Zac and bouncing all over the battlefield, Matt and I were immediately enthralled.
(12) Superbowl Madden Tourney [Pastor Dave, Cody]: CCC used to host these awesome Superbowl viewings at Hangtime and Valley Plaza. When I was 15 I won a 40 man Madden tournament against a group of guys all certain they would win. Everything in this post will feel like a huge boast so I will keep it short. I absolutely dominated the competition and it wasn’t even close. I absolutely cherish the feeling of being underestimated and that was a night I left many high school seniors in shock.
(11) My Name is Jonas [Matt Greeley]:For some reason I asked Matt Greeley (3 years my junior) to come over to my house and play guitar hero with me. I was probably just a bored teenager in the middle of summer looking for something to do. I excitedly watched out the window as I waited for him to arrive (sort of like a social anxiety you get when you meet someone new). I can vividly see him walking towards the house, plastic guitar in hand. He absolutely destroyed me in every match we played. But more importantly, we breached the barrier from friendly acquaintances to close friends all in one day. We would spend quite a few summers from then on walking to each others houses. Playing Guitar Hero, COD, Halo, Gears, Madden. Talking about girls, school, and God. Go on to be in each other’s weddings, accountability partners, and bot lane duos. I don’t know if it all hinged on that day, but my life has certainly improved as a result of asking Matt to come over and play Guitar Hero.
(10) It’s Real? [Dad, Ben]: Dad got a PS3 on release date and also Tiger Woods and Madden. I think the biggest leap in gaming hardware has been made in the ps2->ps3 (xbox -> xbox360) era in terms of graphics and improvement from generation to generation. It truly felt like we were playing something from the future. To my untrained 15 year old eyes, I was just blown away. We were teeing off on the 7th hole at Pebble Beach, and I remember being actually short of breath at the beauty. I said aloud, “is this… real”? The lines of virtual and reality became blurred for a short moment. I was truly convinced this was as good as it gets graphically (haha). Side note, I remember sinking this nasty long putt to win our first ever round of Tiger Woods, I swear that isn’t why the memory is so crystal for me though.
(9)VEGETTTAAAAA [MCS Basketball 2017-18]: I have a hundred memories from games with my MCS teams, but this one, this one takes the cake. Every year as a Coach we try to have an overnight hotel stay for a basketball tournament. As boys do, video games will be played. It just so happened Dragonball Fighterz had just come out and I was eager to get the boys to try it. It turned into a huge hit. The whole team crammed into one hotel room watching virtual fight club and everyone got DEEP into it. We all let down our barriers a little bit and it just got absolutely hectic watching Hackett battle Brendan as Jake Mash did play by play and Ryan and Ben Gordon made hype noises in the back. Its the kind of moment where everyone gets closer as a team, when we realize it is a lot more than basketball that binds us. Brendan constantly yelled VEEGEETTTAAAA (a character from the game) the rest of the season, and it made us all laugh every time. We dropped two 40 pt victories that weekend, but I think what we all remember instead is Vegeta.
(8)The Truth Comes Out [Joe Sharpe, Paul Sharpe]: I spent a lot of my elementary days with Joe Sharpe. Like as many days as possible that our mom’s would drive us to each others house. We spent most of our time outside (Mrs. Sharpe made sure of that) but there was one game that hooked us all in: Fable. You would think a single player game being shared between Joe, Paul, and I would not be so popular but I just loved to watch them play. I think it was my first time seeing an RPG, and seeing Paul’s heroic character run around and save people was like fantasy come to life. Using his sword, he would vanquish evil monsters, as he walked the streets, the people would cheer his name, Paul’s character was a HERO. It was like watching Paul if he had been born in medieval times in a land of magic. I was totally amazed by the whole thing. Then, Paul got off, and Joe loaded his character, and to my shock and dismay, Joe’s character was pure EVIL. Horns grew from his head and red stench followed him wherever he went! He struck people with lightning and fire if they ever annoyed him. Women would cower in fear as he did business with merchants. I was aghast! He needed to save a farmer from incoming bandits for a mission and instead he KILLS the farmer and loots the farm before the bandits could even arrive! He would backtrack to old villages only to find the corpses of towns he had slaughtered. I think I should have maybe realized something about the two brothers then, but instead, I was just amazed at the capability of the game to show all these different sides of the same story.
(7)Akimbo Slice / Sandy Ravage [Jon V.]: Jon V and I were pretty good at BlackOps 1. (Maybe not as good as Nate at dropping nukes in MW2.) As a result, our normal gaming routine was to get in a lobby and stomp as hard as we possibly could. I mean fight-over-the-airspace-to-get-them-chopper-gunners-in-the-air-every-match good. One night, we met our match. Some guy by the name of Akimbo Slice (By the way, A+ name, very topical in 2008 to famous street fight Kimbo Slice). He was in our lobby, he was on the other team, and he was wrecking us. We dueled for about 6 matches, his prowess would mostly top our combined efforts but we had some epic matches. And then, we did the unthinkable, we joined forces. The devastation we laid to that lobby from 1AM to 5AM some random summer night in 2008, remains the most destructive display of force I have ever been apart of. Who was this Akimbo Slice? None other than gaming YouTube celebrity Sandy Ravage (another play on words from the Macho Man Randy Savage). A well respected COD Specialist in the Youtube community. We only realized he was famous about halfway through the night but it made the experience so enjoyable. We kept an eye out for his next few videos to see if we would make an appearance, but it didn’t happen. Needless to say we were huge fans from them on. Watching his kill cams was like art.
(6)Show Me How to Lie [Greeley Brothers]: Nate Greeley, Matt Greeley, and I, spent an inhuman amount of time watching Halo Montages at the Greeley house. We would set down the controller from the Xbox, turn 180 degrees, and set down and watch Youtube plays of people much better than us. The most famous of them all: Kampy. Perfect song, great clips, good editing. Don’t forget about BrySi, I need 2 bukks, Top 10 plays, and of course, the describe thread from the MLG message boards. It is amazing how much content we could consume regarding Halo. I guess this isn’t a specific event, but more of a general idea. The days when getting being hard-stuck Brigadier was your biggest problem.
(5)The Dynasty [Listed Below]:My closest friends and I had an NCAA Dynasty that stretched for 4 seasons and it was the most fun gaming thing I have ever done. I remember it like it was yesterday: Nate G: MSU – Matt G: Northwestern – Deacon B: Penn St. – Ben H: Michigan – Matt V: Nebraska – Jon V: Wisconsin – Matt M: Ohio State and me, with Big10 expansion team Notre Dame.– I would do weekly write-ups on stats and match-ups. We had an active message board with pictures and comments on games. We would all sit down to watch each other play games when possible. I remember beating Nate G. in the Big10 Championship. Losing to Deacon in an epic back-and-forth. Throwing fade routes to Tyler Freaking Eifert with Gunner Kiel. Running option plays with Theo Riddick. It captured the magic of college football so incredibly well. Going after highly touted recruits, big games with huge implications. Saturday morning games before catching college gameday. I loved that experience so much. It’s a shame we don’t have a college football game anymore or even a game that can create such a wonderful experience. (cough *madden* cough)
(4) Weight Room LAN (2005 MCS Soccer Team): While I have some awesome memories as a coach with my team at MCS, I have a really great one as a player. Freshman year at MCS, my brother was the head soccer coach. We had an end of the year tournament somewhere far away (Indiana ACSI maybe?). A couple of guys brought their Xbox’s in hopes of getting some halo in at the hotel after the Friday night game. When we got to the hotel, we were dismayed with the lack of outlets and outdated TV’s, we weren’t able to get all linked up together. Until, and I don’t know who, found the genius idea: the weight room of the hotel. It had the outlets, it had the space, it had the TV’s. So we go and ask the manager of the hotel, if we could get all hooked up in the weight room to play our games. He agreed, and then one of the greatest impromptu Halo LAN’s was born. Probably 18 dudes total, probably 5 xbox’s, 3 routers, 18,000 extension cords and cables, and one manager completely unaware for what he just signed off on, stuffed themselves in this weight room. We sat on weight benches, treadmills, and stationary bikes. We played on a tube TV’s, emptied the vending machines, and shut that place down. From the serious Senior captains like Josh McCarron, the uninterested gamers like Travis Ripper and Brad Campbell, the freshman trying to prove themselves like Cody and I, to the greenhorn 7th graders like the Greeley twins. We were all just one big team that night. Making too much noise in the hotel weight room.
(3) ReRave [Hannah]: Oh boy. I went to start typing this, and I now realize I might get some flak on this one. LET ME JUST CLARIFY I HAVE LOTS OF GOOD MEMORIES FROM MY HONEYMOON WITH MY WONDERFUL WIFE AND ONE OF THEM HAPPENS TO BE ABOUT VIDEO GAMES AND I HAVE LOTS OF OTHER MEMORIES THAT DON’T BELONG IN THIS POST OR ANY POST FOR THAT MATTER. One of our trips in Orlando included a trip to Disney Quest, a 5 story arcade room with just about every cabinet you have ever played. But the highlight of them all, ReRave. A touch screen, music game, akin to Osu. It was just so fun, we played for hours. I think we ended up stopping just because I felt bad for Hannah and we were hogging the machine. The whole visit to the DisneyQuest was a delight. Hannah knew I would have a blast, and getting to experience with my new bride, at the happiest place on earth, was just perfect. It was a microcosm of the fun we will have for the rest of our lives. Hannah has always been great at gifting, and setting up experiences she knows I will enjoy.
(2) Monkeyball [Bobby, Trent]: Bobby, Trent, and I had a really solid routine. Video Games, Basketball, Eat/Movie, Repeat. We could do the cycle until the sun rose, in fact, we often would use the sound of Ma’s alarm going off as a signal that we really needed to go to bed. But every weekend we hung out would go something like that. Play Supermonkeyball, typically either the flying one where you tried to land on the bullseye, the baseball one, the punching one, or the racing one. I am talking intense monkeyball competition, complete with spiking controllers and fist fights over smack-talk. Trent and I had baseball monkey’s named complete with Red Sox/Tigers lineups. Despite them all having same stats, he found a way to hit homers with Big Papi every dang time. After it got stale, we’d hit his little slab of concrete and dinky hoop and play 21. Bobby would usually win unless we hit him with that double team. We’d use the porch light above the garage to light the way. Trent won an Xbox 360 in a rock paper scissors tournament at another Superbowl CCC party (I had never been more envious in my life). We got new games to play, but monkeyball was always ol’ reliable. Trent left Bobby and I here on this rock too soon, 21 is no fun to play with just two people, and Monkeyball just isn’t the same without you. Miss you man.
(1) The Gift [Cody]:There was a dark age in gaming for me. Between the original xbox and the xbox360. The 360 had been out, but I could only play it at others’ house. The xbox was old news now, and I didn’t have a lot of gaming options for a while. I didn’t have the money for a 360 and I felt all my friends “leaving me behind” with this new generation. Until one day, I come home to the house on Wheeler. My Mom tells me to go into the office and check something out. I go in, an Xbox360, with a note: from Cody Keppel. He bought be a 360 man. I cried happy tears for having a 360, and then I cried thankful tears for having a friend as good as this. It may seem somewhat trivial, but a friend gifting a 360 at age 15 is like an adult paying off someone’s mortgage. In terms of money available and in terms of what a teenager truly desires. I laid down on the floor and played on my little white TV for the next few hours. (I downloaded a free FIFA demo with my Xbox Live Silver account.) It was such a random act of kindness I’ll never forget the long period of speechlessness I had when I saw it, I was in utter shock someone could be so kind. I am pretty sure that Xbox survived a RRoD, got hooked up to a projector that played on a sheet on the wall, and survived Trent spiking a controller on it after a particularly rough beat down of his Texas A&M squad in NCAA football. Got spray painted and decked out with some under-glow, and still sits tucked away in my gaming chest. Cody, thanks again my dude.
I think the big takeaway from making this list is how the memories that stick out in my brain the most are the ones I spent with friends and family. Sure I remember the first time I beat Dr. Mario on 20, but I much more vividly remember staying up late and watching Grandma do it so I could watch the Viruses. I remember my first Fire Emblem play-through well, but even better I remember finally getting to talk to Gavin about our favorite units and missions. Gaming has such a bad rap but it brings so many people together. I think it is easy to see someone “wasting their life away” when they sit in front of that screen. Yet someone is reading a novel and they are portrayed as intelligent! Also, I was pretty surprised at the amount of memories that made the list that over a decade old. I think the days of LAN were really special, and we miss out a bit on that in these days of the internet. Reger and I have become much closer friends in our later stages of life because when we play Smash Bros, we do it face to face. I can see the anguish in his eyes when I spike him with Mario. Maybe my daughters will be gamers, and I’ll have a chance to make some memories like the ones I have listed above with them. Maybe they won’t, that is okay too… I guess. All I know is gaming has been a part of my life, me entire life. And it’s something I wouldn’t trade for the world. Do I wish I went for a run a little more often then I booted up Apex? Yes. Do I wish I had stuck with Delta my Freshman year of college instead of logging hundreds of hours playing CoD? Yes. But all things considered, I feel incredibly fortunate to be alive during this golden age and can’t wait to see where the next 28 years of gaming go.