I feel a lil’ old. The kind of old that you feel when you see chitlins running around that were born during years you actually recollect. Chitlins, such as they are, that weren’t even properly formed a decade ago. So I got to thinkin’: Rather than writing up the tired and overdone retrospective of the current year or a “hey here’s what might not be fail and AIDS in the coming year” list in honor of the new year, why not take a look back to the last time there was a nine at the end of year? Way back in 1999, a whoooole decade ago. Here’s what I remember:
- Half-Life. Actually scratch that- I remember the world BEFORE Half-Life. Before breaking open crates for ammo was just plain logical, before playing a game with a voiceless hero was an artistic “choice”, and well before ten minute opening sequences set in-game, on a rail, were tired clichés (yay Far Cry 2!). But in January of 1999 I opened up my new PC Gamer (South Park “The Game” on the cover; whoops) to find their highest-rated game ever, and that fall when I finally played it, I was completely sucked in by it. Without the blood on, of course.
- Team Fortress 2 is announced and man, was it awesome looking. Team-based WWII combat (and with Saving Private Ryan fresh out on VHS, a WWII game was all sorts of awesome), intense action, lips that would synch to player voices… I ‘member seeing it in PC Gamer and thinking it would be every bit as awesome as Half-Life. And when it was actually released THIS year, some people thought it was indeed (despite tossing out the WWII thing because let’s face it- that horse was flogged to gibs a good five years ago).
- Tribes (yeah, I was a gamer; deal with it). Listen here kids- before your fancy, state-of-the-art Crytek an’ Source an’ Bungie games, there was Tribes: Team-based gameplay, matches with up to 64 players (not to mention mods that took it over 100), multiple types of vehicles including APCs and scouts, sniping as a strategy, mortars, and of course, maps with endless terrain. In 1999. With DIAL-UP. You wouldn’t have the Battlefield series (especially 2142), you wouldn’t have Planetside, and given that Halo was an RTS game when Tribes 1 was finishing up development (and didn’t officially release until almost a year after Tribes 2), you probably wouldn’t have that either. Am I biased? This game ate up half my childhood, so probably. But I still believe it to be one of the most influential sci-fi shooters and multiplayer games ever made.
- Columbine. Just got home from school, passed by the TV and there were all the folks piling out a school window into the hands of SWAT teams. Then I went outside and shot some hoops. Nobody was getting shot, I didn’t live in Colorado, and it was a nice day out. I mean I had a fucking paved driveway, come on.
- Limp Bizkit. Heavy guitars that we uncultured lil’ fellas had never heard the likes of before? Dirty lyrics that we had to hide from our parents? A vocalist that was all rebellious sounding and a face-paintin’ guitarist? You bet. We were doing it all for the nookie. Sadly, the only reason we were was because we were too young to understand just what that meant and why it’s one of the worst choruses to ever reach mainstream popularity.
- Korn. Follow The Leader. This was the forbidden music. All In The Family? You didn’t listen to this anywhere within ear-shot of your parents. Personally, I found the whole thing so foreign it was a little intimidating (what’s a twelve year old who grew up listening to Bryan Adams supposed to make of Davis’s spastic beatboxing?), but fascinating enough that, for awhile, I’d listen to “Freak on a Leash” before getting out of bed in the morning for school. And this was long before “burning a CD” meant anything other than lighting it on fire, so we got out our best dual-deck cassette players and copied it to tape from that-one-kid-whose-parents-didn’t-care-what-he-listened-to. Thanks Levi.
- Bawitdaba. Da bang da bang diggie diggie said the boogie an’ up-jumped-the-booty.
- Napster. Holy shit, music on your computer?! 96 kbps mp3 files that take only half an hour to download? The future was already fuckin’ there, man.
- Tech TV. Ok, this wasn’t 1999 specific, but still. Leo. The Screen Savers. Call For Help. Gamespot TV (or “X-Play” as it is today). I look at G4 and still shudder with sadness at how they destroyed one of the best channels on television.
- The Sixth Sense, and the shithead at recess who spoiled the ending for me. Thanks Matt.
- 13th Warrior. Did anybody who made this film like it? Nope. Did anyone see it when it came out? Not really. Did I love every single Viking-laughing, gory arm-falling-off-the-bed moment of it while my mom winced beside me in the theater? Yes. Yes I did.
- Star Wars! Oh the merchandise, the hype, the throngs of crazy people waiting in line on the news. Mountain Dew and Pepsi cans with Star Wars stuff on them, tie-in contests from nearly every consumable-item-producin’-company you could think of, new toys, an impossible PC game! It was all terribly exciting. Especially since I was entirely too young to understand just how awful Episode I was when it finally came out (though I was astute enough to think Jar-Jar should die a painful, fiery death).
- New Years Eve. So there I sat, in the living room half-paying attention to the TV and playing Pro Boarders. Yeah, back when this was graphically acceptable. Everyone was all “OMG the world is gonna end” and it was allegedly suspenseful (unless you were hidin’ in a bus buried under ten feet of earth, like so many in Montana), but I personally agreed with the whole “we didn’t start counting at ZERO you morons!” philosophy. And then the clock turned, there was much hullabaloo on the television, and I went to bed.
Year turns are, in themselves, kinda boring like that. But thinking about all these memories, most of which I can remember like last week, it’s more than a bit amazing how much life has changed in just 10 years, both personally and from a global perspective. 10 years ago I was in sixth grade, awkward and quiet. I’m now a college junior in a mass media major, where I want as many people as possible to see what I do. Football at recess was the source of all our drama, now it’s Myspace. The internet was a fad; it’s now as necessary to life as water and food. Most of us couldn’t imagine owning a cell-phone (and in all honesty, most people in Troy still can’t), much less uploading videos we record on one to a website that’ll share them with potentially millions of people.
So on this New Year’s Eve, I look back at life in general an’ think about how it moves through time. It’s been quite a trip so far, and with any luck, each and every one of us will have more bizarre memories to share after 2009.
Unless the weevils revolt.