Chapter 1: Ms. Pac-Man
My journey through gaming began in 1990, when I was five year old. I was a child who no one realized had autism. To everyone, I had ADHD and wouldn't be able to make it through school on my own. I don't remember much about my childhood before I turned five, but I do remember a few things. My first word was airplane. My favorite toy was a plastic W that amused me when I would turn it upside down into an M. And I was able to learn the alphabet by watching Wheel of Fortune and Sesame Street. I also remember how hard communication was for me. Back then, I was considered an echolaic, someone who could only communicate by copying what other people said to me.
Concepts weren't immediately understandable to me, and it was a struggle to figure out how I could maintain my focus long enough to comprehend direction. I liked interacting with objects, and I liked bright, noisy, and colorful images on the television. So my parents had the bright assumption that the Nintendo system is exactly what I needed. It displayed bright, noisy, and colorful images on the television AND I could interact with it. I vaguely remember playing Super Mario Bros and The Legend of Zelda with my parents telling me how to play it, guiding me to my destinations. I don't think I "got it" at that point in life, but I was entertained enough to not dismiss it. It was interesting, but not fascinating enough to me.
But one night, my Dad purchased the Tengen Ms.Pac-Man, and would spend every other night after work playing it. I must not have noticed right away because I do not remember how, where, or why my Dad got the game in the first place. But for whatever reason, watching my Dad play Ms.Pac-Man every night was the most fascinating experience I got out of that Nintendo system. My Dad always played the strange mode, a mode where every single maze was a different color and a different layout. He would play through the game until he ran out of continues. He kept playing and playing until he eventually conquered strange mode. It was the first time I had ever seen a game played from beginning to end. It was also the first time I was ever even remotely invested in any video game.