For every passion there is an initial spark. For gamers, there is a first game that cemented your status as a video game aficionado. A game that was your first love. One that, as the world celebrates love, we can return to and honor this Valentines Day. Mario Brothers holds this reverent title for many, while for others it might be Pac Man, Halo, Sim City, or Oregon Trail. Often the game that sparks our love is a deeply flawed game, yet flaws and all we love them. To us, these games are perfection.

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There is only one first love, and for me that game was Mega Man 2. Thinking back I can feel the amazement and confusion with being able to choose any level. I had control of my destiny, but I had clue where to go. Slowly, I mastered the original eight evil robots, and their levels, only to find Wily and his castle explode onto my screen. The castle image captured my imagination and dreams as a child. Forts and drawings soon became Wily’s eclectic magical castle.

Once inside the castle the game’s difficulty rose. I spent hours mastering patterns and slowly plodding my way to the first boss. The screen started moving over an open pit and I had an “oh, s%@!” moment. I remember falling to my death several times before I even glimpsed that boss. A giant dragon burst on the screen and started chasing me. I jumped out of my seat, nearly falling over backwards. Several deaths and hours later, I celebrated conquering the dragon with seizure inducing flashes.

Arriving at the final level I was ready to take on Wily, only to be confronted with remastering all 8 robots. With only a few ticks of health I first battled Wily. I lost miserably. Many game overs later, I finally took him down. My celebration was cut short though as I fell through the floor. Dropping down a seemingly endless shaft, I crashed to the floor. The music was gone. I continued on in the eerie silence. Drops of acid provided the only sound and zapped my health till I limped into the final boss fight.

Wily stood before me. I was ready to take his ass down, when he transformed into an alien! He floated around the screen. Everything I tried failed to touch him. In my last ditch effort I tried Bubble. It worked! I was back in the fight. Armed with this knowledge I attempted again and again to beat him. At last, I celebrated with a strobe party.

It is like a first kiss for me. I know this experience intimately. Reliving it now becomes a love letter for me to the game that first captured my heart.

There are many video game firsts. My first role playing game was Final Fantasy VIII. Friends had told me how good the series was. I ventured out and secured a copy of FFVIII. I soon met Squall Leonhart and Rinoa. Mesmerized by the incredible life like cut scenes I dove deeper and deeper into the melodramatic story. Eighty hours later I finally took down the evil Ultimecia (I got lost on the overworld for several hours). I slumped back in my chair, exhausted from the hours of battle with Ultimecia, and soaked in the final cut scenes.

retro game charactersFinal Fantasy VIII might be my first RPG, and I remember it fondly, but it could not replace my first love. It was not the game that made me a gamer. Sim City was my first simulator. Doom was my introduction to first person shooters.  Warcraft was my first real time strategy game. MYST was my first point and click puzzle. These games all hold a special place in my heart, but none will ever compete with my true gaming love Mega Man 2.

I extend an invitation to all the gamers this Valentines Day. Join me in celebrating not just with chocolate and dinner, but by playing the video game that first got you into gaming. Rekindle the video game flame. Just make sure you bring bubble.