When it came to gaming, my Grandad probably had the biggest impact on me as a kid.
I remember being very young and making a trip to his house with my parents and very young brother, only to be blown away by what would now be a fairly "meh" sort of a game compared to nowadays, but I enjoyed thoroughly as one of the first I ever got to play.
My Grandad was someone who was amazed and entertained by technology, in particular video games.
As an aside, I remember him buying Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion when it came out. While he was no longer in a place physically to play more action-oriented titles, he experienced enjoyment at simply being given the chance to explore a huge 3D open world in first person. It was novel for him seeing what games were capable of. I don't think he ever got to experience VR as we currently are, but I'm sure that would have blown him away if he did.
In the early 90s, I remember my Grandad utilized an operating system that is unusual by todays standards; it featured a 3x3 grid of tiles on a plain background, each tile being used to run a program. A user could navigate multiple pages, each with it’s own set of nine programs. I have no idea what OS it was, but he had many programs and games including, of course:
I was introduced to Wolfenstein 3D by my Grandad’s copy of the shareware version of the game. While he also eventually included other games in his collection including Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold and Ken’s Labyrinth, I was attracted to Wolf3D’s art style, and the straightforward gameplay (Move through levels and kill Nazis), and would play the first episode of the game many times. Of course, being a child I wasn’t very skillful, and had to keep to the lower difficulties.
Grandad and I enjoyed the game enough that eventually he purchased the full six-episode game, though he didn’t tell me. I recall coming to visit, and simply discovering upon running the game that all the other episodes were no longer locked.
My naive child brain couldn’t perceive that he actually purchased the game though, and I came to him to quiz him about what “cheat code” he used to unlock everything. Through a cheeky grin I will never forget, he kept his answer ambiguous to keep me guessing. I had been frustrated that he wouldn't tell me the secret, but happy to get to experience more of the game because of my Grandad’s mysterious ways.
I remember that while I didn’t play the latter half of the game so much, I thoroughly enjoyed Episode 2 and it’s new enemies and boss.
Eventually my family started becoming more aware of the adult nature of some games, especially as games like DOOM came out. I was too young to fathom the nature of the black censorship boxes in Leisure Suit Larry, but the violence of first person shooters was fairly obvious.
One later holidays when we came to visit my Nan and Grandad’s house, I found several games missing, and a new final page on his computer, which was password protected. Games like Hocus Pocus and Monster Bash were available, but Wolfenstein 3D was now absent for me.
It wouldn’t be until the early 2000s in high school that I would rediscover the game, find the DieHard Wolfers modding community, and spend a lot of my time messing around with Wolf3D.
Those early experiences with gaming that I had with and because of my Grandad shaped much of my love for Wolf3D and have lead me here, writing this. Last week, he passed away in the middle of the night. It has been a hard time with more hard times ahead, but I think about memories like these, or of trips to the beach, and they make me smile. Even if they are hard to write about because of the finality of this situation.
I love you, Grandad. I miss you.