Gamer Memories: PS2 Launch
One editor's tale of DVDs, money belts, and glory.
by Greg Miller
December 21, 2009 - At IGN, we're a lot of things. Nerds, douches, Achievement whores, over-raters, under-raters, and so much more, but at our core, we are gamers. Each and every one of us has a brain filled with cherished memories that revolve around our hobby. Unwrapping a Nintendo Entertainment System on Christmas morning, beating Streets of Rage with a pal, desperately trying to get Lara Croft's nude code to work – you get the idea. Before all of us who lived the adventure drift into a senile state and forget, IGN thought it would assemble those stories in an ongoing feature called "Gamer Memories."
Here, an editor will walk you through one of his or her favorite memories involving a controller, some kind of dance pad, or (more generally) a memory that was a defining experience for the editor's time with games. On tap for this installment? Why, it's none other than Greg Miller, an IGN editor known for screaming on Podcast Beyond and Game Scoop.
For some people, it's their wedding day. For others, it's the birth of their first child. For me, October 26, 2000 will be the date that is forever burned into my brain. It was the launch of the PlayStation 2, and it was glorious.
To truly understand why the PlayStation 2 was such a big deal to me, you have to jump back months and months to a time Prince and Will Smith sang about; a time called 1999. See, I went to my friend Jason's house, and he had these new things called DVDs – they were like CDs for videos. It was mindboggling enough to be able to skip by "chapters" instead of fast forwarding, but the bigger deal was that Mallrats was on this "DVD" and had a whole "commentary track" by Kevin Smith and company.
I watched it until 2 a.m. and knew that I needed this format. Of course, DVD players were crazy expensive at this point in time, so it seemed I would have to go on waiting forever. Then, the PS2 was announced. Along with great games, the black beauty would come packing the ability to play DVD movies.
My brain went into overload.
The first thing I did was tell my parents that I'd be getting a typical summer job in 2000 and that none of the money I earned would be going into my savings account – nearly everything I earned would be spent on PlayStation 2 games and accessories. With my mission in mind, I took a soul crushing job as a cashier at Wal-Mart. Once the paychecks started coming in, I kept my sanity by going to Best Buy on my lunch break and buying DVDs such as Ghostbusters, Chasing Amy, and so on.
This is June, ladies and gentlemen. I was buying things for a system that was nearly five months away. Not only was I buying them, I was keeping them wrapped until that day. I'd even pore over them in my car during later lunch breaks and once I got them onto my bookshelf at home.
I was crossing the border into crazyland. I was preordering games like Silent Scope and Smuggler's Run. I was buying terrible third-party DVD remotes, and I was poring over and over the same issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly (No. 136/November 2000).
The box that started it all.This fever pitch continued all the way up until October 25, 2000. On that day, I left school giddy as I've ever been, raced to a Meijer (think a Wal-Mart Supercenter) in St. Charles, Ill., and pretty much ran to the back of the store with one of those canvas chairs people sit in to fish.
Now, as I – a fat kid from the suburbs of Chicago – sprinted through this store, I expected the worst. I had a preorder at a Funcoland, but there was no guarantee that store would get enough systems. Coming here and waiting in line would give me the chance to have a system at 12:01 a.m., but I expected there to already be a line, seeing as how it was 3 p.m. the day before the biggest videogame launch of all time.
When I got to the electronics department – completely winded – I found two clerks chatting and not one customer in sight. When they heard my labored breathing, they turned to me and I said the only thing I could think of.
"I'm here for the PlayStation 2 launch," I said as they stared in disbelief. "I'm not a nerd."
With that, the clerks rolled their eyes and pointed me to the front of the game display cabinet. I was the first person in line (number two was my friend, whose seat I was holding, and number three would arrive about 15 minutes after I did). I would sit there in the Meijer electronics department being mocked by the occasional passerby, watching the line grow until they had to turn people away, and rereading issue 136 of EGM for nine hours.
As 12:01 a.m. drew closer, some random clerk from another department showed up to chat with the electronics staff, and I remember being so sure that he was going to try and butt in front of me that I was literally mentally preparing myself to attack him if he did. In the end, he didn't, and I pulled out the $350-plus I had in cash in a money belt under my shirt and became the first dude in the store to buy the system. After the transaction, I kind of stumbled forward lost in a sea of emotion while my friend began checking out. Someone in the line had to shout to me to hold it up, and when I did, cheers rained down upon me.
That was the start of my life with the PlayStation 2, but it was far from my last memory. Later that night, my friend's father demanded that we stop playing and go to bed. In the darkness of the guest room, I tiptoed over to my still-boxed system and picked it up to see if it was real. I went to put it down but misjudged where the floor was and ended up dropping it a few inches to the floor. I freaked out. The next day, I fled school with the PS2 belted into my passenger seat and blew off the next day of classes.
There's so much more to tell, but for the rest of my life, October 26 will mean something to me that few will be able to truly understand. I'm eternally grateful for that. Oh, and here at my desk in the IGN office? EGM No. 136 has been in my cabinet since my first day on the job.