Falling For The First Time

The excitement of experiencing for the first time is something can easily be taken for granted and, in some case, overlooked... with regret in the future

As I sit here thinking about my first time, it’s almost as though I’m reliving the moment all over again… bathing in the beauty before me as my eyes follow every contour and take in every detail, the excitement as my hands reach down for the first time and take control of the situation… watching the signs to make sure I’m pushing all the right buttons and not pushing too far. Each move becomes less tentative and more confident than the last as I start to feel us blending together, whilst inside my gut is a flicker of excitement as each new experience commits itself to memory, never to be forgotten.

The greatest risk with any new relationship is that the onset of complacency could occur at any moment, and it’s the responsibility of both parties to ensure that the initial excitement is nurtured as long as possible, in the hopes that the bond will continue for as long as possible. All too often, however, the odds are stacked against this ever happening and, within a relatively short space of time, that complacency sets in and takes hold… and the choice facing us is whether we continue to go through the motions, try to rekindle that initial passion, or give up and move on.

Sometimes we’re lucky enough to find a love that not only makes us feel great at the time, but builds memories which become so deeply embedded that we subconsciously make comparisons to that special love after moving on to another. No matter how much we try to erase that one love from our minds, our psyche fights back and reminds us that, along with the inevitable bad moments, there were monumental highs and that is why, ultimately, we will always remember that love as others come and go.

The skeleton in my closet is, and will likely forever be, UFO: Enemy Unknown. Outside of gaming, I’ve had a fascination with the possibilities of life on other planets since I was old enough to convince my parents that I’d much rather read Jenny Randles or John E Mack than Enid Bloody Blyton, so when I was introduced to a game that not only allowed you to lead your own crew to UFO crash landing sites but also involved researching alien technology and constructing your own crafts to venture to the fabled Cydonia… I was hooked. After watching the acceptably cheesy anime style intro on my Amiga and selecting the spot for my first base, I was tasked with my first mission… to provide my crew with enough weaponry to protect themselves against the alien aggressor and equip their crafts with enough tech to take down any alien ships. My excitement literally cannot be described because I was 22 years old at the time, and felt like a real kid for the first time since I was getting birthday cards with numbers on them.

The first time I managed to use my stun gun to bring a Sectoid soldier back alive was so damn exhilarating, and I remember the butterflies as I wondered whether it would actually survive back in the lab or whether this was a one shot deal. Thankfully, I’d had enough foresight to build the Alien Containment Facility as soon as I’d started, so this little grey guy was mine… and I was going to probe the hell out of him.

As the game progressed, my love grew deeper. That first “Research Completed” popup for the plasma weaponry had me rushing to the Engineering section to see what I needed to do in order to start manufacturing my own alien tech, but there was still the Alien Alloys and Elerium 115 before I could get that far, and so I started off small by arming my crew with Plasma Rifles while I enlisted more scientists to expedite the research on Heavy Plasma and Stun Bombs as well as those all-important Alien Alloys and Elerium 115. Whenever I revisit UFO: Enemy Unknown, I have to admit that the initial excitement has dissipated entirely but the love for the game has never become diluted whatsoever, and we’re talking about sixteen years on from the original release.

Such beauty, such majesty... such an easy kill

My first experience of Oblivion was a similar tale of awe… after making my way through the tutorial level and stepping out from the sewer for the first time, it was a few minutes of silence and open mouthed wonderment as I gently took in the splendour or Cyrodiil and everything that it had to offer. Armed with very little, and wondering exactly what I should be doing next, I watched a young deer bounce past and stop to chew on the grass not thirty feet away from me. At first I crouched down in the undergrowth and watched as it idled from one point to the next, oblivious to my presence, basking in the realism and the excitement that this creature was going about its normal activities unaware that it was being observed by my stranger. Before I could even register my actions, the bow was drawn back and an arrow was let loose to the neck of the deer as it slumped to the ground. It hadn’t posed any threat to me, showed no signs of becoming aggressive… but instinct took over and, after the initial thrill of watching something fresh and new that could quite easily disappear into the brush at any moment had gone, the only other chance of excitement in that moment was to become the hunter and for my new found muse to become the prey.

With very little in the way of cash and somewhat expensive taste in weaponry, I was finding it increasingly difficult to develop my character at the pace, and in the direction, that I had in mind. That first evening I selected a destination and began the long slow walk to Bruma (reading manuals helps with fast travel, as I later discovered) where I pondered the consequences of being caught looting until finally I plucked up the courage to carry out my plan of sneaking in to the castle to see what I could find that would help with my quest for better weaponry. Picking that first successful lock was such a rush, as the display cabinet opened with an unwritten invitation to remove the rare weapons and spell books before any of the castle guards found the intruder. Unfortunately, none of the vendors were able to buy any of my spoils and I later discovered the Thieves Guild fences for such offerings… but it was a fantastic feeling nonetheless.

Bruma. Where I set up my first home, stashed most of my weapons and armour, where I committed my first theft and began the journey within the Thieves Guild

It is, however, saddening that complacency will undoubtedly set in and every new item found will ultimately evoke nothing more than a cursory raise of the eyebrow or slight upturn of the mouth. Worse still is that every kill will eventually pass over the subconscious like the cooling breeze on a warm day that you’re unaware of until it subsides. The romantic in me forces me to continue on regardless, rather than immediately brush my old love aside for something new that may or may not be worth the risk but the fact remains that, while the thrill and excitement of the new game may be an incredible rush at first, this soon fades into obscurity and we are, once again, simply going through the motions.

Considering the number of years that I’ve been dabbling with gaming, I would have difficulty naming more than perhaps five games which stick in my mind as far as being noticeably excited by that first playthrough is concerned. For the most part, games will come and go with nothing more than a polite peck on the cheek or the odd stolen glance here and there, but now and again we’re lucky to find ourselves captivated by one that not only checks all of the boxes, but also excites the senses and gives us a sense of unparalleled immersion. When connections such as these are made, who are we to deny ourselves the excitement of a roll in the hay? While the love itself may not last forever, it is our right and privilege to indulge in a few stolen moments while that sensory intoxication allows.

Last five articles by Mark R



  1. Rook says:

    It’s only within the last year or so that I’ve heard people talk of UFO: Enemy Unknown or Xcom, how I have never heard these names before I will never know. There are many games that I can recall playing but only a few left me with such a range of emotions after completing the came, mostly in the form of love for the game. I’ve always had my top 5 games played on the original Xbox but only two all time favourite games because of how much I loved them (The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time and Resident Evil 4). Thinking about it I would probably be safe to add Portal to the short list as a game that just made me love it. Although Braid was another game worthy of attention. The memories of those games still make me smile and I’m glad that they have been part of my gaming life.

  2. Samuel The Preacher says:

    X-COM Agent Bumface? Really? Such a wonderfully evocative and well written piece, and you had to insert some crude humour somewhere… heh.

    I’m trying to think of something constructive to say, but mostly I’m just nodding in agreement, as UFO and Oblivion are two games I’ve spent a lot of time with, UFO especially being very close to my heart. I play more games than you do, on an order of magnitude, and in more diverse genres, but those special games still stand out when they come along, and get played much more, and for much longer, than the others.

    Fallout 3 is another one. It’s only been out 2 years, but I’m just starting my third character, and I can see me playing it even longer than Oblivion.

  3. Lee says:

    @Preach I still havent seen all of fallout after 100+ hours and
    “I would have difficulty naming more than perhaps five games which stick in my mind as far as being noticeably excited by that first playthrough”
    mine are
    “mass effect 2″
    “GTA IV”

  4. Richie Richie says:

    Usually the great games initially overwhelm me. Oblivion was a case in point. A great game but the beginning was a mess of sewers, that Star Trek guy and statistics. As is usual, it was after a while playing the game that the realisation set in that this was something awesome.

    Resi 4 was a tad more direct tho.

    Great read, Mark.

  5. Lorna Lorna says:

    Oblivion took my breath away and was the game which drew me into getting a 360, finally. Those true love moments are few and far between, but often I find that it isn’t always the game, but the things going on in my life at the time and the other memories which they were a sort of background to that often causes the greatest emotional attachments.

    Mirror’s Edge had me at the first jump, Oblivion at seeing Mark bartering in the Imperial City….Dungeon Keeper at slapping my first Dark Mistress and hearing her moan…

  6. Samuel The Preacher says:

    Oblivion was the first (and for a few months only) game I had for my 360 too. Thinking about it in that light, that game changed the whole way I play games, quite dramatically.

  7. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    Oblivion changed gaming for me too, oddly enough. I was always an RTS player up until that point, with the odd dabble here and there in various sim/theme games and I was surprised at how much I took to Oblivion. I’d previously played Morrowind and, while I really enjoyed it, I never found myself diving in as deep as I did with Oblivion.

    Playing Red Dead Redemption last night was a similar “first time” experience for me though, as I hate westerns and hate shooters… but found myself really getting into RDR and was sad to have to put it away for the night.

    BTW… Agent Bumface came from flickr… I didn’t take those screenshots myself, mine were always named after characters from TV shows except for my own character that I’d try to build up to commander :)

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