The original Resident Evil changed me, not just as a gamer but as a person.
By that, I mean it made me into a terrified wimp who doesn’t rise to a challenge. But would I change that for the world? No, not at all.
I remember it like it was a dream. A dream that filled my nightmares from the age of five upwards. My earliest memories of video games involved either being on my dad’s lap as he played on our old Windows 95 PC, or watching my cousins play their brand new PS1. I couldn’t have been older than six when I first saw that iconic FMV of the fully rendered zombie turn and face me; its cold, dead eyes searching deep into my soul.
I was so mesmerised I couldn’t look away, but I was shit-scared that I had to hide. That’s where I found my place for the next six years. Every Christmas, birthday or flying visit saw me cower behind my aunt’s sofa as I watched my cousins battle their way through the Spencer mansion and the streets of Raccoon City.
My parents must have realised that this game was making me and my brother borderline insane so banned us from watching. But my cousins, who I now realise were psychologically torturing me (but at the time, I thought they were the coolest), used to sneak us in and let us watch anyway. My brother would then totally blow the cover by leaving the room and informing our parents that no, of course we weren’t watching Resident Evil. Yeah, that fooled them!
Resident Evil had already had a massive impact on me before I’d ever even got to play it myself. Finally, once I turned 13, I was allowed to borrow the game and play it for myself. That box art still gives me the shivers me to this day.
I tried to play it, but blimey was it hard. There I was, a specky, spotty teenager, trying to navigate Jill Valentine like a tank while a pixelated block of brown and grey sauntered over to me. I just couldn’t do it. I was only really used to a handful of pre-owned PS2 titles in which the controls where firmly fixed in a way that felt natural. Gimli didn’t move like that in the video game version of Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. But worse than those tank controls was the unnatural level of fear that the game gave me. Turns out playing it myself was much scarier than watching my cousins play it.
I kept revisiting the game over the next few years, mainly with the same result. I never really did have the patience for it, but Resident Evil was always a game that I wanted to conquer. Knowing that, I packed it with me when I went to university, along with my hand-me-down huge CRT telly, so big it took two people to carry up to my flat. As luck would have it, my new next-door neighbours, Joe and Chris, turned out to be just as nerdy as me and naturally, we gravitated towards each other. When I told them that I’d got my original PlayStation with me, along with Resident Evil, that was it.
Finally, I had people who would provide the skills and perseverance to complete the damn game! I even ended up moving my TV out of my own flat into theirs, just so we could play for longer. We played all through the night sometimes, our gaming sessions supplying us with endless in-jokes and entertainment.
More than being just a game, Resident Evil led me to finding two of my best mates. The clunky controls meant we were always shouting at each other for being the worst, and those great puzzle elements meant we were always squabbling over where we should go and what we should do.
And that nail-biting suspense generated by the game meant that I finally found someone who was a bigger wuss than me: Joe, you are too easy to scare.
And so, it may have taken me way longer than it should to ever complete it, but few games have had the impact on me that Resident Evil had. It has given me a genuine love/hate relationship with survival horrors. Its difficulty, head-scratching puzzles and out-of-date control system (by the time I got to play it, at least) just meant there was even more for me to love. It’s a stand-out game of its generation; the suspense, the puzzles and the extraordinary so-bad-its-good dialogue (I’m looking at you, Barry) mean I’ll always have a special place in my heart for Resident Evil.
This article was originally posted in 2016.