While the 1980s are often hailed as when video gaming exploded into the mainstream, it could be argued that it was the rise of consoles and handheld devices in the 1990s that truly gave the industry its footing. With the Nintendo 64, Game Boy and PlayStation headlining, it was an exhilarating time.

Those born in the late-80s and 90s will have essentially grown up with the home gaming market, seeing it through its pains and ill-advised trends before it became a goliath throughout the 00s. While there’s a lot to fondly remember about the 90s-00s in gaming, here are a few experiences that helped to shape what it meant to play games in this golden era.

Playing your part in the fantasy community

It’s impossible to understate the cultural significance of World of Warcraft in the 00s. With internet connections and PCs becoming much more accessible, millions of people would pile in to play their own RPG adventures as a community. One of its greatest legacies was the infamous Corrupted Blood Pandemic, which CyberGhost named among the funniest bugs in gaming history. 

When this took hold, a virus-like debuff set to last for a few seconds in a set area spread across the maps of World of Warcraft. Some saw it as an uber-challenge, delving into the infected zones to battle with the debuff, while others would still come online, but only to self-isolate so that the virus didn’t spread further.

Being such a wildly popular game at the time (this instance well into the noughties, in September 2005), in 2020, researchers referred to the data found from this WoW event to study behavioural patterns. Made more enjoyable by being an MMORPG, perhaps the most fondly remembered aspect of the community occurrences was the Barrens Chat, which had everyone on the side of Horde mashing together comments, jokes, commands, and the like on one huge map, the Barrens.

Suddenly let loose to be the worst possible person

A lot of games were about challenges, puzzles, and skill in the late 90s and 00s, with you being tasked to beat the game and its various scenarios. Then came Grand Theft Auto, a sequel, GTA II, GTA: Vice City, and then, in 2004, GTA: San Andreas. In each game, after some intro missions, you could suddenly do whatever you wanted.

It was a somewhat strange revelation at the time which became more enjoyable with each new game. While just about every ranking like this one from DigitalTrends puts GTA V in the top spot, for the RPG elements, gang zones, ability to get buff, and freedom to rampage, one of the 00s GTAs has to be on top for most 90s kids.

Modern developers know how much time was spent in these earlier games just roaming around terrorising and going as far as the hearts could keep you going. So, they’re a bit more designed to cater to these self-imposed side quests, which doesn’t make them as fun as they once were.

The much-missed days of try before you buy
With so many games only being sold on digital stores, refund policies being dubious (if not nonexistent), and the top games costing £70-odd, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that 90s kids miss the days of demo discs. By switching from cartridges to discs, as Google details in this piece, Sony could make better quality games and more of them.

To increase the accessibility to the ever-surging PlayStation and its wildly successful successor, the PlayStation 2, Sony would release hundreds of demo discs. Often in dedicated magazines but also sometimes to stores to give out, demo discs were the gateway to so many games that otherwise would have been passed by for 90s kids.

It was a grand time to be into gaming, and of all of the great experiences that came from being a 90s kid in this era, online fantasy communities, rampages, and demo discs stand out as being very fondly remembered.