by L.W. Barker
The SEGA of my childhood was a great company and the single competitor to the “Big N” aka Nintendo. This is my personal history of SEGA in the years before Sony and when Nintendo ruled the World!
I worked for the summer at Woolworth’s department store in Brooklyn, New York City (NYC) with one goal in mind—to acquire enough cash to buy the SEGA Master System. I worked that store for a few weeks, stocking merchandise and cutting up boxes on the sales floor and down in the basement level. It was hard work for a teenager, but I did it and quit after a few paychecks—walking out of Macy’s that year with my SEGA Master System in hand.
Many games came afterward —as gifts from my parents and through trades which I did at various pawn shops around town. Thus games such as ‘Alex Kidd,’ and ‘Double Dragon’ gave me hours of enjoyment.
I wasn’t doing too well in High school in 1988, so my parents shipped me off to an Adventist boarding school (I’m not Adventist by the way), located in the mountains of Pennsylvania. Blue Mountain Academy (BMA) brought its own unique tales and adventures that I will save for another time, but I was known to many at this school as “SEGA Master” because I was seemly a video game ace, especially with games from SEGA.
I returned to NYC in 1989 after only a year at BMA, and just in time for the release of the SEGA Genesis. I made a lot of trips to Macy’s Electronics Department just to see this new 16-Bit console in action—and the game,“Altered Beast” was its highlight.
I had to have this new system, so I quickly got a job at Alexander’s Department Store which was located in the concourse level of 1 World Trade Center. I worked on the sales floor while my little brother Andrew was learning the ropes of a first job as a stocker in the store’s basement level. I remember at lunch how we would compete on the ‘Burning Fight’ arcade game in the Cafeteria area of the store—fun times. I got my SEGA Genesis at the end of that year.
After two years of direct competition with my little brother, Shaun, who was at that time a fanboy of Nintendo, and my friend Sharrod aka ‘Tick’ who was kicked out the house by yours truly for insulting my Genesis and being a pesty Nintendo “fanboy”, I indulged even deeper into gaming.
1991 was also the year that I returned a survey card to SEGA of America that asked candidates to name their new mascot. I looked at the picture of the blue hedgehog with sneakers and wrote down “Sonic” . Now whether my card was the one that gave Sonic the Hedgehog his name, or if it was one of literally thousands cards with that name written is debatable—but I will always be thankful to SEGA for allowing me to provide them with my input.
In December 1992, I left NYC for Lackland Air Force Base, Texas for Basic Military Training. I packed everything I owned to include my Sega Genesis and its games. However, this bag of personal items which linked me back to the real world confiscated on arrival, so I had to do without my games for 6 weeks while I trained to become an Airman in the United States Air Force.
I completed basic training in February 1993. Graduation night was unique—-a few of my peers decided to break curfew and venture over to the female dorms to celebrate with them. Well, they were quickly caught by a our Training Instructor (T.I.), and he brought friends—I was horrified when one of the T.I.s picked up my bag full of games, opened it and held my SEGA Genesis over his head making throwing motions as he yelled at not only the culprits, but at all of us to include me, who was asleep only a few minutes before. Thankfully he placed the console back in my bag and put it back in place—but the culprits—their punishment was another 2 weeks of basic training.
I was flown to Biloxi, Mississippi the next morning to Keesler AFB to start my career-field education. I had to be in uniform for the first few weeks in Tech School, however, SEGA and its new CD peripheral for the Genesis overruled that. I sneaked off base one night—dressed in my civies—taking the bus to the local mall to buy the SEGA CD and its first game, ‘Sonic Adventure’ which gave the Genesis spectacular speech and video—a clear technological advancement for that period of time.
SEGA released its Saturn which I never bought. And even though it was a financial flop for SEGA, I regret not having gotten it to this day. Perhaps, one day I will.
I bought what is still considered to be SEGA’s best system, the Dreamcast in 1999. And with it game the short-lived SEGANET feature which allowed for games to be played online via the console’s 56K modem. I also acquired a ton of games for the Dreamcast—‘Blue Stinger’, ‘Crazy Taxi’, ‘Ecco the Dolphin’, ‘Resident Evil 2’, and ‘Shenmue’ just to name a few. I was recently given ‘WWF Royale Rumble’ a few years ago and its now in my collection.
I’m now a military retiree having served 20+ years in the USAF. I’m also the founder and CEO of Gamer’s Outpost.net . However with these accomplishments, I’ve often wondered if SEGA will ever return to the console market. The public image of SEGA shows that they are doing well as a software developer, but I would personally like for them to one day return to doing hardware—just one more console to satisfy this fanboy of SEGA!