GDGT Stories: Philendra’s Return to Gaming After 20 Years

In today's GDGT Stories, we feature Philendra's triumphant return to gaming after twenty years and explore his collection.

Vivek Philendra  •  August 17, 2020

GDGT Stories: Philendra’s  Return to Gaming After 20 Years
GDGT Stories?

You guys have been such a huge support to us since the very beginning and that’s why we’ve come up with our latest initiative, GDGT Stories, to give back to our fans. In GDGT Stories, we feature the real fan stories of real people. We don’t just restrict it to gaming stories, rather we feature all the true stories of gaming, gadgets and tech enthusiasts, where the passion for it has made an impact and had an influence your life.

In our first ever GDGT Stories feature, we we take a look at how this passion has influenced Philendra’s life, and explore his game collection.

GDGT Stories: Philendra Thachilath Returns to Gaming After 20 Years
GDGT Stories – Philendara Thachilath
GDGT Stories: Featured Gamer & His Collection

Firstly, we take a look at his impressive collection of gaming consoles, which ranges from the fourth generation SEGA Mega Drive 2 to the latest Sony PlayStation 4. The following are the contents of his collection:

GDGT Stories: Philendra Returns to Gaming After 20 Years
GDGT Stories – SEGA Mega Drive 2 (fourth generation)
  • 2 x SEGA Mega Drive 2 consoles with 10 game cartridges and Sonic & Knuckles lock-on adapter, and 4 controllers
  • 3 x six button control pads
  • 1 x PAD-GA controller
  • 1 x Pegasus MT-786DX bootleg console
GDGT Stories: Philendra Returns to Gaming After 20 Years
Nintendo 64 (5th Generation)
  • 2x Nintendo 64 consoles with 22 game cartridges (including The Legend of Zelda Majora’s Mask special edition gold cartridge), 2 cheat cartridges, and 2 controllers
  • 1x Nintendo 64 Rumble Pak
  • 1x GameShark for Nintendo 64
  • 1x GameShark Pro for Nintendo 64
GDGT Stories: Philendra Returns to Gaming After 20 Years
Sony PlayStation (fifth generation)
  • 3 x Sony PlayStation consoles (one Monaco Grand Prix Racing Simulation 2 limited edition console) with 34 game discs, 3 controllers and 1x 128 KiB PlayStation memory card
GDGT Stories: Philendra Returns to Gaming After 20 Years
SEGA Dreamcast (sixth generation)
  • 2x SEGA Dreamcast consoles 
GDGT Stories: Philendra Returns to Gaming After 20 Years
Sony PlayStation Portable (seventh generation)
  • 1x Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP-3004)
GDGT Stories: Philendra Returns to Gaming After 20 Years
Microsoft Xbox 360 (seventh generation)
  • 1 x Xbox 360 Slim with Kinect, 28 game discs and 2 controllers
GDGT Stories: Philendra Returns to Gaming After 20 Years
Sony PlayStation 4 (8th generation)
  • 1 x Sony PlayStation 4 Slim with 1 game disc and 2 controllers

Now let us take a look at how this passion has influenced his life:

How were you first introduced to video games, and how did it grow as a passion?

When I was young, my father used to work in Oman while I lived in India with my mother and sister. One summer in the late 70s, my father had come home during his vacation as he did every year. This year he had a gift for me, a large orange box, little did I know that this large box would change my life forever. That was my very first video-game console: the Atari Home Pong.

GDGT Stories: Philendra Returns to Gaming After 20 Years
Atari Pong
Image credit: Erik Klooster

At a time where TVs were still a novelty, I was fascinated by what we could do with these plastic boxes. They were wonderous and a great pass of time, even though there wasn’t much variety at the time. My cousin, Shilov was my closest friend and he too had grown fond of it; we spend a lot of time playing together.

A few years later my dad had gifted me a Casio watch, which could play small games on its tiny screen. It became my favourite thing almost instantly and I used to wear it everywhere. I used to play on it quite often, until one day my teacher at school caught me playing during class and confiscated it. 

GDGT Stories: Philendra Returns to Gaming After 20 Years
Casio GD-8
Image credit: Reddit (u/casiomelody)

During the 80s, my uncle Shiva used to travel a lot around the world. He knew about my passion for video games and he used to play games himself for a brief number of years. He bought the Nintendo Famicom and the SEGA Mega Drive 2 for me during his trips to Japan. The 80s was truly a golden decade and I loved playing games like Duck Hunt and Contra with my cousins who were also equally passionate about it as I was. The games in this decade were more complex than the ones in the 70s and I knew that video games were only going to get bigger in the next decade.

GDGT Stories: Philendra Returns to Gaming After 20 Years
Nintendo Family Computer
Image credit: Wikipedia

During the early 90s, I had met with an accident that rendered me bedridden for five months and, the doctor had advised me not to participate in physical activities for the rest of the year. I wanted to do so many things but I was completely dependent on others during this period and I felt really helpless because I couldn’t do even the most menial of tasks on my own. During this time, games really came to my rescue and provided a sort of therapeutic comfort to me, that helped ease the healing period and helped me maintain my mental health.

So I guess how I discovered video games was through family, and I’ve got to thank my father and my uncle for helping me sustain my interest and passion for this wonderful medium.

Which gaming platform is your favourite and the one most special to you?

I’ve always been a console gamer because I’ve felt more comfortable using a controller over a keyboard and mouse, and I liked the idea of gaming on the largest screen in the house. Quite naturally, console is my favourite gaming platform. My most special console is the Sony PlayStation. 

In 1995, I had left India to work in Oman and worked at the Muscat Municipality. One weekend I walked into the Muscat Electronics showroom in Ruwi, they were the distributors of Sony at the time. I saw a demo playing on the TV and thought that it was the trailer of an upcoming movie, I was mind-blown when I figured out that it was the PlayStation in action, that’s how lifelike it’s graphics were compared to other games at the time. The innovative technology of disc-based games allowed games with superior graphics and bigger stories to be produced due to it being able to hold a larger quantity of data compared to cartridges. This was unlike anything I’ve seen before and unsurprisingly, it cost a fortune to me who had just started his first entry-level job. I used to go to the showroom every week just to see it, I couldn’t stop thinking about it and dreaming of the day that I could own one.

GDGT Stories: Philendra Returns to Gaming After 20 Years
Fan Stories: Philendra Returns to Gaming After 20 Years
Image credit: Game Manual

Two months later, my colleague Sulaiman Al Abri was in urgent need of cash and was looking to sell his PlayStation that he had bought just a little over a month ago. I still couldn’t afford even a second-hand PlayStation but I wanted one really bad. I paid him half the money immediately and paid him the rest over the course of the year. I couldn’t believe that I actually had the most advanced video game system at my house, I pinched myself multiple times to make sure that I wasn’t dreaming. I was on cloud nine the first time I set it up with my TV and heard the startup sound.

A couple of years later I got a job at Philips and was able to buy the Nintendo 64 and Gamecube at launch, however, nothing else came closer to the gaming experience on PlayStation. I had formed a community of other gamers and we met every weekend playing together. I was a very dedicated gamer, and back then when we got stuck somewhere, we really did get stuck. We had to rely on each other or wait for next month’s issue of a gaming magazine to read a walkthrough guide. They were certainly different times.

Throughout the years, my uncle used to get me games during his travel so I had access to games way before they launched in the Middle East. He had also gifted me a Nintendo 64 and a rare Sony PlayStation Monaco Grand Prix Racing Simulation 2 limited edition console that he bought from abroad. I even remember ordering wireless controllers for the PlayStation with his help back then! The Tomb Raider trilogy, Tekken 3 and Need for Speed were my favourite games.

I got married in 1999 and understandably my priorities changed. I didn’t game as much anymore, it became something that I did only during the weekends. Although I did significantly reduce my gaming time, a year later I was forced to make a difficult choice: my wife or my games. You can probably guess what my choice was. Half-heartedly, I packed my consoles and games safely and declared an early retirement from gaming. It still has a special place in my heart because it is the first console I bought with my own hard-earned money.

What was your relationship with gaming after 2000? Was it still an important part of your life?

Even though I stopped gaming after 2000, it was still a part of me. Unfortunately, my wife and I both lost our jobs in 2003 and we had to return to India suddenly. A lot of my games were still with my friends who had borrowed them, but I wasn’t in a position to go get those from them. I lost a lot of my old gaming related stuff including consoles, games and accessories during transit and that was really heartbreaking.

I shifted to Dubai in 2003 and by now the PlayStation 2 had taken the world by storm while my PlayStation was still gathering dust in my house. The gaming scene was different here as compared to Oman. Dubai was more advanced and hence all the major releases came here first before other countries in the Middle East, and was also more accessible. I couldn’t get back into gaming no matter how bad I wanted to, and I was starting to accept that. Even though I didn’t game anymore, I got another Gamecube and a PlayStation at flea market here for next-to-nothing.

When my son turned two, he pointed to the dust-covered package on top of the cupboard and asked me what it was. For the first time in years, I decided to take my PlayStation out and set it up once again just for old times’ sake. I taught my son how to use the controller and he was a true natural, he seemed to be picking it up very quickly. I saw the same joy in his eyes when he played his first game as I did when I played my first one, and that’s the moment that I knew that I had passed it on to him.

GDGT Stories: Philendra Returns to Gaming After 20 Years
Image credit: The Telegraph

When the PlayStation Portable came out it was a truly remarkable device, you could essentially play console games on-the-go and my son longed for it more than anything. It reminded me of myself when I first discovered the PlayStation. It wasn’t something we could afford at the time, so I started saving up money, and got it for him a few years later. The joy on his face when we gifted it to him on his birthday was priceless. He really took great care of it and handled it with utmost care, the respect he had for this equipment really made me happy. His interest for gaming only grew as years went by.

The PSP was great but I did see the need for a home console, my daughter was taking an interest in gaming too and they couldn’t play together on it. Gaming had gathered prejudice and the stereotypes that all gamers are obese and socially awkward were everywhere. The Wii really helped shift the narrative by offering family-friendly multi-player games and when the Kinect for Xbox 360 launched in 2010 it was the perfect device for us. It could play all the major titles, as well as had great games that helped the whole family stay fit. My son played seriously on this console and his preferences as a gamer became more concrete throughout the years. I watched his development and grew content, it reminded me of a part of myself that I had long forgotten.

What led to your gaming revival twenty years later? What has changed in the course of the past two decades?

Due to the pandemic all of us were confined in our houses due to the lockdown restrictions and we were all stressed out about our jobs and had nothing to do. My son was all in with gaming and had just recently got a job in the field. He had been trying to get me back into gaming for a while now and I didn’t have any excuses this time. He compelled me to give it one more shot and I decided to try out a game to calm my nerves.

I wanted to start with something small first so that it didn’t get too overwhelming and to get familiarized with the controls. The first game I played was Tekken 7, I beat the main campaign in a day and I felt as if a dormant volcano was slowly coming back to life inside me. I was now comfortable with the controls and wanted more. Naturally, I wanted to play as my favourite character, Lara Croft. I decided to play the first game in the Tomb Raider reboot trilogy. When I saw the credits of that game rolling, I felt more alive than I had in the past twenty years. Now I was all in! 

GDGT Stories: Philendra Returns to Gaming After 20 Years
Tomb Raider 2013
Image credit: New Game Plus

I guess it’s true what they say, once you’re a gamer you’ll always be one regardless of whether you take a break of two years or twenty years. The moment you pick up the controller again, you’ll feel right back at home.

Philendra Thachilath

I caught up with my cousins, we had a lot to catch up on since I missed out on almost three generations worth of games. I’ve made a huge list of games that I want to play and taken a couple of suggestions from my friends and family. I’ve played a couple of games these past few months, and even though my favourite is still Tomb Raider, a series that I’ve most enjoyed in the recent times is Uncharted (I highly recommend it if you haven’t tried it out before). I love just how cinematic games have gotten now.

The first difference I noticed is how big the production value has gotten for games as compared to twenty years ago. The quality of games, whether it’s the life-like visuals, gameplay, audio quality or voice acting have improved significantly. Games have gotten a lot more mainstream over the years and more normalized than it was during the 90s. It has gotten a lot more accessible now, whether it’s the games itself or information regarding them. Now new information drops almost every day rather than once a month and that changes everything. YouTube has definitely made a huge impact on gaming, it’s funny how people rush out to watch a gameplay the moment they get stuck somewhere during the game. A lot of modern gamers don’t realize that this wasn’t the case always. 

Lastly, gaming has become more of a social event now than it was before. There’s a huge emphasis on online multi-player that lets you make friends and stay connected with people around the world. That is perhaps the biggest change to have took place during the last two decades.

There’s a huge evolution in gaming in terms shift to digitalization with even a large majority of gamers opting for the digital-only version of future consoles. What are your thoughts regarding this?

I’ve got a sort of bitter-sweet feeling towards digitalization of games. On one hand, all of your games are safe and you’ll never end up losing or damaging them like the case with a huge chunk of my collection, but on the other hand as a collector, the happiness and satisfaction I get out of just simply looking at the physical copies will be absent in the case of digital purchases. Since games have to be installed to the system regardless of whether they are a physical or digital copy, it makes sense why most people prefer buying games digitally nowadays. The price drops for games during sale helps you save a significant amount of money, and that’s the reason most of my games on the PS4 are digital versions.

I think it’s great that console manufacturers are giving players the choice, but I think I’ll stick with physical copies for the sake of nostalgia. And having something tangible to remember by is just a wonderfully different feeling.

You have a truly impressive collection; do you ever plan on selling it?

People have advised me countless times to sell my collection off at an auction, but I do not ever intend to sell it. There are some things that money just can’t buy and these things are truly priceless to me. My collection is a part of my legacy and I know that it has already become a part of my children’s life too. I wish to pass these off to them, it is the very symbol of our bond and something that we both hold near to our hearts.

It was really great having you take us through your journey as a gamer. How can people reach out to you?

It was a pleasure being part of this, I’d like to thank everyone at GDGT for featuring my story. People can always reach out to me on Instagram or PSN @philendra.

GDGT Stories: Philendra Returns to Gaming After 20 Years
GDGT Stories – Philendra’s PSN

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