Liana's Story - Toy Story 2: Infinite Possibilities

By Liana Ramos

The disk emitted a low hum while whirling within the PlayStation. The dull grey exterior of the hardware, controllers, and memory card appeared to be impossibly shiny and new. This was technology like I had never seen it before.

Being born in the mid-1990s, I saw video games in the beginning of its transitional stage, from the simplistic era of two-dimensional Pong from the 1970s to the advanced three-dimensional era of Gran Turismo from the 1990s. As a child, I had no idea where video games were heading in the future, but the present felt exciting. The first game I vividly remember playing was Toy Story 2: Buzz Lightyear to the Rescue, based on the popular Pixar film. I was beyond obsessed with the Toy Story franchise – the characters, the animation, the imaginative possibility that toys could come to life. On numerous occasions, I conducted experiments, leaving my living room full of toys, waiting a couple of moments, and sneakily peeking my head back in to see if my toys were having a secret meeting without me.

The thought of playing video games, a medium that was new to me and that I didn’t quite understand the mechanics of, was completely enticing. The entire game was spent being in charge of Buzz Lightyear, while he was on his quest to rescue his comrade and cowboy friend Woody from a new owner and certain doom. A thrilling narrative that mirrored the film almost exactly. 

There were fifteen levels, most of which had five goals for full completion – collecting fifty coins to give to Hamm, beating a mini-boss, winning a time-based race, collecting five of the same item, and solving a puzzle. Every couple of levels or so, there was a big boss fight that would drive myself into a terrified state – heart pounding and sweaty hands, hoping I could be a successful Space Ranger.

I loved this game unconditionally. I would often hum along to the soundtrack included with the gameplay. However, as I was young, this game was more difficult at times than I could bargain for. From beating mini-bosses to locating items, I was sometimes frustrated with the seemingly unsolvable tasks. This was when I would often ask for help from family members – voicing my unbearable frustration that I could not find the last of Bo Peep’s missing sheep.

I would receive help, but looking back, I don’t think it truly counted. Someone would take over for me, guiding Buzz through the locations, searching every nook and cranny for what I needed. Then they would go on to the next task and then the next level, occasionally passing the controller back to me for certain tasks.

During that time, there wasn’t a name for this new gameplay that people were engaging in. I realized during those times that not only did I enjoy playing video games, but that I also enjoyed watching people play video games. I reveled in watching the thought process of the player, thinking of my own strategies, and how there were sometimes instances when they did something that I hadn’t thought of to do.

In present day, I believe that this version of gameplay would be considered as the early days of “Let’s Plays” – before the invention of YouTube, before the constant uploading of walkthroughs, tutorials, and casual gameplay. There were people like me who simply enjoyed watching others play video games, in addition to playing them on their own.

This video game opened a whole other realm of infinite possibilities for me. One fateful day, while rummaging through the PlayStation section at Blockbuster, I came across a game called Harvest Moon: Back to Nature. I took it home, fell in love, and to this day, I still play additions to the series. I’ve fallen in love with a variety of games from ones as simple as Tetris to ones as marvelous as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Video games have impacted my life in ways that I hadn’t previously thought. I’ve built skills, made connections, and explored. Every once in a while, I remember that child and her PlayStation, indulging in the adventures of Toy Story 2: Buzz Lightyear to the Rescue, and think, “Wow, we’ve both come so far.”

What’s your gamer story? Share it with us here!