In 1998 I was 13. Developing into an awkward, nerdy teenager. Embarking on a new journey in a new “big boy” school, and surrounded by pubescent friends who were at various stages of donning facial hair accompanied by faces smeared by acne.

Back then, with whatever pocket money I had, I would buy the Official PlayStation Magazine, UK edition. Many years ago, when I moved out, I had to dump bags & bags worth of OPM & Edge magazines as they were pointlessly taking up space and had succumbed to water damage in my parents’ attic. Which is a crying shame. But somewhere in what is now my younger brothers bedroom is a CD case filled with demo discs.

Issue 42 of OPMUK

It’s on disc number 42 that we first got a glance at Metal Gear Solid in playable form. It’s hard to conceive of today, but back then demos were generous servings of the full game. Many people didn’t even buy full games because the demos satisfied them. It’s madness that it took until last year for Steam to re-introduce demos to their platform as a concept. Think of all the games you got a refund on because the end product didn’t match the marketing hype.

For about 30 minutes, you were engaged in the first big set piece in MGS. But the set piece, main character (Solid Snake), messages on your codec from channel 140.96, and the espionage-driven story were just icing on a very packed cake.

For me, the thing that takes me back isn’t even the hiding-in-a-box mechanic. It’s the music and audio cues and overall polish. Echoing footsteps, moisture coming from your breath in the cold, the camera shifting depending on the scenario. It was all pretty amazing and heralded the new technology we had in our hands.

The other big thing is the audio. Lots of dialogue, even when you repeatedly dial the codec. And the little audio cues when you use your menu to select a weapon, ammo and gadgets foreshadowed (to some extent), the smartphone era almost 10 years later.

The lore and history of MGS and the series that came after is pretty well documented. And lauded in the annals of history, quite rightly. Kojima and his team had built something spectacular in MGS. Something confusing, exciting and pushing the boundaries of the technology of the day. Not a single school playground was bereft of conversation around the next chapter in MGS as kids raced to progress through the story in the limited, parent-inflicted term limit on game time.

For many, that initial MGS is what made us fall in love with video games as an entertainment medium.