Well, its Valentine’s Day. Or, as may of us refer to it, Tuesday. If you’ve got a special someone, then enjoy them, and if you don’t, let’s not be bitter. There’s plenty of love in the world, even if its not for another sentient being, or expressed by flowers, chocolates, or genitals.
In the spirit of shared love and joy in the world today, I thought I’d share with you a few things I adore about our domain, video games, and why it is that we continue to spend our lives devoted to our fickle digital lover.
Video games, how do we love thee? Let us count the ways…
5. Nostalgia – This is probably something that some won’t understand, its a feeling that has been cultivated in older gamers over time, but with each passing system generation, it infects more and more of us. Its funny how when a system is replaced by the next generation, for a few years, it seems old and clunky… but you get a system two generations back, its retro, charming, classic.
Each of those past generations now offers its own particular history, its own feelings. All the way back to the Atari, I remember sitting in my Uncle’s room, slowly developing skills, playing games like Yar’s Revenge and Pitfall with naught but a joystick and a single button. My Uncle was so good at them, by comparison, he’d whip my ass at every game we played.
Nintendo and the Super Nintendo defined my childhood. It was a time when new complexities were being found in game programming. There were so, so many bad games but the good ones that prevailed, they created a game culture that became something indelible and enduring. The smell of a freshly opened cartridge still makes me feel… exhilarated.
Unique to the older gamers is the experience of the Arcade, those towering coin-ops that seemed so powerful at the time. Arcades still exist today, but are more rare, and not as regularly visited. There was a unique culture in the arcades of the 80′s, those dim, neon pleasure palaces, filled with bleeps and bloops of Donkey Kong, of R-Type, of Street Fighter II.
The nostalgia created by the games of this era are a powerful thing. The franchises that began then still continue today, with endless sequels of Mario, Mega Man, and Castlevania persisting on into eternity. The success of such web shows as The Angry Video Game Nerd, where thousands tune in just to watch fellow nerds play games of the 80′s and 90′s.
And in a few years, our childhoods will be farther away, but still we shall visit them still through pipe warps and magic whistles, just as the generations after mine will continue to cast pokeballs and go to lands uncharted in the time thereafter.
4. The Music – Its still amazing to me how the sounds of video games grew into its own tremendous musical influence. Its especially prevalent in electronic music but even beyond that, electric synthesizers are often used to enhance music, and their sounds often mimic those found in video games. But heck, why not? The best games often featured composers who obviously cared about their creations, and sought to create something memorable. Oh, and did they ever. What could have been simple, throwaway sound mash-ups for kids instead became complex, beautiful loops of pulse-pounding electric orchestra; sounds that stay with many a gamer to this day. Quickman’s level from Mega Man 2, for instance, haunts me often… I can feel the heat off of those damn orange laser things…
And as games have gotten bigger, so have their scores. Now many have moved into more mature realms, with real orchestras, huge compositions, symphonies coming down from the heavens. And so many of those old scores have been adapted from their digital mediums to classical instruments by dedicated enthusiasts. Lindsey Stirling, who’s music we featured the other day (and who will soon be joining us as a special guest!) is just one of many who devote a bit of their musical talent to playing tribute to these timeless melodies.
3. The Characters- The fact that I can show you THIS, and you know exactly what that is just goes to show you how amazing the imagination of game creators has been over the years. We all have our favorites, and for sure, there have been some terrible characters, but I think the success rate has been higher, and more memorable, than, say, TV shows. I can name more video game characters than I can 80′s cartoon characters… and I love me some 80′s cartoons.
But its true, we’ve gone on some incredible journeys with the cast and crew of video games, and fought off some amazing villains. From a simple plumber to a little blue hedgehog, and even a bevvy of faceless nurses, the characters who inhabit the gaming sandbox have somehow managed to become our friends. Its like Labyrinth or something, with them living in our brain and coming out when we need to be perked up. They are a pantheon of ageless heroes, traveling with us for the last 20+ years.
2. The Adventure – Related to #3, we have to remember why it is that we adore those characters so much. Its the escape, the grand adventure they take us on. Gaming was born in nerd culture, a world where, lets face it, we’re not always the coolest cats in the world. When the real world seems dark and grim, when the ladies didn’t pay enough attention, or bullies paid to much, it was the Mushroom Kingdom, or Hyrule, or any other place where the President’s daughter had been kidnapped by ninja-pirate-robots, that we fled in order to fill our banal adolescent lives with adventure.
Mega Man and Castlevania, no secret, were among my greatest escapes. I think the real connecting moment for me, though, was Chrono Trigger. That was the transcendent moment where I, through the blank-slate alias of Crono, felt real immersion in a world, and real emotional moments through the trials and eventual victories of the supporting cast. Its was well written, and fun, and unlike a movie, the resolution of the story was entirely by my own hands.
Though the means of the games have changed in many ways, the purpose of them remains the same. Its more than just idle passtime, video games are our way of going into worlds we’d never be able to see, of accomplishing things we think we’d never do otherwise. Books are a way of doing this too, and a very important part of my development as well… but with books, I’m a follower. Video Games make you feel like a doer.
1.Other Gamers – Its a love/hate relationship, really. I look on game forums sometimes and just shake my head. Why do we troll so much? Why are we so angry?
Despite the strange attitude of our online community, I’ve met some amazing friends via gaming, some of which, of course, are the other fine folks here at Padinga. I’ve always said that my favorite aspect of gaming is the social one. Now, it may seem odd because I’m generally a solo gamer. But, at the same time, I’m able to take my love of gaming and throw it into conversations with new people. We trade stories, find common bonds, sometimes play some multi-player.
While I love the characters of video games, and carry them with me sometimes like some sort of imaginary friend, or a costume I sometimes don in odd games of pretend (I drive like Spy Hunter, after all), its the real life friends I’ve made through the years that have been the real reward for my gaming, the longest lasting, most giving part of that world.
So, there you have it. Happy Valentine’s everyone! Feel the love… I SAID FEEL IT!