Monday, July 8 is National Video Game Day! While this may conjure images of geeks eating chips and drinking soda in their Mom’s basement, video games have transcended the stereotypes associated with them to become a pastime that all ages can enjoy regardless of sex or race.
My first memories of encountering video games are of my father bringing home one of the early versions of Pong. This “console” also came with a light gun rifle for shooting the little cursor on the screen. While the game eventually lost interest for most of the family, that light gun rifle featured prominently in many imaginary space battles for me as a child.
That certainly wasn’t the end of course, within a short period of time later, the Atari system came out and my obsession with video games became complete. I played Adventure, Pitfall, Yars’ Revenge, Asteroids and many others until my thumb was nearly black and blue from being wrapped around the joystick controller. I was jealous of friends that had Intellivision or ColecoVision systems that had games not available on Atari. When the Genesis came out, I was back big into hockey, so NHL ‘93 was of course a much-played game. PlayStation saw me introduced to the first Resident Evil (the zombie dogs coming through the window caused me to have to go change my underpants!), and of course with the Xbox, it was Halo.
Over the years, I’ve owned all kinds of systems, NES, Sega Genesis, PlayStation, Xbox, Xbox 360, along with computers “gaming” systems like the Commodore Vic 20 and Commodore 64. The Ultima titles and the “gold box” Dungeon & Dragons games were my favorites on the Commodore 64. I spent many a sleepless night, trying to achieve full avatarhood in Ultima IV or trying to beat Tyranthraxus in the final fight of Pool of Radiance. I’d already been playing pencil and paper D&D for a while, so these games just helped fuel that love as well, seeing the mechanics come to life and imagining the personalities that I had for my virtual heroes.
As I grow older, and the next generations in my family get into playing video games, it’s a great way to connect with them, talking about what they are playing and seeing their expressions when I talk about how games didn’t look and play like that when I was a kid. I reminisce with my daughter about being scolded by my wife for letting her watch me play Resident Evil 2 on the PlayStation when she was 7 years old (she’s fine, she’s fine, therapy took care of everything ).
While I still have the consoles, and occasionally I break them out for the kids, nieces and nephews to remind them of how far video games have come, these days I’m mostly a PC gamer. I’m playing things like League of Legends and yes, I still play World of Warcraft on occasion (I started playing from launch, took a hiatus for a few years after Cataclysm, but recently came back (still debating whether I’ll play Vanilla WoW).
I found all those old Ultima and D&D games from various sources and one of these days, I’m going to plow through all of them again. And when I do, I’m sure the memories will come rushing back and I’ll be transported back to when I was 13 years old, sitting in my Mom’s basement, drinking Mt. Dew and trying to find a way to successfully defend Silvanesti from the Dragon Highlord armies in War of the Lance.
Here are some other great video game stories from our other team members:
Meagan-BBY: “My boyfriend plays Smash Bros competitively, and one time I beat him, my lifelong gamer roommate, and 3 computer opponents in a free-for-all. I don’t consider myself a gamer, but this is my proudest moment, and I take every opportunity to remind my boyfriend of this. (I was playing Yoshi, BTW)”
Cameron-BBY: “Some of my favorite video game moments were when I was about 2-4 years old watching my mom and dad play the original PlayStation with games like Crazy Taxi, Frogger, Q-Bert, and Driver. Good times ”
KennyB-BBY: “I have a son who’s kind of stubborn. We tried to get him interested in reading around the time he was 3-and-a-half years old, but he didn’t seem to have much interest in it until the day I started playing Final Fantasy X with him. He got frustrated because he couldn’t follow along with the story, so he took it upon himself to fix that problem. He asked for and received learning help, and was reading all the words by the time he was 4 years old. Thanks, Yevon!”
Karina-BBY: “My middle child got a Nintendo 2DS over the holiday. During the school year, I am very strict on the screen time that she has, and I often hide the Nintendo away from her. (Yes, I know, I am that kind of mom) However, now that the school year has ended, I have allowed her more freedom to access technology, and this includes the Nintendo 2DS.
The other night, she was having a hard time passing a level of Kirby. Please understand that I didn't grow up playing Kirby, my favorite video games include Mario or Zelda. Therefore, I couldn't help my daughter pass the level that she so desperately wanted to because I had never played Kirby before. In an attempt to help, I decided to start a new game, and learn how to play. Three levels later, I found myself with a sore thumb and all alone. I was so busy playing that I hadn't noticed my daughter had gone to bed, and it way past my bedtime. Also, the battery had died . However, I’m very excited to have the video game abilities to help my daughter with any future Kirby video game dilemmas.”
Fey-BBY: “I love playing storytelling, puzzle, and high-fantasy role playing games. I’ve played video game on a variety of platforms (my earliest console being a hand-me-down Atari 2600). Looking back through the years, the thing that astounds me the most is how much games have turned into an immersive, experiential way to tell a story. I’m a big fan of pen and paper RPGs, and love imagining my characters finding their ways through fantastical worlds, conquering challenges, and solving problems. I feel that video games allow me to experience someone else’s fantastical world.
When I think back on the games that I have played in recent years, there is one that sticks out as being an emotionally significant growth moment in my life. Like many others, I’ve felt loss, love, along with complicated and strained relationships within my family, and things had reached a point that I needed to start making some difficult decisions. This process and reflection of my own familial relationships left me questioning if I should even consider growing my newly formed family with my significant other. You may be surprised to learn that, after years of processing thoughts and emotions, and continuously reassessing relationships, I found great comfort in a puzzle game called Unravel.
On the surface, Unravel appears to be a beautifully composed puzzle game, but it is so much more. In the game, you are navigating a yarn doll (aptly named “Yarny”) through different challenges, trying to get Yarny from the start of the chapter to the end of the chapter without running out of yarn. As you work your way through the chapters of the game, you begin to uncover moments and memories from the family that made and played with Yarny. The animations, music, and environments add a high level of emotional understanding to these moments. I should also mention that this is all achieved with minimal-to-no written or verbal language, as the game was intentionally designed to be enjoyed by people all over the world. When I finished the game, and got to the end credits, a message appeared that made me feel less alone and hopeful for the future. I’m pretty sure I cried for at least an hour straight. It’s truly amazing the kind of connections you can make by playing games.
Love forms bonds, like strands of yarn.
Like yarn, those bonds can be fragile, or get all tangled.
But when they’re kept and cared for, they can bridge any distance.”
What are some of your favorite video game moments? Let us know in the comments below.