On Video Gaming

I grew up with Atari, playing Pong with my dad (the only game straightforward enough that he could tolerate); Pitfall with my sisters in the summer; Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, an incredibly hard game because nothing made much logical sense. I then moved onto Nintendo, of course, and would rent games at Blockbuster and try to beat them in the alloted 2 rental days. Super Mario Brothers, Blaster Master, Ninja Gaiden. I even admit to enjoying the electronic scores penned by Japanese game composers, sometimes purposely lingering on certain levels just so I could hear the theme replay a couple more times. Then I got the Super Nintendo when it came out, and fell in love with The Legend of Zelda, which even still today, this version is an amazing game.

In 8th grade (if I remember correctly), about to transition into High School, I made the decision to sell off my Super Nintendo and old Nintendo and all my games. I had decided that I was getting too old for playing video games. But then, The Legend of Zelda came out for Nintendo’s new system, the N64. And it was everything that I’d dreamed of a video game being up to that point: it was completely 3D, immersive, with a wonderfully imaginative world and accompanying storyline. In this game, for almost the first time, you truly felt like you were really in the game-world, an alternate universe where you could suspend your disbelief and explore at will. So of course, I had to give in and get me a N64, even if only for that game. Perfect Dark was another amazing game that came out for that system, with nearly endless replay value. I’ve never played a platform game since that I enjoyed quite as much as Perfect Dark. The ability to change all the settings for each level ensured that every game was new and always challenging, especially when you put the computer opponents’ intelligence at its highest.

I also was an afficionado of ID Software‘s computer games, starting with Wolfenstein 3D, on through Quake II. My friend and I would design levels for Doom II that were nearly impossible and we would get perfect at being able to beat them every time. In the dorms in college, I would play Quake II on-line and get slaughtered by people who had obviously been spending all their free time playing the game. Then at this point, computer games started getting much too high tech for my old computer, and I stopped playing them because I no longer was willing to upgrade.

But I kept up with Nintendo onto its next system, the Gamecube. Again, The Legend of Zelda was pretty amazing, trumping all other games of its time in terms of creating a world that fully immerses and engages the player. Metriod Prime also demonstrated why Nintendo is the best at making amazing games.

I have to admit, I’m pretty biased when it comes to video games. Nintendo has my undying loyalty. Remember when there was that whole Nintendo vs Sega bullshit? It was never even a real comparison in terms of well-made games–it was just advertizing blitz by Sega, pretending to be cool. Now Sega makes games for Nintendo. Nintendo is an easy target to pick on: they never put up much of a fight, choosing instead to quietly go about making amazing games and revolutionizing the industry at every step of the way. They also tend to be more “family-oriented” in terms of their game-making, meaning that they tend to work on immersive storytelling and imaginative worlds that all ages can relate to, rather than relying on excessive bloodshed and “coolness” to sell their systems. The whole debate about Sony or Microsoft vs Nintendo still seems like bullshit to me. The fact is that Nintendo makes the best games. Period. Which is not to say that 3rd parties can’t make good games. But the best games, The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Bros, Metroid, etc–every new game in the Nintendo series pushes the envelope for gameplay.

2 years ago I again made the decision to sell my Gamecube and give up video game playing. This time, I made the decision not because I felt like I’d outgrown video games (I still love playing them, as you can probably tell from that last impassioned outburst on Nintendo), but because I felt that the time that I spent playing them was time taken away from being with my friends or reading a good book. There just isn’t much redemptive value in playing video games, let’s be honest. It’s entertainment at it’s highest form–you are forging a personal narrative in strange and wonderful worlds and learning how to overcome sometimes complex and intricate obstacles–but you aren’t really gaining much from the experience other than having your attention captivated for a few hours. Plus, the fact is that games are so incredibly complex and time-consuming to program now, that the games just aren’t the same in terms of replay value anymore–one game lasts you maybe 2 weeks at the most, and then you’re done with it–and each game costs 50 bucks a pop. That’s a lot of money to pay for a short-term high.

A good game should be able to last you years. But such games are few and far between. Most are just straight forward linear affairs–once you’ve beaten em, that’s all she wrote.

I am tempted, I admit, to purchase Nintendo’s new system, the Wii, when it comes out. Once again, Nintendo is leaving competitors in the dust by completely changing the dynamics of gameplay. They have always been the innovators when it comes to control–the Xbox and Playstation’s controllers are simply echoes of the N64 controller. The Wii already has the gaming industry on its feet, because the controller this time will not be a space-shuttle complex of buttons–it will just be a few buttons on a remote control like thing, with the rest determined by the movement of your hand and arm. It is to be a completely 3D controlling experience. It’s ingenious, really–so simple that Sony and Microsoft must be slapping their foreheads.

I don’t think I’m going to be buying the Wii any time soon, if ever. But I will enjoy seeing it being played when I get the chance. I miss playing video games. But the fact is that I would rather chill with people that I love and have a good conversation with them or jam on some music, accompanied with some sips of vino or whiskey, alongside some premium shisha, any day. Connecting to real people is better than connecting to a video game system.


Author: manderson

I live in NYC.

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