Video Games, my life long love affair began with the Atari 2600 (Pac-man at home!!) so many good games: Maze Craze, Asteroids, Q*Bert, Combat, Frogger. Back then there were these magical places called Arcades. Well, they are magical now but back then they were a little scary; gangs of teens (I was much younger), smoky dark room (indoor smoking was allowed back then), and a bunch of middle aged men with mustaches trying to get the high score on a cabinet. But going in there with a quarter in your hand was amazing. I would walk around and try to find a game that would lead me on an electronic adventure, even if it was just for a couple of minutes (or seconds!!). The Atari let you game from the safety of your home and at anytime you wanted (just keep the volume down). After Atari there was the true 8-bit generation.
Here’s the story on why we didn’t get an NES. According to my brother we went to Target to buy it, when we got there it was sold out. I didn’t want to wait so I talked us into buying the Sega Master System (Altered Beasts, Wonderboy, Outrun) because it was cheaper and we could get an extra game for the same price. Big mistake, all our friends had Nintendo. We had to visit them to play Super Mario Bros, Contra, Battletoads, Double Dragon, Excitebike. After 8-bit came 16-bit.
For my 14th birthday we were on 4th street (central Santa Ana) at a Woolworth. I was so afraid to ask my dad (I was taught never to ask for things) but I felt it was gonna be worth the potential beating so I worked up the courage to ask for a Super Nintendo. A miracle!! He nodded and asked the store clerk for it, oh my gosh, the clerk is going to the glass, he’s picking up the box, he’s bringing it over!!!! What is happening?! My brother and I couldn’t believe it. We took it home, this huge box with my SNES inside it. I read the manual cover to cover, I stared at the artwork, we loaded up Super Mario World the start screen came up and music began. It was the Miracle on 4th Street!! My very first Nintendo system. The games – Zelda: Link to the Past, F-Zero, Stunt Race FX, Final Fantasy Mystic Quest, NBA Jam.
I’m going to stop with the chronicle there. The main point is I was hooked from early on and I can still remember playing those games 30 years later. What was it about video games that created such powerful memories? A lot of it had to do with playing games with my brother and friends. But when I had to play alone what was the draw?
For me it had to do with the adventure of it all. I love reading and getting engrossed in a book. You get to imagine the words described on the pages. When a watching a movie it’s more passive, all the visuals are given to you. With a good video game, there are rules and limitations but you get to explore those by controlling your character. Push this button and it will do this. Time it just right, wait what level is this, how can I kill this boss, one more try.
To me a video game is a challenge. Something you have to figure out, there are rules but you can push them almost to the breaking point (how close to the edge can I get before I fall). When you discover a solution it’s so magical.
My first Zelda was on the SNES, A Link to the Past. Here was an adventure game that you could go exploring with find tools and items and do something with them. The original Zelda on the NES was even more open world. Go explore, have an adventure it would encourage you. Shigeru Miyamoto the designer of Zelda wanted the player to have an experience:
“When I was a child,” Miyamoto said, “I went hiking and found a lake. It was quite a surprise for me to stumble upon it. When I traveled around the country without a map, trying to find my way, stumbling on amazing things as I went, I realized how it felt to go on an adventure like this.”
For many years I’ve stayed away from games because the designers seemed to think a gamer was stupid. That a gamer needed a 5 hour tutorial before playing a game. They games constrained you to the point that it seemed you had no choice but to follow only one path and listen to the “story” of the game. That’s what movies are for I would think, plus a movie is only 2 hours long so it’s much quicker and more entertaining.
Only recently does it seem like gaming is returning to it’s roots.
Games like Minecraft and the newest Zelda: Breath of the Wild allow us to go on adventures. To figure things out for ourselves. These types of games, make me fall in love with gaming all over again.