You May Proceed to the Next Level

A number of atheist bloggers have a thing for video games, from JT and James Croft to Paul Fidalgo and Jason Thibeault. We’ve discussed favorite video games on the forums several times, but I got to thinking and decided to try something different.

My parent’s generation jokes about being raised by television. For myself and many of my friends, it was the console or the computer. Different games mark stages of my life. I was wondering if I could list the games that were meaningful to me for some reason, regardless of how good or bad they were as actual games.

I found it surprisingly easy. It seems I remember major events in my life by what I was playing at the time. Here are five:

  1. Hard Hat Mack:

    I was eight or nine, and an uncle that I had never heard of before came for an extended visit. All I knew about him was that he’d done some work in construction, so when he stopped by my room to say hello I pulled out this little Donkey Kong variant. We ended up playing for hours at a stretch throughout his visit.

    Years later, I came to realize that there had been a lot of tension between my uncle and my mother. Those hours playing with his nephew were probably a refuge from having to interact with my parents. That visit was an attempt to reconnect with the family and I hope that myself and my C64 made it bearable.

  2. SSI Gold Box series:

    My first real RPG was Pools of Radiance for the C64, and I played the heck out of that game. Between load times and disk swaps a decent battle could take 20-30 minutes, but I still tried to clear the slums.

    When I found myself sent to a Catholic high school, cut off from all my old friends, I was lucky enough to find a group of gamers who were also into the Gold Box series. Secret of the Silver Blades had just come out, and we spent our lunch breaks comparing notes about characters and tricks. High school basically sucks for everyone, but that got me through a rough freshman year.

  3. DeLuxe Galaga:

    In college, I discovered that “wanna go back to my room and play Deluxe Galaga” was the only pick-up line that worked on my girlfriend.

    Reader, I married her. Eventually.

  4. Chrono Trigger:

    The first Christmas after I graduated from college, I was practically alone in the college town. My housemates and my girlfriend had gone to stay with parents, and I had two weeks to kill. I found an old off-brand television by a campus dumpster, then spent some money from my first real job at a pawnshop to buy a Super Nintendo and a few games. I selected practically at random, and ended up with Chrono Trigger.

    Growing up in the ‘burbs, everyone but me had a Nintendo. My folks wouldn’t buy me one since I had a computer already, and I was never responsible enough to save the money. Buying the SNES with my own money and playing that game was somehow a sign that I had finally become independent.

  5. Harvest Moon:

    A lot of the early relationship between my wife and I involved sitting around and playing video games, just spending time together and chatting as we played. I guess it filled the role that “dinner and a movie” plays with other couples.

    The first Harvest Moon, played on an emulator, is one we both enjoyed. There’s a part where you get your cute little anime cow pregnant with a “magic potion” and wait until the calf appears. At one stage her belly gets so big that her legs barely touch the ground. If you give her a shove, the poor thing will actually slide across the ground until she hits something. We called it “cow curling,” and spent a lot of time giggling about it.

There are many other games that I can remember that had an impact on me that I could mention, but most are more diffuse. For example, I’m pretty sure it was the days spent playing Sid Meier’s first Civilization, and evenings watching James Burke’s Connections, that got me thinking about the factors that drive history and pushed me into becoming a historian. But there it’s hard to pin down the time frame.

I think I’ll leave it at that. Is there any game that functions as one of life’s milestones for you?

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