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?

  • http://nagamakironin.blogspot.com/ Michael Mock

    Not so much video games – though I have fond memories of playing Star Control II on my roommate’s computer in college – but role-playing games.

    I switched colleges in the middle of my Junior year. (I’d have done it at the end of my Sophomore year, but, um, I didn’t want to miss out on the Medieval Studies semester abroad.) It was… how to explain? I never really fit in well at the first college. Or fit in at all, really. Wonderful location, excellent professors, and students that I had nothing whatsoever in common with. So by the time I transferred, I was severely depressed to the point where I wasn’t interacting with much of anybody; I wasn’t so much attending school as haunting the campus.

    The college I transferred to was much better fit. And towards the end of my first semester there, I happened to mention that I’d be interested in running a certain sort of roleplaying game. A day later, one of the people I’d mentioned it to stopped me to ask about his character. So I figured I’d better get the game put together – and I did.

    We used the Amber diceless roleplaying system for a base, and the game itself… picked up where Clive Barker’s _Cabal_ left off. So rather than the classical fantasy rpg, where you play heroes who fight monsters in a magic-rich pseudo-medieval setting, everybody was playing monsters who were trying to survive in a magic-poor modern setting. And it was awesome, both in being fun to play, and in a bringing-the-group-of-us-together sort of way.

  • Revyloution

    I’d never thought of it that way Vorjack, but dividing my life into chapters of video games makes perfect sense. From my earliest gaming days playing Zork in the late 70′s, and trying my hand at writing my own in Basic code leading up to my large gang of friends that are now playing Eve Online and Planetside2, I can easily remember every chapter of my life and the game associated with it.

    An interesting chapter, one that has recently been relived in the novel Ready Player 1 (I can’t recommend this novel enough, for anyone who grew up in the 80′s) and the movie Wreck It Ralph, is when gaming left the house. For a while, the best gaming was done in arcades with pockets full of quarters. It was an interesting transition, watching what started on a tiny green monitor transition from our home, out into arcades, then back to the home again.

  • Noelle

    I’m not a gamer. But I am of the same generation, so I guess I couldn’t escape the influence. I agree with Revy on the book and movie recommendation. Both are very good.

    Space Invaders, handheld game. This would’ve been early 80s. My parents were divorced, and for a few years my brother and I spent summers with my dad. He worked all day and left us with a teenage step-sister who didn’t care to be stuck watching little kids. Their house was so boring. There were no neighborhood kids our age. But they did have Space Invaders, and I was very good at it right around age 8. I could play that thing for hours, had strategy and everything.

    Logo’s Turtle. I think that’s what it was called. There’s a triangle. You tell it to move. About 3rd grade, so mid-80s, and school was trying to teach us kids how use the tool of the future. I didn’t get to go to computer class often, because I was a procrastinator who wouldn’t do her work and preferred to daydream instead. I was forced to spend computer class catching up on boring worksheets. The few times I did go, I was very much behind on trying to get that stupid triangle to move around the screen, because the other kids had the directions and I’d missed them.

    Ms. Pac Man. Atari, my family didn’t have one, but occasional cousin visits brought exposure. And the coin-operated version at the laundry mat. I associate it mostly with the sound of washers and dryers. My family was given an old Atari system in 1991, so I got much better with the joystick games that summer. But I was late on learning that way.

    Oregon Trail. My grandparents were the first family members to get a computer, and my uncle put Oregon Trail on it. My cousin and I spent hours bringing that family across the country, shooting bears, losing kids to scarlet fever. It was awesome. It reminds me of time spent with family who live so far away I’ll probably never see them in person again. And time with grandparents now dead.

    Nintendo’s Mario Brother’s. Same era, except we didn’t have our own system. So this was other cousins yelling at me to get the mushroom and stop falling off cliffs. I never did get the hang of it, and these early teen experiences soured me against these games. We later had our own Nintendo 64 and I really liked Zelda, after getting to play it quietly without people yelling around me.

    The Sim’s. Pre-kids, newly married, came with the computer. I played it obsessively until all my families loved each other and had perfect lives. I never played it again after that. I assume they’re still living happily somewhere, and I don’t want to mess with that.

    Then years passed. There were babies to raise. I was busy.

    I got one of them iPhones. Most of the games I’ve played have been to keep the kids busy. Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, Plants vs. Zombies. Occasionally I’ll like one enough to play it without the kids around, but none at the moment. This mostly marks an age of having a smart phone on me all the time, and how we keep peace in restaurants and other venues where behaving is not instinct for my kids.

    My kids have a Leapster (grown out of it now), the Wii, the computer, and a DS. My son especially likes games. But I don’t use them often. I suppose I’ll have to wait for the next chapter to see if something else grabs me, but right now it’s someone else’s journey with games and I’m watching and living along.

  • Sunny Day

    Video games pop culture of the 80′s
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ready_Player_One

  • Jer

    James Burke and Civ were a great combo in college for me. I stuck with math education but took a great History of Science class for an elective.
    Video games: too many to list. I tend to favor the ones with math involved. Very big on Creeper World right now.

  • cadwopper

    Telengard and Rescue Raiders.

  • EcksLibris

    Ok apparently I’m older than most of y’all. First video game = Pong, on a black and white tv with a joystick. Revolution of my life – “OMG I’m controlling the tv!” Then video game arcades, Galaga, Space Invaders, Asteroids, Frogger, Centipede, and the classic “flying around on an ostrich fighting other ostrich jockeys”: Joust. I also cannot recommend enough the book “Ready Player One” for all gamers!

  • NoEsBueno

    Xenogears, for PS (still have the original disk). Got it while studying to get into medical school and finally beat it, 2 years later, while in medical school! Lots of cooky quasi-religious themes in the game, which I found interesting at the time. Worth a playthrough if you’re in to classic JRPGs.

  • Jeff

    I like that in randomly choosing games for your new (used) SNES, you ended up grabbing one of the best of the platform.


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