Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Most Important Videogames of My Childhood

Just recently, I saw a video on Youtube from one of my favorite B-movie reviewers, Fanboy Flicks, talking about the ten most important video games to his childhood. That of course got me thinking about the ten most important games to my childhood, so I wanted to write a bit about it. Also, Tuesdays at my job are hard, so anything I can do to make it easier and involve less deep thought, the better. Onto the pointless top ten list!

10 - Harvest Moon
I am embarrassed to admit that I love any entry in this series, despite the fact that they are all completely the same. There's something zen-like about the absolute lack of action and plot that occurs in any entry in this series that makes it so much...fun? to play. No, it's never "fun" in any sense of the word, but it is relaxing in a strange, repetitive way. This game is the digital version of being in prison.

When I was younger, I used to rent this game for a weekend, and not go out and see my friends, and probably didn't eat or poop either. For that reason alone, it was crucial to my childhood, which I am just now realizing was apparently extremely boring.

9 - Goldeneye
This is probably a very negative statement on myself as a person, but the only reason that I didn't get into Goldeneye as much as every other child my age back when it came out was because I wasn't as good at it as my friends were. You will see this trend play out in other entries in this list, which is telling me something else about myself that I didn't realize until now: I am a total asshole.

8 - Streets of Rage 3
Really, I wish I could include a whole slew of side-scrolling beat-em-up games on this list, since they were inevitably what I chose to play when I was by myself, and the learning curve was easy with lots of opportunities for co-op that I could play them with my friends or even my little sister

Streets of Rage 3 stands out in my memory though, simply because it was the coolest to me at the time. Seriously, that's it. Battletoads was great, the X-Men games were great, the arcade TMNT game, the Simpsons arcade game...these were all loads of fun, but Streets of Rage was just cooler. I liked all the characters, even that fucking kangaroo.

7 - Mario Party
I'm cheating a little bit here, because this series and a few other series later on in this list followed me all the way to college. While I had a lot of fun with this game and those other games, I got serious about them as a university student, and my memory of that time is probably leaking into my actual childhood. (Although, really, being a college student is not a far cry away from being a child, at least in my case.)

A lot of the games that I truly love are either completely solo-driven and utterly isolated from the world, or entirely competitive and something my friends also enjoy. Even today, I follow this pattern, playing Final Fantasy VII on an emulator when I'm by myself and League of Legends with my friends on the weekends. Mario Party was one of the most frustrating competitive games I've ever played, because a lot of it can be determined by luck. It is part skill and part gambling, and that is what makes it so addicting.

6 - Capcom Vs. SNK 2
By all rights, this game should have been number one, since I probably spent the most time out of any game -- maybe any other activity in my life -- with CvS2. However, do you remember before when I said that I never got into Goldeneye  (or any other first-person shooter, for that matter) because my friends were a lot better at it than I was? Well, that was basically the same situation here, only instead of everyone else being really really good, it was only me. I was miles ahead of everyone else in this game that had such a steep learning curve that nobody ever wanted to play it with me. As a result, I spent the vast, vast majority of time with this game playing by myself against the computer.

5 - WCW Revenge
Here is where it starts getting nuts. For whatever reason, my friends and I got obsessed with this game. We had made several of our own characters and used them almost exclusively, each of them with their own backstories and personalities. Sometimes two of our characters would even be enemies, my characters Factor X and Ju Son, for example. We even made up "belts" that could be won from each other if we happened to win a particular match. On more than one occasion, I would get so angry at losing, I would storm out of my own house.

4 - Ocarina of Time
This game was really fucking good, you guys. Especially to an 8th grader.

3 - Pokemon Blue
You're supposed to title this game "Pokemon Red/Blue", but I never had "Red/Blue", I had motherfucking blue, and in motherfucking blue, I had motherfucking Charmander and he was my boy. I went through a phase where I was so into this game, it carried over into my real life. Like, the thing I did when I was not playing video games. I starting watching the anime. That theme song is still my hype music; I play it before I have to take a test. I even went to a tournament. And won.

2 - Super Smash Brothers
This is the other game that I carried with me through college. This is also yet another game that was made more fun by the fact that my friends and I played it together, and that we were all about equally as good. This is also a game that I went to a tournament far. And did not win :'(

1 - Final Fantasy VIII
Keep in mind, this is not a "top ten best games" list. These are the games that were important to my childhood. And while as a grown-ass man, I recognize that FF8 was not the best game in the series, and that it suffers from a weird, tedious fighting system, and that the plot goes off the fucking rails at one point, this game meant a lot to me. I had played the first Final Fantasy on the NES, but it didn't really impress me that much, and since I bought 7 and 8 at the same time, I was more impressed by the graphics on 8 and played that one first and most.

As a grown-ass man that spends a lot of time talking about movies and comics, I try to remember how much Final Fantasy VIII meant to me as a teenager. I found myself identifying with the main character quite a bit, who was stand-offish to people that he cared about, and slowly learned that he had a responsibility to them. For some reason, that reclusive, unfriendly attitude resonated with me at this point in my life, and the idea that I was becoming a person with real responsibilities not only to myself but to the people in my life that I cared about...well, that was a brand-new idea at the time. And again, the plot to this game is fucking dumb; people have attempted to fix it by describing it as the main character dying early on and experiencing a fever dream before his death. And yet, it had a strong effect on me. I try to remember that when I talk about how stupid some movies are. Maybe they're having a strong effect on some other retarded teenager.

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