80's and early 90's were my best years as a video
not talking about talent here. I almost wish I were.
I'm talking about a love of playing, my ability to
sink into a game as if it were another world, and
feeling like I really want to be there and no where
else. That sense of sitting down on the couch with
the greatest games and knowing that controller is
tuning me in to pure magic, school forgotten, people
forgotten, life forgotten.
almost never get that anymore, and not for a lack
of trying. It's not because games are worse. It's
because, I believe, the imagination and wonderment
of my childhood is gone from me. At least the youthful
kind. I'm 22 now, and like everyone else, I miss some
of my younger days.
remember my glory days in the late 80's with games
like The Legend of Zelda, or games like Out
Run in the arcade. I remember being completely
fascinated. School would end and my brothers and I
would play all weekend. We'd march through cycle after
cycle after cycle of Kid Icarus. No one ever
said "I'm tired of sitting in front of the tv. Let's
go do something". It bothers me to hear that phrase.
Sitting at home watching TV or movies is just what
I want to do. But I can't help but understand them
when they're talking about video games.
I was a kid, my fascination wasn't just when I was
playing either. Games had a hold of my imagination
whenever I wasn't playing. I remember trying to read
back then and having Link prance across the page,
poking his sword at the words, taking out one, two,
or four letters depending on which sword he had. Or
maybe the puzzle-like Sega coin-op Pengo. Kicking
those ice blocks around and making little enemy pancakes
was just begging my imagination to latch on.
the way that they held my imagination was infinitely
different then. The imaginings held together in a
magical way, as a world, as a life, fleshed out and
full blooded. Now all but a handful feel like computer
programs, entertaining to varying degrees but largely
diversionary and distant from my ideal of a free time
playing games, or fantasizing about playing, wasn't
the only thing I had when I was a kid. Being of limited
income then.... (Well, I still am of limited income,
but I juggle credit cards now) ....I had my video
game magazines, and the instruction booklets that
came with the games. I took those mags everywhere
and fantasized about every picture, about how cool
the game might be, about every quirky nuance of the
cartoony drawings. The whole experience created a
tangible feeling that I feel echoes of even now, when
I look back at the magazines. I flipped through each
page, backwards and forwards, over and over, for hours
on end. It never felt like a chore. It felt like perfection.
of that was strong when I was younger. And now that
I have access to some money, I've gone and tracked
down every game that I could in an effort to play
each one that was ever connected to a photo, drawing,
or paragraph that held my interest. Little known NES
and Genesis games from the early days that were supposed
to be cool.
what I've gotten from each of those games hasn't been
much more than a marginally diverting romp for five
minutes or so. It's symptomatic of what has happened
to me. I still happily pay attention to the video
game world with more interest than anything else,
but great game after great game is either disappointing
or not the kind of thing that I want to be spending
time on when good television, magazines, books, or
walks in the forest can be had. It's all more intellectual
now, less emotional.
worse all of this has become, the more afraid I've
been at times. What's it mean when the video game
tent pole in my life, stable for a decade and a half,
doesn't hold up the fort like it once did? Can your
opinion be taken seriously as a gaming thinker when
you don't play the greatest games, and don't even
really want to? Not because of a lack of time, but
a lack of practical fascination? What's my opinion
mean when I'm less and less a genuine "gamer"?
Am I just becoming a cynical adult who has a hard
time loving things? Where'd the innocent wonderment
go? What a tragedy that life takes life out of you....
I always have my magazines. And the Internet. Reviews,
photos, all of that lets me imagine games, and those
imaginings are great. The feeling is different in
fascinating ways, though. Why doesn't the playing
hold up? Is it because I have in me the ability to
design games, and because the ideas as manifested
by others aren't up to my standards? Is it because
pure imagining is most of what I have left to love
video games with, since I can get the closest to my
lost childhood that way? I don't know. But all of
this isn't to say that I never enjoy games. True,
I go back to The Legend of Zelda and Pengo
with little but waves of nostalgia that break on the
banks of adult reality. They're cool, but I have better
things to do. Not that I don't wish I didn't feel
that way. Some games like Tetris Attack, Super
Bomberman 2, Wipeout, and others on occasion
can pull me in and make me genuinely happy. But it's
rare. And many of those require friends around who
have a lot of talent, who can turn it all into a social
experience. Those friends are far away from the forests
that I live in.
of the things that I tell myself is that I just want
more of my art now. I've come to be a person that
likes examining the human condition. Movies can do
that in a great and established way. TV can do that.
Books can do that. More can do that. But video games
haven't gotten to that point yet. They're not human,
character-driven experiences 99.9 percent of the time.
And when they are, it's in cut scenes that are essentially
film. Nevertheless they can do what I want well, theoretically.
Not well now, but well eventually, with creativity
now video games have the capacity to lead me to pre-made
humanity of any kind. Walk along whacking enemies
in FFVIII and come to a non-interactive filmic
cut scene. But that's not a video game. Maybe I'll
need to forsake most video game playing until that
kind of humanity can be made interactive in some way.
Or maybe I can get passable doses of what I want pasted
on to a distracting and non-essential traditional
video game element. One movie moment in FFVII
did bring me close to tears.
don't have to stay away from all of it, as games like
Powerstone hold a nice charm now and again.
But I don't want to spend the bulk of my time doing
that sort of thing when I can be philosophising and
expanding my mind. For thinking and learning about
people in the video game world, there's not much to
do besides read the good magazines and such, looking
for the very human interpretation and words in the
articles there. And I very much want to do that because
of the potential video games have. Right now, the
actual playing has little for me but the seeds of
I wait for the potential to ripen, I'll just have
to keep telling myself that I'm not losing my spark
of life. The sparks just changing.
You may contact Amos,
he would love to hear your comments and opinions.
Amos' other Website: Sega