75 years on since the first cathode-ray tube amusement device, video games are everywhere. We’ve been quick to assign genres and types of games and create endless variations of the same kinds of shooty-kill-repeat, hoppity-jumpy, walky-talky machines.
Yet, video games are still a nascent form of entertainment. Suda 51 of No More Heroes fame said video games are still in their infancy, and game developers are pioneers, establishing a new form of interacting with the world. Of course I agree, I’m a video game developer.
Before we usher in a new rapture though, here are four games that dug a hole in my brain and have taken permanent lodging in my self, as I played them when I was but a wee teenager.
The original X-COM was my first encounter with a turn based squad game. I remember moving every character carefully and getting them all to duck (learned that from my brother!), waiting for the inevitable horrors to spring out of the corners. The music and sound effects are still terrifying. I bonded with my brother playing games, and X-COM had us both scared shitless waiting for the aliens to kill and set our squads panicking.
This was my Skyrim. Go anywhere, pick up everything, bake bread, forge a sword, ride a horse carriage, gather companions to follow you around, talk to and help you in combat, ride a magic carpet, expose a corrupt religion, decimate entire cities, fiddle endlessly with backpacks and bags and beautifully rendered gold bars and coins, and use a sextant and an abacus! Oh, and command a boat!
I had so much joy playing around in the world trying to bake a cake, taking venom, seeing what breaks when you kill essential quest NPCs, finding a Wing Commander spaceship. There’s so much to do and see in this game. It influenced my passion for the medieval, I wrote stories based on it as a kid. A landmark, Ultima VII is a game I still measure new games against.
Final Fantasy VIII
I have fond sad memories of moping about, pining for love, a 16 year old, listening to Eyes on Me, the game’s happy-sad theme, playing as Squall, fully enraptured by the game’s story, in tears by the game’s end. That started my long tradition of quietly weeping, in admiration and as a way of saying goodbye, at the end of very emotional games. Final Fantasy VIII was my Twilight, my teenage romance saga.
Hard to pick between Fallout 2, Baldur’s Gate, and Torment, so I’ll talk about Black Isle itself. These people made and had a hand in so many exciting RPGs, bringing back my memories of Ultima 7, creating the definitive computer pen and paper RPGs with an incredible variety of choice, combat and settings.
Going to the shop and buying a Black Isle game was such an exciting experience. Imagine playing Torment without knowing anything about it, picking up the box just because of the Black Isle logo, and going with it. That evening playing the game for the first time is firmly lodged in my memory. It opened my eyes wide to what was possible to do in a game.