Jasyla has been doing a bunch of blogging about non-WoW games lately, and recently posted this questionnaire to get people talking about games. I’ll take a little break from work and Warlords today to muse on my favorite games and talk about some of my background with them.
When did you start playing video games?
What is the first game you remember playing?
The first game I remember playing is Space Invaders on an old Texas Instruments-made computer. So that’s technically when I started playing games, but what’s probably more meaningful is the Sega Master System I got soon after, which I started playing regularly. The first game I played a lot on it was Missile Defense 3-D, a lightgun-based Missile Command remake which was in 3D. As you probably wouldn’t expect for a console made in 1985, the SMS had a 3D feature that worked rather well (the glasses plugged into the console and synchronized with alternating frames on the display). So that was pretty cool.
Just to throw it out there, the SMS game I got into the most was Zillion, a pretty great 2-D combat/exploration game that was somewhat like Metroid. I’ve gone back and beaten it later.
PC or Console?
XBox, PlayStation, or Wii?
I’ve always played games on both and don’t have strong feelings; in recent years it’s been mostly PC just because of WoW. I haven’t bought recent-generation consoles because not I’m sure I’d play them enough, given how I don’t get to play games as much as I’d like. I also have a strong tendency to play a small number of games a huge amount rather than play a bunch of different games, so consoles feel hard to justify. This might be a bad decision if it cuts me off from finding console exclusives that would sweep me away. That said, the games that did so came to PC anyway (XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Dark Souls). Dark Souls is a notable example because it was PS3 exclusive, but became so famous that the clamor for a PC release caused a company with no PC experience to just release it anyway.
There’s no general answer to what console I would buy; it’s whatever one had an exclusive that gave me a desire to play which I couldn’t get out of my head. Nintendo is probably the most likely, since I’ve always loved their games (their first-party ones in particular) and for the most part you can’t play them on PC. If Zelda ever went back to its roots, there’s probably no way I could resist.
Oh wait, Zelda did go back to its roots with A Link Between Worlds, which was for 3DS, a system I have. So there you go.
What’s the best game you’ve ever played?
I’ll absolutely never have a satisfactory final answer to this. Not only are there too many, but the most prominent ones fluctuate based on what I’ve been playing or thinking about lately.
If I try my damnedest to cut out ones that, while much-loved, were deeply memorable in certain areas but not as special in others (System Shock 2, Metal Gear Solid, most Final Fantasys, Final Fantasy Tactics), I think the one you’d hear me say most often if you asked me this question was Chrono Trigger. Ocarina certainly has an honorable mention since Perculia and I have written a 30,000 word discussion about it on this blog (which is in fact the reason this blog was first created), but Link to the Past is actually my favorite there. Super Metroid has some kind of special place for being beautifully polished in every way, and the level design stands out even more.
I’m really answering what my favorite games are; I don’t think it’s right that the best games ever made were all made in the 90’s. But it’s hard to compare games I’ve played in the last year or two to these (time will tell if I feel this way about XCOM and Dark Souls many years from now). Similar, there’s no axis on which to compare WoW to these–MMOs are too different from other games (also I kind of assumed it’s not what people want to hear about here).
What’s the worst game you’ve ever played?
The games with the highest product of “how bad they were” times “how much time I spent playing them for some reason” are probably Shadows of the Empire, Dragon Age 2, and Skyward Sword. Slight variant of the question, but those games had a weird mix of keeping me engrossed until I awoke in a haze sometime later wondering what I was doing.
I feel like I’m missing some, like I’ve spent a lot of time compulsively doing really pointless things to complete goals in terrible games, but they’re not coming to me right now.
Name a game that was popular/critically adored that you just didn’t like.
Other than DA2 I guess, which wasn’t really adored, maybe Bioshock Infinite (even that I’m not sure was “critically adored” so much as “hyped a lot” but whatever). I wrote about it here, but it got a little worse once I was further away and no longer cared about wanting to like it (or about the fact that it looked promising for a while).
Oh, better answer: Portal 2. That’s a game people will actually care that I didn’t like, maybe. Everything about it was great, except for the portal puzzles.
And how could I finish this question while almost forgetting Final Fantasy VII.
Name a game that was poorly received that you really like.
This is tricky; I want to say Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3, even though in a general sense they got good reviews like almost every game which is so huge and anticipated does. I always got this impression that people looked down on them though, for the completely absurd writing and overwrought cutscenes and plots that make very little sense, and general lack of realism in every way. Maybe I’m wrong in which case this is a bad answer, but it seemed worth it to say that I always loved the weird whimsy of it and the over-the-top comic-bookish characters. In other words, it answers the spirit of the question because I think people who judge all the aspects I mentioned above “just don’t get it.”
What are your favourite game genres?
RPGs and action-adventures mostly, but it’s really pretty broad. I’ve been seriously into, for example, shooters (GoldenEye 007), sports games (NHLPA Hockey ’93, Joe Montana Football), twitchy arcade things (I play Super Hexagon often still).
Who is your favourite game protagonist?
I want to talk about a sort of nonstandard answer here, namely, the ordinary soldiers in XCOM: Enemy Unknown. It’s odd because XCOM soldiers are randomly-generated generics who have no written story in the usual sense.
Something about the fact that each one has an identity that you get more familiar with as you do more missions, and a history that you can recall when they (inevitably) die. There’s a great interview with Jake Solomon somewhere about how intentional this is in the design. Deaths in XCOM hurt on a level which was different from watching any scripted story in a movie or game. Not better or worse, but shows off something a that’s unique to the medium. Soldiers have a player-generated story that’s not unlike a D&D character: defined by the experiences you had playing with them earlier in the game. The special something that pulls this all together is XCOM is Ironman mode (where you can never reload or back up). Characters permanently dying in a game in ways that aren’t scripted is a pretty rare thing. It’s actually hard to take at first; in fact Ironman is notable since without it, it would be expected that you reload if a high-level soldier dies off in combat (this is the gameplay experience we’re all familiar with in most similar games).
So I remember the names (the meaningless randomly generated ones), callsigns, and ranks of some of the most important soldiers in my campaigns, and most importantly, exactly how they died. I can’t share them with you because 1) there’s no way to go back to those moments to get screenshots, due to Ironman and 2) the character literally only has meaning due to all the successful missions I’d played them through previously, and unique situations they’d been involved in.
Describe your perfect video game.
Storytelling of System Shock 2, level design of Super Metroid or Dark Souls, the sense of personal investment and decisions-matter from XCOM. (See what happens, other games I’m already thinking about from other answers stick in my head and repeatedly pop up when I try to think of exemplars).
I mean, other games have memorable features, like the charm of King’s Quest or the semi-conscious flow of Super Hexagon or the weird way that Hearthstone is inscrutably friendly and relaxing. I was trying to think of things that maybe one could easily conceive of as coexisting all within one game.
What video game character do have you have a crush on?
What with the avatar and all, I am obviously pretty attached to SHODAN. But it’s not really a true answer; she’s a little too overtly psychotic. Even for someone written as a dominatrix, the reckless disregard for the safety and/or continued existence of everyone else in the universe is a turnoff.
Schala is a good one, even though a sadly minor character and I never played Cross.
I started off by exploring the dialogues in Mass Effect 2 and 3 sort of perfunctorily, as you do, because they were there. I had no initial plan for who to stick with in the end and thought I wouldn’t care, but I would up really liking Garrus. I probably would have enjoyed Tali too, but I never played a male Shepard.
Link’s platonic crush on Marin in Link’s Awakening was always terribly cute–even that little bit of characterization was unusual for Zelda (probably as close to a romance subplot as you’ll get). In just a few scenes, the game paints her really well as someone you wish you could get to know. One reason the ending to that game is so good.
What game has the best music?
Chrono Trigger classically. More recently, I listen to Bastion a lot.
Most memorable moment in a game:
My first time meeting The Butcher in Diablo 1. What sets this above and beyond most others I thought of is that I was playing multiplayer at the time (I was in 6th grade and playing online was pretty new). I was with two of my friends, and the resulting panic and confusion that followed “Ah, fresh meat” was incredible. It’s hard to top things like that.
Also The Trial from Chrono Trigger is quite unique, and one where only your first time playing it is able to bring off the full effect (I was guilty).
Scariest moment in a game:
Exploring the cargo bays in System Shock 2. It’s hard to explain “scary”, but given how lots of games try to accomplish it in kind of heavy-handed ways, it’s worth mentioning the contrast. This was one of the only times I’ve every really found a game scary and it was all through atmosphere. I doubt that even showing a video would explain it.
Even SS2 had the “scary” set piece with the SHODAN reveal, but the immersion that appeared in ordinary gameplay is a lot more notable. Sound was a big part of it, exploring while hearing both enemy sounds from unspecified directions and an audio log unfolding a creepy part of the story all at once.
Most heart-wrenching moment in a game:
After Celes lets Cid die in the World of Ruin.
What are your favourite websites/blogs about games?
I don’t read that many. I always like Gameological for random topics. Mostly I read forums and things like that for whatever game I’m currently really into.
What’s the last game you finished?
Dark Souls II. (If you like Dark Souls then II is totally good, but I’d give the edge to the first).
What future releases are you most excited about?
Ok, in this case it actually is Warlords of Draenor, since that’s keeping me pretty heavily booked these days and will be when it’s released as well. Since I play so few new releases, and often don’t know in advance which games will really capture me, I rarely have a good answer for this. Usually it’s sequels and the like to games I already care about that get most of my attention. In that vein, I’m definitely piqued by Bloodborne, but don’t know much about it yet.
Do you identify as a gamer?
Basically, yes. Honestly I rarely have need to use the word, so I don’t think about it much. But given how important games are to me, and how much of my hobbies and social interactions involve them in some way, if anyone asked me I’d say yes. If the thrust of the question is about how people are giving the term some political valence lately and whether that affects the answer, it doesn’t. The fact that some people who also like games act badly in various ways doesn’t change how invested I am in them. And in fact, to the extent I care about people acting badly in the gaming community, it must only be because I want it to be better, which means I care about it, because it’s something I identify with.
Why do you play video games?
I’m not sure there’s a better answer than what you get from reading the above; there are about as many different answers as there are games I like. I mentioned that overall, I play any game I like quite a lot, usually trying to do everything, defeat all challenges, replay the game occasionally, and finding more challenges just to keep playing it (even though this all means I don’t get to play nearly as many as I’d like). So my own style of playing games does often involve wanting to throughly master them, and I really like the feeling of knowing a game inside and out.
I do things like “Big Boss” rank in Metal Gear Solid, XCOM Ironman Impossible difficulty, beating Dark Souls at level 1 (and Final Fantasy 6 at level 6), mainly because in each case it’s a way to delve deeper into those games than I bad before. To understand more details, to stop taking strategies for granted that worked out previously and force myself to look for improvements, and to try to see whatever gameplay there is to see. I mean to distinguish the latter from seeing whatever content there is to see (which I also like), but it’s hard to explain. Games that motivate me to do this are rare enough, but I only need a few, and they provide the best explanation of what I like to get out of games.