We all have secrets. Some are dark. Some are deep, and full of shame. I trust you, readers, not to judge too harshly, and thus I will share some of my deepest, darkest, most shameful secrets with you here. We’re all friends, after all. Right?
I consider myself a gamer of the old-school variety. The oldest-school, in fact. I started shortly after Nintendo made itself known in the American market, and I’ve been playing steadily ever since. Hell, I still play the same MUD I started when I was twelve. That’s nothing but text, ladies and gents. It’s the step between tabletop games and World of Warcraft. And yet, even I have holes in my gaming history. I’ve missed out on playing some classic titles in the video gaming canon, if there is such a thing. Here are five of the most egregious sins from my (non)gaming past.
I’ve started this game more times than I can count. The first version of Myst I played was a downloaded demo back in the AOL days of old. The demo took hours to download. Hours. I waited with baited breath for the file to complete, not realizing that I would be shut out after the first two puzzles. I was new to the internet and didn’t realize I wasn’t getting a whole game to explore. I was twelve, okay? Allow me my naiveté.
After waiting four plus hours to download what I thought was an entire game (did I mention I was twelve?), I dutifully solved the first two puzzles in Myst. Then a message popped up, letting me know that I had to pay to unlock the rest of the game. Well, paper route aside, I didn’t exactly have a disposable income at the ready, so I deleted the files (this was back when hard drives were around 8 gigs) and moved on with my life. Later, in college, I bought the full game to play on my Mac cube, one of the most beautiful computers ever to run OS 9. Then everyone got OS X, and my Myst CDs didn’t work anymore. The game once again fell to the wayside.
This is one of the nerdiest holes in my gaming oeuvre, but nonetheless I feel a twinge of remorse every time I see it mentioned in gaming journalism.
Final Fantasy VII
Yes, the queen of emotional responses via video games never played the game that kicked off the era of emotional responses via video games. Aeris dying was a red letter day for the video-games-as-art movement, considering there were myriad internet postings on how to get her back, or how to avoid her death all together. Gamers everywhere were devastated by the loss of this particular team member, and I never experienced the pain of losing her.
I’ll have you know I downloaded this game from the Playstation Network as soon as I was able, but it’s been sitting on my homescreen for over a year. I’ve yet to fire it up. The graphics are terrible, what do you want from me? I know, I know, I need to play this game, for the love of all that’s good in gaming. Give me the rest of the year.
Metal Gear Solid
I’m going to give myself a bit of pass on this one, as the MGS series was a Playstation exclusive (for the most part, I never had a GameBoy Color), and I didn’t have a Playstation until I registered for one for my wedding. Protip to anyone I know getting married (Paul): register for what you want, not just plates and other housewares. Our families were tickled pink to see we registered for video game consoles and other fun stuff, and raced to buy them for us. We not only scored a PS3, but a new Xbox 360 and a couple of snowboards to boot. Not to mention a ridiculous assortment of Shakespeare DVDs (NERD ALERT).
Back to the confession at hand: I’ve never played a single MGS game, and I realize I’m missing out on some major gaming history because of it.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
This post was actually inspired by the fact that I didn’t play the Mass Effect franchise until a few months ago. For realsies. I am walking around calling myself a gamer, and I never had the pleasure of strolling the Citadel as Commander Shepard.
Before ME, however, BioWare was known for creating one of the best RPGs to utilize an existing sci-fi universe. I remember very clearly my friends talking up KotOR in late middle school/early high school, but I was always afraid I’d get sucked into the world. To thine ownself be true, as The Bard says, and I was right not to add yet another timesuck to my already full itinerary of gaming. Like I said, I’ve been playing the same MUD since I was twelve. That’s seventeen years of medieval high-fantasy RPG gaming, my friends. There was a break in there, but it was fairly brief in the grand scheme of things.
When Bioshock Infinite launched this year, I experienced some of the deepest shame I’ve ever felt as a gamer. I hadn’t even touched the first one, let alone the second. I’m too much of a purist to jump into the third game of a franchise just to pretend to be current. No, I have to do things in order, so I was one of the few games writers I knew who wasn’t excited about exploring the world of Columbia.
I have watched my husband play the first one, however. I bought it and put in a place of honor on my shortlist, knowing there was no escaping this particular modern classic. One Saturday morning I awoke to discover my better half delving into Rapture’s secrets. This is the guy who wasn’t allowed video games as a kid, so it was particularly fun to watch him develop his skills with this game. I know the major twist to the story—and it remains a beautiful doozy of a twist—because I was able to sit back and watch him find his way through the world. I’m almost glad I experienced the story through his eyes. There’s really nothing more gratifying than watching someone evolve into a bonafide gamer.
Watching Frank Fontaine explain “Would you kindly?” to my husband was one of the best moments in my gaming history. He looked at me during the scene, his face full of wonder. “I get it,” he said with his eyes, “I get why you love games so much.” I smiled back at him, not saying anything outright either, but enjoying the small instant of complete synchronicity.
Not bad, for someone who hasn’t played the game herself. Maybe I’m not so ashamed, after all.