mandag 5. desember 2011

Personal gaming history

My earliest memories of playing any sort of video game, is playing Sonic the Hedgehog 2 on my cousin’s Sega Genesis, and Rayman on our home computer. Both were incredibly mesmerising. There was a feeling of adventure and the potential of unexplored worlds that playing in the woods by our house just didn’t provide. 

My parents were (and they still are) sceptical of video games, so my video game experiences from then on were mostly playing games at my friend’s place on days with bad weather (of which there are many where I come from). We took turns playing Spyro the Dragon. Then we would go outside when the weather was nice and pretend we were Spyro the Dragon. 

 After nagging my parents about a GameCube for a long time, my parents, unaware of the difference, bought my brother and me an Xbox for Christmas when I was around 12. It wasn’t the right console, but it didn’t bother me at the time, and in retrospect I am very happy about this. It allowed me to experience others games than just Nintendo-franchises. 

The first game I played on the Xbox was Munch’s Odyssey, and I absolutely loved it. The sometimes quite frightening world and storyline and the occasional very grim settings were balanced nicely with more colourful levels, quirky, somewhat gross characters, slapstick humour and fart jokes. It was just the right amount of serious for me at the time. The game paints a harsh caricature of capitalists that I find very funny now, though the 12 year old me did not understand that back then.

Another memorable game for me is Anachronox, a turn-based science fiction RPG with cyberpunk and film-noir-elements. At points it seemed almost like a parody game. The playable characters include a miniature planet, an impudent robot and a depressed superhero. The story opens with private detective Sylvester ”Sly Boots” venturing into the slums of the planet Anachronox to find work, and the story rapidly evolves from there and takes us to several diverse alien planets as Sylvester uncovers something that threatens the entire universe. The game is quite massive, and was supposed to be split into two parts. Unfortunately the developer (Ion Storm) was shut down a month after Anachronox released, the game ended with a major cliffhanger and we’ll never know how it ends. This game is pretty terrible. It has horrible graphics and the gameplay isn’t particularly good, and at points it is confusing and exasperating to find your way around, but for some reason I absolutely love this piece of junk. 

I can’t talk about my personal gaming history without mentioning Beyond Good and Evil. This game features fun gameplay alternatives to your usual action-adventure. You play as photo journalist Jade, hired to uncover a conspiracy. The game takes an unexpected turn as the bad guys kidnap Jade’s uncle P.J (I doubt they are genetically related as he is an anthropomorphic pig), who before that point has served as a travelling companion and you’re given plenty of time to become fond of the character. Suddenly the conflict becomes personal, which makes the story a whole lot more engaging. Beyond Good and Evil is the first game that moved me emotionally and where I actually cared about what happened to the characters. I almost cried at three different points in the game. 
You also get to drive around in a hovercraft and a space-ship, which is super-awesome. 

Though I am not sure how fashionable I find green lipstick to be.

Bioshock is one of my absolute favourite games on the current gen consoles. Before Bioshock I had never really played any first person shooter games at all, and I am still a bigger fan of third person games with a defined main character than a faceless character for the player to project himself into. I understand the point of this is to make the game more immersive, but I feel that a defined character opens for a more character-driven plot. 
But I digress. 
What I love about Bioshock is the setting. I absolutely adore art deco, and a derelict underwater art deco city might just be the best thing I’ve seen ever, but the storyline is what makes Bioshock so engaging. I found Bioshock very hard to put down because I wanted to know what would happen next. 

Last, but not least, I must mention Pshychonauts because it’s my absolute favourite game ever. This game features a psychic circus-boy, and allows the player to explore the surreal mindscapes of several different characters, helping them with their ”mental problems” by solving puzzles and defeating nightmares. What I love the most about Psychonauts, however, it the extremely stylized art. The game is open-ended and lets you go back and forth between the levels and just enjoy the game and explore, which is great fun because there are lots of secrets to discover. The plot is very character-driven and each NPC is unique, with a well-developed personality.

I feel there are certain similarities between the games I enjoy the most. I enjoy games that feature a good story, I enjoy games with an unique look, I like surreal fantasy themes and a dash of (stupid) humour. In the future I would like to see more games that feature engaging, emotionally moving stories. I have touched on this earlier, but I believe games can be a very good medium for storytelling. 

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