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There’s this kid I used to know. Pretty decent guy all around, to be honest with you. But looking back on him, his flaws become more apparent, and perhaps none are so noticeable than those related to his gaming.
See, many of his choices were spotty at best. He spent two years on World of Warcraft, enjoying his time immensely but ignoring nearly every other game that came out during that period. He would choose a game like NFL Street over Beyond Good and Evil. Worst of all, he would take lengthy breaks from gaming altogether, playing little to nothing at all besides random games already in his collection -- some old, many bad.
Worst of all, he missed out on the great offerings on entire consoles. It’s hard to say exactly why: perhaps out of financial necessity, perhaps out of a misplaced and nonsensical sense of loyalty, and perhaps some combination of these. But the reason is unimportant, as the sad fact is that he deprived himself of great things.
Let this kid serve as a warning to you all, for this misled youth was me, and I’m still paying the price today for his past transgressions.
There are plenty of reasons that people have dreamed of going back in time, but I bet few of you would do so in order to change your gaming habits. Yet, thinking of the differences between the player that you are today and he or she who inhabited your growing body many years ago, how many glaring and sometimes disappointing disparities can you see? For me, there are many -- some that I alluded to above, and others that I might not even be able to identify.
For instance, I never finished Final Fantasy VII. In fact, I purchased it on release date or very near it, and played only about five hours before moving on to something else. I never played Final Fantasy VIII or Final Fantasy IX. I got to the final boss of Final Fantasy X and never completed the game. And don’t even get me started on previous Final Fantasy games.
The even younger version of me played seemingly only the worst games of the SNES/Genesis era. Earthbound meant nothing to me until about four years ago. Super Metroid was a game that I knew about, but had no interest in. Super Mario RPG was not even a thought in my mind. Even Chrono Trigger is a game that, to this day, I have not played a single moment of.
My problems extended into the PlayStation 1 and PlayStation 2 eras. I give them that designation because, to me, that’s what they were. I never wanted a Nintendo 64, Gamecube, Dreamcast, Saturn, Xbox, or any other console that you could dream up. I played Sony consoles exclusively. Early on, I don’t know what the justification for this was, but over time, I fell into the same traps that so many people suffer. There are no good games on other consoles. Sony does it better than everyone else. I don't care about anything else.
Yet even on those console, my history is filled with failure. I purchased fantastic games only to never finish them. I ignored great games in favor of poor ones. I went years without purchasing anything new at all, finding myself consumed by World of Warcraft. What I missed out on during this time is staggering to think of.
It’s very possible that at least one of the admissions above has made you cringe in disgust and pity. But why? It’s because many of these games are those that you have to play. It’s a sense of obligation, and one that I most definitely feel.
That’s where the me of the present comes in.
Obligation is a terrible feeling for the working man. A 40-hour workweek coupled with various real-life obligations leave, even for someone like me, less time than I’d like for gaming. Yet, as someone who wants to feel like he has played the best that the world of videogames has to offer, I feel a deep sense of obligation toward those games that I missed out on. I have to play The Wind Waker. Ignoring it is not an option; if greatness exists, then I must experience it.
But it goes deeper than obligation. I know I’ll enjoy the hell out of these games. It’s not a matter of biting into a chocolate-covered grasshopper just to say that I did, as if it’ll enter me into some esteemed society of the hardcore. The obligation I feel is to myself, to end my self-inflicted depravation.
There is, of course, a problem: all of those pesky new games that keep coming out. Yes, with three pretty good consoles going right now, as well as a couple of handheld consoles that I try in vain to keep up with, time is a precious commodity even for those without a backlog. Yet mine grows daily, rolling ever on like a katamari of awesome, becoming larger and larger until it threatens to consume everything around me. Yet I must ignore this all simply to keep up with the greatness of today.
And it can all be blamed on that little bastard from my past: he who was ignorant to all that is awesome, he who lacked the fortitude to finish what he started, he who placed me in the impossible situation that I face today.
But this is not a post to lament the size of my backlog. Not exactly. See, a backlog is something that we all experience at some point. It’s impossible to avoid. My current situation, however, is very different. I am paying for the idiocy of my past self, and no matter what I do, I’ll never be able to truly repair the damage that he caused. Unless I find myself suddenly afflicted with the “lottery winner” status, I fear that I’ll never have the time to experience all that I know I should have experienced.
It’s deflating, quite frankly. And in the face of tine’s continual movement forward, I’m helpless to do anything about it.
And so we reach the warning -- the true aim of this post. It’s with an overabundance of sentiment that I deliver this warning to you, and though I struggle to find the words that will express the true gravity of my feelings, I hope they ring true.
Do not, dear friends, let yourselves become like me. Don’t lead yourselves into a pit that you cannot escape. You may not think you're doing any damage now, but you will live to regret your actions or lack thereof. You will wish that you could go back and do it all again.
Yes, sometimes, experiencing all that is great is impossible. Financially, I can’t play everything that I want to, nor do I have the time to do so. It’s extremely likely that you’re in a similar situation. College was a busy time, and it’s no surprise that I didn’t play so many games. I do not blame my former self for this, and nor should you blame your current or former selves for circumstances out of your control.
But as I wrote above, many of the games that I missed were needlessly avoided for one reason or another. Maybe I didn’t try hard enough to finish a game, instead moving on to the new flavor of the week despite that fact that it was a piece of trash. Perhaps I was blinded by a pointless devotion to a certain console, and told myself that The Wind Waker must not be any good if it’s only being released on the inferior Gamecube.
Even if you don’t have the means to afford every console, don’t let yourself fall into a cycle of insulting other exclusives and bolstering those on your own console. We cannot help what consoles we can afford, but we can help what we do with that fact—whether we wield it as a sharp, angry sword or keep it in its place above the mantel. The same goes for games: don’t deprive yourself of something great simply because you have some strange loyalty to a competing game.
Simply put, don’t find ways to avoid playing something great. You will regret it when your self-made barriers disappear and you’re left wondering why you didn’t make the most of your time while you still had enough of it.