Talking about the long anticipated release of GTA V (and how it compares to Saints Row IV (something that I won't get into in this post)) reminds me of when I used to get really excited about games. Feeling as though I am older, now in my early-approaching-mid-twenties, it is hard for me to say which games I am excited for right now. My excitement over the release of new games is probably caused by my exposure to a vast variety of video game and art criticism (appreciation of people like Anthony Burch, Jim Sterling, and Ben Croshow), an evolving taste, the rise of the independent market, the disappearance of Blockbusters (to allow me to rent any console game that came out), and my post-graduation financial situation. Though I am not a huge fan of the GTA series and have approached the series with an amount of skepticism, GTA V looks kind of fun, like something my younger self might have been excited about. However, my reaction to GTA V was, "That's kind of neat, probably won't play it, I bet Saints Row IV will be better, but I won't play that either." Maybe if I had $60 for every game that came out I would be more eager to play them, however 6 years ago I would have gone through many lengths for my fandom.
Since elementary school I usually favored games that were unique, had interesting mechanics, or had some aspect of adventure, though some of my favorites were competitive games. From hearing about the buzz over the first Halo and having previously played Marathon (an earlier shooter by the people who made Halo (which is still one of my favorite games ever)) I knew that people thought Halo was a great competitive game. At the time, I did not have an Xbox to play Halo on so I had to wait for the PC release which I bought immediately. It was an instant classic in my eyes because it was the first time I had ever played an online shooter. By the release of Halo 2 I knew that I had to get it as soon as it came out, though when I finally got an Xbox I did not have Xbox Live to play online.
By junior year of high school, when the Xbox 360 came out, I finally had a console with online support. I had played Halo 2's campaign mode several times over, but I had not played it online until I got a 360, so I was pretty late to the game (playing online more than a year after its release). One of my best friends, Mike Timko, was pretty pro at most shooters, so I knew I would have to play just as much as, if not more than, him in order to beat him or play with him in a team game. Because of the amount of time we both ended up playing the game and my limited amount of real life and online friends that played Halo, we ended up playing Team Doubles together almost every night. Team Doubles is the variant of online skirmish that pinned two teams of two against each other on small maps in a variety of objectives such as Capture the Flag, Oddball, and Slayer. As we practiced we rose to the point where we were consistently playing against pro players and getting our asses kicked almost every game.
During the summer of 2007 (between junior and senior year of high school) I was obsessed with Halo 3. I eagerly awaited the Bungie Podcast, I tried to follow the AdjutantReflex alternate reality game, and drank a lot of Mountain Dew Game Fuel (which Mike and I called "Grunt Piss" in reference to one of the enemies in the game. I worked a small summer job doing lawn care just so I would be able to afford Halo 3 on my own. I wanted to get it as soon as it came out, but I could not go to the in-store release (being released on a school night), so the day of, as soon as I got out of school, I biked across the highway overpass to the nearest Kmart which luckily had a few more copies of the game (and posters too). I immediately hung up the poster (which is on the wall of my old bedroom to this day) and that night I played for 3 hours straight before doing homework.
When I hopped online I saw that all of the people on my friends list were playing Halo 3. It felt like I was a part of something much larger than myself and as if I could finally relate to so many other people at least on one level. Though many popular games have come out since the release of Halo 3 none have made me feel like the reception has been quite as universal. However, I may be confusing universal reception with hype in the media, clever marketing, record breaking sales though it was an overall great product.
Game Fuel in retrospect (and at the time actually) was pretty stupid/genius. The reason I say "(and at the time actually)" in parenthesis because the stupid and genius in "stupid/genius" were switched around when I was 17 because I thought it was more genius than stupid; I bought several cases of Game Fuel, and it was all I drank. Not only was it a Halo Mountain Dew flavor, but it was delicious, one of my favorite soda flavors to this day. This flavor was similar to my then favorite Mountain Dew "LiveWire", which was orange flavored, but the difference was that the citrus flavor was "infused" with cherry.
I was so obsessed with Game Fuel that, in anticipation of its limited release's end, I saved all of my empty bottles and washed cans in a few cardboard boxes and tried to save a few full ones for the distant future in my garage's refrigerator. I made sure to tell my immediate family members not to drink them.
One day the one bottle I was able to save went missing. I immediately assumed someone drank it and questioned my grandmother and grandfather. My grandpa told me he was very thirsty and he thought he had bought that specific drink. The drink had been out of stores for several months. At the time I didn't know my grandpa's cancer was back and the Mountain Dew saved him from dehydration. I also didn't know that Game Fuel would come back 2 years later, though with World of Warcraft labels, last October during the release of Halo 4, and sometime this fall.
Maybe the reason I don't get excited for games quite as much, or in the same way, is because I learned my lesson with Halo 3. While Halo 3 was my favorite multiplayer game, playing it every night for the majority of the three years between my last year of high school and my time at community college, I was a disappointed in the campaign mode. I loved Halo: CE's, Halo 2's, and all of the Marathon game's campaign modes (along with the future Halo ODST's and Halo Reach's campaigns), but there was something that was not as fresh about Halo 3. What I loved about Halo: CE was the feeling of open exploration of the terrain, Halo 2 was the scale, variety, and amount of new environments and enemies, Marathon was the feeling of wonder and mystery. Halo 3 had a lot of iconic moments, but it did not nearly satisfy the hype that preceded it. That feels insane because of how much I still love Halo 3.