My highlight of 2012 was when I experienced a feeling with a game that I havenít had for a long time. The game in question was Hotline Miami, but the feeling it brought out in me is a little bit harder to describe.
I think it may have been a number of factors coming together at just the right moment to produce this chemical reaction in my brain that I found so profound and moving that I chose it be my highlight of the year.
So there I was in my flat in Cape Town playing on my laptop. My character is in this neon soaked pixel vision of Miami, standing in a corridor full of mutilated bodies. I was standing by a door, two guys were in the room next to me armed with shotguns. I waited there, observing their walking patterns, running through the plan of what I was going to do in my head a dozen times over. Replaying this imaginary scenario of smashing the one guy in the face with the door, then quickly throwing my baseball bat at the other guy before he gets a chance react and shoot me, quickly running back to guy I knocked out with the door and beating his face to a pulp before sprinting back to the other guy I threw the bat at before he gets a chance to recover and pick up his gun. I ran through it in my head over and over, trying to work out the right timing. Looping this plan constantly through my mind, tensely waiting for the right moment to pounce. Then I felt the ground beneath my feet turn from the cold tiled floor of my flat in Cape Town, to feeling like the old green carpet of my Grandparents house. I looked down and noticed that I was no longer holding an Xbox 360 controller but I was instead holding a green N64 controller. I look up back at the screen. Iím no longer sitting at my desk playing on my laptop and instead I am playing my old N64 on a tiny TV. Itís a hot summerís afternoon, the warm orange sunset shines through the large windows of my grandparents house. Iím playing Goldeneye, the Facility level. I was standing by a door, with two guards in the room next to me armed with AK47s. I know thereís only two people inside, but Iím scared to go in, Iím only 12 years old, the tension is unbearable. I donít have much health left, a single shot will kill me. I compose myself, think it through. ďWhat would Bond do?Ē, I think to myself. Then, with a deep breath, I charge in. I go in all guns blazing, unloading my clip into the one guard on the left, his body slumping to the ground in all its perfectly motion captured glory, then turning to the second guard. My PP7 clicks, itís empty. The guard kneels down and raises his rifle to my head. Almost in slow motion the muzzle flashes come out of the end of his gun. The screen begins to fill with red, the Bond theme tune plays.
I sit there staring at my dead pixellated body. The one guy with a shotgun patrolling as normal with my blood soaked corpse laying in the middle of the room. The 80s synth sounds of Hotline Miami playing out of my laptop speakers. The ďR to RestartĒ and ďYouíre Dead!Ē messages floating up and down in the corners of the screen. I was back in Cape Town.
For some reason when I was playing Hotline Miami, I felt genuine nostalgia. It wasnít a ďah, I remember the good old daysĒ feeling of nostalgia. It was a full on flashback.
I felt like I had actually transported 15 years back in time. I felt like a kid again, sitting in my grandparents house during my school summer holidays playing Goldeneye. I felt like I was physically there. I canít work out why I felt that way. Hotline Miami isnít really that similar to Goldeneye at all, so why did it trigger this powerful memory? Maybe it was reliving that feeling of tension I had all those years ago? Was it the sound effects that sounded similar? Perhaps it was the weather being similar to that Summerís day in London. I may never know (and according to Wikipedia, it looks like not even medical science can come up with an explanation). What I do know is that no other medium has been able to produce such an intense emotional response in me. It was a game that triggered this wonderful moment of nostalgia where I briefly returned to a more innocent time and for that, it is my highlight of 2012.