I mostly enjoy retro games, but not entirely for the challenge. I like games to be a mix of a book and a movie in that they are visually stimulating but still allow the player to fill in the voices and other elements with their imagination. I'm weird and awkward, which really makes me stand out among gamers.
Outside of video games, my other great passion is music. I'd consider myself a metalhead because it is what I gravitate towards most, but I don't consign myself to any one genre or style of music. My collection also boasts healthy helpings of shoegaze, dream pop, darkwave, visual kei, neofolk, neoclassical, classic rock, prog rock, classical, and of course, video game soundtracks, along with smatterings of whatever else has caught my attention.
My favorite games include:
Castlevania II, IV, Symphony of the Night, Order of Ecclesia
Cthulhu Saves the World
Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
Final Fantasy IV, VI, VII. Theatrhythm
Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon
Illusion of Gaia
Lords of Thunder
Megaman II, III, V, X
Resident Evil 1, 2, 3
Rocket Knight Adventures
Seiken Densetsu series: from Final Fantasy Adventure to Legend of Mana
Shadow of the Colossus
Silent Hill 1, 2, Shattered Memories
Super Mario Galaxy 1 & 2
Tales of Symphonia
Threads of Fate
To the Moon
Tower of Heaven
World of Goo
There is no bigger interest in my life than music. When Iím not actively engaged with someone, chances are good Iíll have my headphones on and cranked to a borderline unsafe levels. I carefully select the music that wakes me up each morning. When considering driving distance, I measure by the number of singles, EPs, and albums that would fit into the trip (my current commute to work is about a half album). And when it comes to videogame soundtracks, Iíll just say that my highest playcounts in iTunes largely belong to the ranks of Shimomura, Koshiro, Mitsuda, Kikuta, and Kondo.
But for all endearment I exude for music, Iím not terribly talented at creating it. Apparently, the skill traveled thoroughly through my older and younger siblings, then promptly skirted around me, as my musical aspirations were quelled after years of fruitless attempts to play the bass guitar. While Iím able to read music decently enough, I have no ear for notes, and ultimately hit the wall when I found that I couldnít write bass lines. Not wanting to be one of those bassists, I relinquished myself to my high schoolís sparsely populated choir, and quietly retired from the world of music not long after.
I mean, I figured I had long hair, what else did I need?
This all changed about ten months ago, wherein I would once again begin a musical endeavor by joining a handbell choir. The bells seemed easy enough to master. My assumption was that one simply held two notes at a time, and summoned them at will when desired. The first indicator that I may have underestimated the challenge was when the music was not, in fact, a series of ďring, donít ringĒ instructions. On the contrary, it was written in traditional notation, along with many symbols that I hadnít a clue how to decipher:
Iíll spare the details of the many harrowing rehearsals which were to follow, but suffice to say, I once again faced an impassible monolith of aural feats. I would fight mentally tooth and nail to establish a beat count, yet find myself floundering whenever Iíd miss a note. Iíd barely be exploring a sense of triumph for recognizing and performing gyros, hand Martellatos, plucks, and singing bowls, when Iíd be singled out for not recognizing that I should be playing my G# bell when there was an A♭ on the staff. When it seemed as though I had once again met my limit, hope appeared in the form of a nostalgic-tinged Final Fantasy title.
Like many others, the music of Final Fantasy is particularly near and dear to my heart. The Theme of Love from Final Fantasy IV plays when my wife calls. I use Uematsuís character themes and the opera scene as examples when arguing the unique potency of videogame music. So a videogame solely based around these melodies was predetermined to be amazing. Though my eyes and ears reveled in the memories evoked by Theatrhythm, I also couldnít help but notice a marked improvement in my bell choir performance since the game was first inserted into my 3DS. Initially, I was bold enough to consider the idea that I had awakened some long-dormant talents, and while there may be a shred of truth to this notion, it's not as though I was suddenly able to keep a steady count or hear the notes.
I would find myself recovering after dropping notes by sheer intuition. Entire songs would pass and I wouldnít bequeath myself even one count or ever glance to the conductor for direction. After nailing a piece and considering it a perfect chain, I came to realize how much that little game had helped me. Just as with the bells, the player doesnít have to hit certain notes in Theatrhythm, and instead has to be concerned with slightly varying techniques. Missing a few beats of a particularly complex sequence can be irrevocably damming, until the proper hand-ear coordination is built. The most incredible development has to be how Iíve been discerning notes Ė I still cannot hear a bell ring and have any sort of guess as to what was played, but while performing, I can feel where each piece should be placed, and know when I should be playing which accidentals.
That said, Iím not anything of a prodigy, and in terms of the game, I still canít beat any of the battle tracks on Ultimate. But I like to think these two musical fixtures in my life are aiding one another and furthering my extremely limited abilities, sort of in the same way that reading might expand a personís vocabulary. Iíve never been one to insinuate that videogames are some untapped resource for developing real-world skills, but after this experience I would absolutely contend that their breadth as a supplement should never be dismissed.