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I know what you're thinking. You're thinking a Family Ties game would be amazing, and you're right. I'm making a note to send that idea to TellTale Games. "Alex will remember that."
That's not what I'm here to talk about though. I want to talk about what gaming has given me over the decades. Yes, I wrote "decades" because I am rapidly approaching middle age and have been playing games for almost 30 years. During those years, there has always been one constant involved in my gaming world, and that is the element of family.
I started off on a Texas Instruments console playing super basic games like Hunt the Wumpus and what I think was some port of Defender. I was around 3 or 4 at the time, and I would sit with my older brother (3 years older) and we would freak out as were being attacked by the Wumpus. Our parents would sit back and have a good laugh at us and encouraged us to perservere and overcome the fear and the challenge. It sounds kinda weird when I say it out loud, but it led to my family's long-lasting love affair with video games and created solid bonds between brothers, mothers, and sons.
After our Texas Instrument days, we moved into the NES era. This was a particularly monumental time for us. I can remember playing countless hours of Super Mario Bros with my brother, but not quite being hooked on games yet. We still had time for G.I. Joes and M.A.S.K toys, and time to skateboard, ride bikes, and be little hooligans. One day, however, the bulk of our interest shifted towards video games in a major way. We were playing in the garage and our mom was in the living room doing something; we weren't paying attention because we were kids and in some imaginary world state of mind, as most kids tend to be. Then we heard it. We heard the opening theme to The Legend of Zelda. We dropped everything and ran into the house exclaiming, "What is that?! What is that?!" and our mom just smiled and started playing.
We couldn't believe it. First of all, the music was better than anything we'd ever heard come from a video game. Secondly, she was playing as a dude with a sword who was able to walk in any direction at all, from screen to screen, and attack in any direction at all. Sure there had been games before that let you attack in any direction, but this was something else altogether. This was a proper adventure.
From that point on, my brother and I would spend hours discovering every little secret the game had to offer. Keep in mind that this is ages before you could just look up walkthroughs on the internet. That was the joy of it all, just firing up The Legend of Zelda with my brother and finding new things every day. We would watch each other and take turns bombing walls systematically until we found that new secret or burning every bush in sight until we achieved the same goal.
The NES ended up giving us a plethora of gaming experiences together. We would watch my dad play Platoon and get mad at the game because--in case you haven't played it--you basically have to map out the first level in your brain like a super genius, or on actual paper. We'd play Bases Loaded and try to outsmart each other with crazy pitches and stupid moves. My uncle bought us Tennis, which doesn't seem that great, but it was actually really awesome and just great that he was taking part in it as well. We just had an incredilbe time with that era as a family.
Eventually we moved onto the SNES and this is when things really took off. I remember the Christmas we got the SNES. Our parents had given us all of the presents and were acting like they were wrapping up for the day. "That's it" we thought. "Christmas is over and no SNES." But all of a sudden, they handed us this note. It was a clue. It led to other clues all over the house that eventually led us right to a SNES in a cabinet at the end of the hallway. We nearly messed ourselves with joy.
The SNES eventually led us to this:
See, my brother and I had played Street Fighter 2 before at a 7-11 a few blocks down the road from our house. We were enamored with it, but at some point, you had to decide if you were going to buy that Slurpee and those Shock Tarts you came for, or if you were going to play more Street Fighter. When Street Fighter 2 released on the SNES, it marked the beginning of a life-long rivalry (friendly mind you) between me and my brother that has spanned every entry of the series.
If there has been one thing that has remained pure and untouched in this world, it is the bond my brother and I share over Street Fighter. I know it may sound silly, but it's no different than the bond two people might share over baseball or football. In some ways, I believe it is a much deeper and important bond. We learned how to almost read each other's minds, and we also learned how to give each other feedback on our skills and our moves and how to grow from that. It really has been a super important part of my life to this day, and I thank video games for this. I believe, for me, there is no other medium out there that can offer this level of camaraderie and mutual respect, while simultaneously offering an entertaining, engrossing experience.
Let's fast forward quite a bit to wrap up this story so it doesn't turn into TL;DR situation for you short attention span folks out there.
Here we are in the present day. My brother and I, now 33 and 36, still play games together as often as possible. We've tried everything. We always try out every co-op game we can find and strive to find that perfect experience, but we always seem to fall back on Street Fighter and that bond we formed there.
What's awesome now though, is I have a son to share this passion with. He plays tons of games with me and I have been able to share my favorite games with him. I have played through FFVII and FFVIII with him. We shared the experience of Dragon Quest VIII together and I even got to introduce him to his favorite series, The Legend of Zelda. It just feels cool that it has, in a way, come full circle.
To this day, we all still play as a family. My brother, son, mom, myself, and my uncle all play Minecraft on our own server together. We have our houses all decked out and we share supplies with each other, bring each other gifts, and even protect each other from time to time, even though we all live 100+ miles apart.
Video games have given me the gift of amazing family experiences, and for that, I am truly grateful.
Thanks, vidya games.
Seriously. What is wrong with everyone?
I'm not really sure what happened to gamers. Maybe it was the internet. Maybe it was the fact that everyone thinks they are some kind of psuedo game designer now and somehow think they can make better games than the actual people who get paid to make them. I don't know what it is. I can't quite put my finger on it. I just feel ashamed to be called anything remotely related to a "gamer" these days.
Gaming seemed to have been about the games in the past. Even the shitty ones still had some kind of redeemable charm about them and still held a special, yet crappy, place in our hearts. These days, it seems like people can't appreciate what they have right in front of them. Maybe it has something to do with the huge volume of games that get thrown at us on a yearly basis. Maybe that makes buying a game that much more difficult and really makes us critical about what we spend our $60 on.
I don't think that's it though.
I think gamers have forgotten where they come from. People forget so easily that the games we play today would blow our fucking minds out if we saw them as kids. Say I just got done playing Hunt the Wumpus as a child, and someone plopped Destiny down in front of me. I wouldn't be alive today. I would have thought that I was in a different world and I was going to live there, and I would have just stopped eating, shit my pants, and would have eventually died.
It would have been incredible!
I think the problem is that everyone has lost the ability to just look at something for what it is and enjoy it for being its own thing. Everyone has to compare everything to something else. I'm not sure why. Why can't a game like Destiny just be Destiny? Who fucking cares if it is or isn't enough like Halo? Who cares if it is or isn't enough like other MMOs? I certainly don't. I didn't even pay attention to any of the hype surrounding the game. I didn't watch countless videos about it before its release. I bought it because I knew it was from Bungie, it looked really cool in that moment, and guess what, it is really fucking cool.
The best thing I can tell you to do is... get over it. If you set unrealistic expectations, you will be a sad, sad person.
Maybe everyone should stop ruining everything for themselves by inundating themselves with too much information before a game's release. When you do that, you start to create this version of a game that doesn't exist. It only exists in your head because you have cobbled together all of these snippets of videos and gossip into this make-believe uber-game. You haven't experienced it for yourself. And once you finally do, the experience doesn't come together like you thought it would because you fucked yourself out of that experience. I have been sticking to this lately, and I have to say, it has made every game I've played recently so much more enjoyable. For example, I honestly don't know anything about MGS V aside from what I've played in Ground Zeroes, and I plan to keep it that way until it is in my PS4.
You might actually enjoy the next game you buy a million times more if you try it yourself!
Another problem is, people always find something to complain about. One of the most hilarious things I find people complaining about, is that some video games are too repetitive. All video games are repetitive. That is the nature of a video game. That is the nature of most anything with "game" in the title. Are you honestly ever expecting there to be a game that has no repetition? If you are, I hate to break it to you, but that one and only game is called "Real Life."
All video games provide a world for you to interact with, they give you a toolset, they give you specific ways to use that toolset, and you're on your way. At some point, the game will repeat something. At some point, things will begin to feel familiar. Once upon a time, I believe this was the point of video games and arcade games. We repeatedly played the same levels (of which there were very few) of the same games, over and over and over and over. We did this because we got better. We did this because we accomplished something in the end and felt like a badass. That's it. I believe a game like Destiny accomplishes what the games of old used to accomplish. You get a real sense of progression, a sense of challenge, and yes, a sense of familiarity from running over the same areas and constantly fighting and shooting everything that moves.
There was a time when we were okay with this. What happened? When did we start expecting everything to be just utterly groundbreaking and life-changing? It's a fucking game. Play it or don't, but I don't think it's right to jump down the throats of the people who put their hearts into these games to bring them to you. If you are claiming to be the Michael Jordan of game design with all of your fantastic ideas that you just can't believe someone didn't put in their game just for you, then get up off your ass and make a game. Leave your computer and get to work on making this life-changing, spiritual experience you seem to be expecting so I can have some peace and enjoy some intelligent conversation about games, instead of just constantly reading about how disappointed or angry people are about them.
Every time amy new game comes out, there is a flood of negativity. I don't know what the hell it is, but "gamers" are vicious little trolls. Just fucking relax. Go buy a game that you know nothing about and play it until you've squeezed every last bit of content out of it. I don't mean until the next big game comes out in a month, I mean really treat it like you are a kid again and you are stuck with that damn game. Make it work. Use your imagination to expand the world a bit if it's not to your liking, meet the developers halfway. Then after that, if you really don't like it, don't waste your time trying to convice other people to not like it. That's just fucking weird. Stop it.
In the end, it only really matters to you if you don't like a game. I honestly don't care. I'm going to keep buying games like Destiny because I can appreciate how far this industry has come. I can appreciate where the technology is today versus where it was when I was playing games simply called "Baseball" or "Tennis." I think it's really important to keep this in mind. For those of you who do not have firsthand experience with gaming's past, I suggest you get informed and learn your history. It might just make you feel better about a few things and hopefully make you less of a whiny twat.
And yes, I probably sound like an old man, and yes I am probably a hypocrite somewhere along the line with this. My point is, I think everyone should try to make more of an effort to appreciate a game first. Go into things with an open mind and be grateful that you even get to play these games at all.
I know I am.