I recently had an assignment in my Game Design course to list my 50 most memorable game moments. While I could have included anything from card games, roleplaying games, video games, etc., I couldn't have chosen anything other than video games. I've decided to include my top 10 moments instead, slightly altered from the original list since I can touch on many of my other favorite moments when concentrating on another. Fair warning to all reading this blog, this post may include SPOILERS beyond this point.
10. RuneScape - RuneScape was my first and, most likely, only foray into the realm of MMORPGs. Typically its not a genre that I really enjoy that much. Nonetheless, in seventh grade I started playing on the suggestion of several friends. While my friends mostly concentrated on PKing, I started to focus on raising my skill levels, since that involved decidedly less risk, and I was able to accomplish more that way. Soon enough, I found myself attached to the game, trying to complete quests and level my skills to the best of my ability. Eventually, however, the free version of the game only offers a certain amount of content. Deciding to become a member was an tough decision, since all of my friends played on free servers. Quickly, I realized it was one of the best gaming decisions I've ever made. The amount of content released strictly to members is astronomical, and it greatly increased the amount of time I spent playing RuneScape. Not only was the game fun and exciting again, but it once again satisfied my competitive nature. For just $5 per month, I was able to more than quadruple the number of available quests, have access to over eight new skills, and explore a world seemingly ten times the size of the original world. The possibilities were staggering, and it was a blast, giving me months of entertainment and fun. I even encouraged a few of my friends to subscribe and become members.
9. Bioshock - Never before has a game's plot changed so much with a single line: "Would you kindly?". When you discover the real secret of Rapture in the middle of the game, the game changes completely, with friends becoming foes, forcing the player to reexamine every piece of dialogue to that point in the game to find any subtle hints hidden throughout. To me, Bioshock's plot twist rivals only the feelings I had when playing through Mass Effect's slowly unraveling plot. The reason why Bioshock is distinguised, however, is that it manages to change the entire plot in just one short conversation, as opposed to a long, drawn out process. On subsequent playthroughs, I tried to find every little subtle hint in the conversations and audio tapes, all because of the line "Would you kindly?".
8. Gears of War - The first game I truly played with any significant level of devotion, Gears of War is one of my favorite multiplayer experiences on the Xbox 360. Whether it's the strong online cooperative campaign mode, where I spent a couple hours trying to complete Act 3 Chapter 4's split paths section (for some reason we just couldn't get by that checkpoint), or the excellent online multiplayer, Gears of War was a blast. I'll always remember Gears of War for mastering the cover system that so many games use today. The most memorable moment for me, however, was finally unlocking that pesky "Seriously..." achievement after killing 10,000 players online. Considering the game's stat-tracking glitches, I used an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of my kills on my own, recording all my stats at the end of each match. What made the achievement even more memorable is that I stopped playing the game the night I unlocked the achievement and did not return for over four months, even though I was ranked in the top 1000 in the execution leaderboards. Nonetheless, Seriously... is easily the most memorable achievement I've ever unlocked.
7. Xbox 360 - There are many reasons why I play Xbox 360 almost exclusively. The 360 introduced several gaming innovations when it began the current generation of console gaming, such as chatting across games, a strong, central marketplace to download content, and, most importantly, achievements. Before the 360 was released, Xbox gamers could only talk to gamers they were currently playing with, so when the Xbox 360 introduced private chatting across games (and later party chatting), I was able to connect and talk with other gamers, even if we weren't playing the same game. For me, this was significant, as many people that I played with on Xbox Live, like my cousin, weren't interested in playing Halo 2 for two years, and I was able to reconnect with gamers that I no longer played with as much. I'm sure I will say this countless times over the course of my blog, but I believe that generalized achievement systems, such as on the Xbox 360, are the most important development in video games in this generation. I believe that this is one of the 360's major success factors, which is why Microsoft is being imitated by the PlayStation 3's trophy system, Steam, and World of Warcraft, all of which now have a form of achievement system. I'll get into this topic in later blog posts, but just know that this is one of the reasons why the Xbox 360 release is one of my most memorable moments in video games.
6. Crash Bash - For anyone who hasn't played Crash Bash, it's basically a party game similar to Mario Party using characters from the Crash Bandicoot universe. Looking at the game as a whole, it may not have been any better than other party games released during the PlayStation/N64 generation of consoles; nevertheless, my brother and I found Crash Bash to be tremendously fun, perhaps because we grew up playing the Crash Bandicoot games. Of all the time we spend playing the game, there was a single level which attracted most of our attention. The goal of the level was to eliminate the enemy players using the explosive TNT and nitro crates scattered around the level; the catch was that each explosion destroys tiles that the players stand on. Instead of trying to complete the game's objective, my brother and I made our own: destroy the entire playing field without ending the game. The difficulty in this task is maneuvering around the playing field without falling off the field and eliminating the computer players. We found countless hours of fun just trying to accomplish one goal in a single level of Crash Bash; sadly, we never did manage to destroy the entire field.
5. Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion - This is by far my favorite roleplaying game of all time. I played the game so much and so often that I can still remember the epic score played at the main menu. With all of Oblivion's strengths, originality, and powerful storyline, I still surprise myself with the quest I remember the most: The Ultimate Heist. While playing the game, I had always considered Sneak to be the odd third leg in gameplay and the combat triangle, yet the final Thieves Guild mission is stuck in my mind. I still vividly remember sneaking by the blind priests to steal the Elder Scroll. In my mind, my memory is simply a testament to how collectively good Oblivion really is, that a side quest can ever overshadow the quality of the main storyline missions. Oblivion's high quality is exactly what kept me coming back to play for hours at a time, so much so that I've accumulated over 120 hours of play time on one character.
4. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare - Modern Warfare has hands down the most memorable single player experience I've ever played. Modern Warfare features plenty of multiplayer gameplay to keep the player interested for several months. Many of my most memorable 360 multiplayer moments happened online in Modern Warfare, including gaining two prestige in a single weekend and killing over 120 enemies in a single match on Shipment. On top of the phenomenal gameplay, Call of Duty 4's single player experience packs plenty of memorable moments, such as the detonation of the nuclear bomb which kills one of the two playable characters, the final scene when you kill Zakhaev from your back, and not least All Ghillied Up, where you follow Captain MacMillan through the enemy-ridden path to find the sniper post to fire on Zakhaev from. This is easily my favorite mission in any video game.
3. Halo: Combat Evolved - It may have taken me a while to jump on the Halo bandwagon, but once I played the game, I hopped on quickly. I didn't play Halo until the end of my eighth grade in 2004, a full two and a half years after it had been released. A few friends tipped me off about the game, and they later brought it in to school, so we could play during lunch. That day, I only played the game for half an hour, but I was hooked. For me, Halo is the definition of a system seller. I bought my Xbox just a couple weeks later for the singular purpose of playing Halo, after what was essentially only a half an hour demo. I'll always remember that half an hour and subsequent purchase of an Xbox as one of the most significant gaming decisions I've ever made.
2. I'll always think of video games as a source of entertainment; that goes without saying. However, I think the true value of gaming today lies in the social aspect of online play, where you can interact with people you otherwise would never have met and keep up with family and friends who have moved away. During the first week after the release of Halo 2 in 2004, I met a player online who has influenced my gaming ever since. Over the course of the five years I've known Puppys (a nickname derived from his gamertag), we've played over ten different online multiplayer games together and several other single player games simultaneously. Similarly, I am now much closer to my cousin after playing with him on Xbox Live. When he moved away several years ago, we lost contact and haven't really interacted much since. Recently, however, we've been playing together on Xbox Live much more, and it has brought us closer again. A lot of my favorite gaming moments have been with people I've met and played with online, making the people I've met more memorable than most games individually.
1. Halo 2 - November 9, 2004 is a day that I will always remember because it was the release of my favorite game of all time. Certainly everyone who bought the game on the first day remembers the ridiculous amount of hype Halo 2 had, with gamers waiting in line for hours to get their hands on a copy. I picked up mine on release day after school had ended for the day, and it was raining, the perfect weather to sit down and play all night. I have so many memories from playing Halo 2; after all, I played the game for almost two years. Whether it's using the glitching to reach extreme heights and find a way outside of the invisible walls guarding every map, using two-month free trials to help friends get to higher levels, entering matchmaking only to find modders screwing around, playing with friends from school, or simply leveling as high as I can, I will always remember playing Halo 2, so much so that I could write an entire blog just about my Halo 2 experiences. I've always played video games since my mom gave me her old NES when I was young, but playing Halo 2 was the first time when I ever considered myself a gamer.