Before I checked Metacritic,
Before I got the scoop from Destructoid,
Before I watched gameplay videos,
Before I waited for recommendations,
Hell, even before I peeked into Nintendo Power to see what was up - I played videogames.
I played videogames like it was no one's business. Because it truly was.
When I was about six years old, my dad bought me a Super Nintendo. Did I care that I had never heard of any of the games he bought for it? No. Did I care that the Nintendo 64 was out? No. And I certainly didn’t check Metacritic scores before I settled in with my spiffy “new” system.
Because, for perhaps the first time, my brain was cracked wide open. And I know yours were, too.
As a kid, it never even crossed my mind to check the reviews of a particular game. Every game was its own experience. And I didn’t even have many of the “critically acclaimed” titles that the SNES had to offer. At best, I had Super Bomberman, a port of King of the Monsters, and Star Fox. These are by no means “bad games,” but I loved every inch of their cheap, plastic, inanimate beings.
Super Bomberman was the game that got my six-year-old competitive edge firing more intensely than anything else. King of the Monsters was the game that turned me into a small, young sadist who dreamed of knocking over buildings and turning densely populated cities into barren, bloody wastelands.
And as for Star Fox – the heroism…the urgency…just priceless.
When the GameCube was released, I was lucky enough to find a Nintendo 64 under the Christmas tree with a box of about 15 games. On it, I first played Mario Kart – and it blew my mind. It was an experience. My experience.
I recall spending hours playing Mario Kart with my younger sibling for the remainder of Christmas vacation. We didn’t care about how many CCs our engines were. We didn’t care about edging out the fastest lap times. We cared about the experience. Whether we were aware of that or not.
For me, the defining part of Mario Kart 64 is the Kalimari Desert train tracks. My younger sibling and I would play as Mario and Luigi respectively, and drive on those train tracks more than we would actually race. As children, the fact that you could ditch the racetrack and drive on the railroad was so liberating. We’d drive into the sunset, not a care in the world. As if we were on the lam. Or Clint Eastwood in High Plains Drifter – The Stranger on a horse leaving a trail of dust.
The feelings that my brother and I got from videogames were what drew us to play them as often as we did. Whether we adored a game, hated it for being blindingly difficult (holyfuckingshitfzerogx), or loved it for freeing us from the bellyaches of an elementary schooler's life - we played for the experience.
Forget about being grown up and subjective. Stop comparing one game to the next. It’s inane. There’s nothing wrong with doing your research before buying a game. But don’t rely on gameplay videos or reviews. Because if you do, you’re basing your opinion and judgment on someone else’s experience with it.
Go create your own experiences. Go play that game you were pumped to buy until you heard one bad review. Stop Googling videogames, and start playing them more. Before we googled videogames…we lived them. We experienced them. We enjoyed them.