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The Memory Card .90: In her father's Shadow photo
The Memory Card .90: In her father's Shadow
by Chad Concelmo

Family is a central part of anyone’s life. For better or worse, your family has a profound effect on you and changes your life in one way or another.

Because of the emotionally deep connection everyone has to family, videogame designers over the years have featured many in-game family relationships in their games to help the player relate to what is happening on-screen.

Whether these in-game family relationships exist in name alone (Mario & Luigi) or offer something much more complex and emotional (Mother 3), the power and impact of family in videogames cannot be ignored.

And while I love many of these videogame family relationships, one in particular stands out as being one of my unquestionable favorites. It appears in Super Nintendo masterpiece Final Fantasy VI, and the way the relationship is revealed is still, to this day, one of the most emotional, beautiful, and surprisingly subtle videogame moments of all time.

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The Memory Card .89: MEAT 'SPLOSION! photo
The Memory Card .89: MEAT 'SPLOSION!
by Chad Concelmo

One of the great things about videogames is how absurd they can be. Whether this absurdity is intentional (Noby Noby Boy) or unintentional (“All your base are belong to us!”) it’s always nice to see games that aren’t afraid to be ridiculous.

While movies and television have a stricter reliance on sticking to a somewhat cohesive narrative, videogames have the luxury of throwing normalcy out the window and offering something that can only be found in the world of gaming.

Even better, these absurd moments are even more wonderfully insane if they appear in a game that is otherwise fairly traditional.

A perfect example of this is in the semi-recent Xbox Live Arcade hit 'Splosion Man. The entire game (a classic platformer) is full of humorous moments, but an extended sequence at the end of the game is absolutely ludicrous and will go down in history as one of the oddest and most amazing videogame moments I have ever experienced.

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The Memory Card .88: The mark of a THIEF photo
The Memory Card .88: The mark of a THIEF
by Chad Concelmo

How do videogames punish the player for doing something wrong?

The easy answer is they kill them. By performing a key jump or sword swing incorrectly, the game punishes the player by taking away one of their lives. But what about when the player does something morally wrong? Is there a punishment for that?

Some games ignore this “moral” judgment completely. Others -- like in modern videogames like Mass Effect -- employ a good and evil meter that will rise or deplete depending on the actions you perform in-game. If the player does something that the game deems “bad”, your good meter will go down and your evil meter will go up.

While this is quite effective, it can easily be remedied by just doing more good things. The overall lasting effect is not very permanent.

With The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening for the original Game Boy, however, doing one particular evil act in the game punishes the player with not only something permanent ... but something rather humiliating.

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The Memory Card .87: A Snake in a microwave photo
The Memory Card .87: A Snake in a microwave
by Chad Concelmo

There is a terrifying sequence in George Orwell's classic novel 1984 that finds main character Winston Smith tied to a chair with a giant cage full of rats attached to his face. Rats are Winston’s worst fear and, through the book’s exquisite writing, the audience feels the troubled main character’s pain and terror.

Shifting mediums, a memorable scene in the film A Clockwork Orange shares a similar power of drawing its audience into a twisted, visceral world of nightmarish torture.

As powerful as these two sequences are, they don’t possess one key element to take their emotional resonance to the next level: audience interaction. The reader or viewer doesn’t have to do anything outside of reading the next word or waiting for the next frame of film to flicker by on the screen. The audience is a mere silent participant as the dark stories unfold before their eyes.

But with Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots for the PlayStation 3, one scene in particular not only elicits a pure, visceral feeling of pain and terror, it gives the player full control of what is happening on-screen.

It’s some incredibly powerful, truly revolutionary stuff.

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The Memory Card .86: Death is final photo
The Memory Card .86: Death is final
by Chad Concelmo

We all know the way it works. You play through a level in a videogame, encounter an unexpectedly hard section, and your main character plummets into a bottomless pit ... or is singed by a giant dragon ... or is blown up by a nearby oil drum. Whatever the morbid descriptor, your character dies.

As unfortunate as this is, it doesn’t really matter in the long run. If you have another life, you can just try the level all over again. And in more recent games, you don’t even have to have another life -- you can just return to a close checkpoint and tackle the foreboding obstacles one more time!

This unrealistic take on life and death is nothing more than a videogame fantasy, but one that allows the player to fully enjoy the game and learn from their mistakes.

But one game changed this traditional depiction of videogame death forever. Fire Emblem on the Game Boy Advance (and originally as a Japan-only release on the NES!) didn’t offer players such a generous option when a character died. In fact, its main gameplay twist was downright tragic.

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The Memory Card .85: You have chosen ... wisely photo
The Memory Card .85: You have chosen ... wisely
by Chad Concelmo

There is a large focus on choice in the videogames of today.

In games like Infamous and Fallout, for example, players are tasked with choosing between a good or evil path. It is an interesting mechanic that, unfortunately, leads to mixed results.

Sure, choosing between two paths makes the game more interesting and varied, but aside from a sometimes striking visual transformation of the main character and some new mission goals, the game’s overall sequence of events pretty much stays the same.

Back in 1992, though, classic adventure game Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis offered players an in-game choice that was truly revolutionary for the time. It was an innovative addition that dramatically changed the way the rest of the game played, and challenged players to view traditional videogame narrative in a whole new way.

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The Memory Card .84: A royal assist photo
The Memory Card .84: A royal assist
by Chad Concelmo

A damsel in distress.

Those four words perfectly describe the basic plots of numerous videogames over the years. From the popular Mario series to even things like Ghosts 'n Goblins and Wizards & Warriors, a large majority of videogames, on their most simple terms, are about a hero embarking on a quest to rescue a kidnapped woman.

Take the Zelda series for another specific example. The original Legend of Zelda is one of the first games known for being about a hero (Link) saving a damsel (Zelda) in distress (kidnapped by Ganon).

With The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, though, everything about the Zelda series changed. It was in this GameCube iteration of the classic series that found Zelda as much more than a helpless princess in peril. Zelda was a real character with real emotions, a real storyline, and -- gasp! -- real dialogue.

But it wasn’t until the very end of the game when Zelda’s role in the revered series took on its most major, unexpected twist yet.

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The Memory Card .83: Blast Processing! photo
The Memory Card .83: Blast Processing!
by Chad Concelmo

For everyone that is old enough to remember, the decision to buy either a Super Nintendo or a Sega Genesis was a major one.

Did you make the choice to buy the Super Nintendo -- a solid, classic console with some incredible games made by a reliable company? Or did you make the hip purchase of the Sega Genesis -- the arguably “cooler” of the two consoles, with games that were much more “extreme” and “hardcore” than anything offered on Nintendo’s little gray and purple machine?

Both systems were great, but it was rare to find a kid in the neighborhood that owned both -- a far cry from the multiple-console homes of today.

The SNES or the Genesis. For many gamers that fell in love with the original Nintendo, this would have been a ridiculously easy choice ... but with the 1991 release of Sonic the Hedgehog on the Genesis and a marketing campaign that can only be described as magnificently ludicrous, Nintendo’s loyal followers (including me!) began to question their preferred system of choice.

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The Memory Card .82: Yuna's empty embrace photo
The Memory Card .82: Yuna's empty embrace
by Chad Concelmo

For as many people that praise the modern Final Fantasy games for their glorious, technically impressive cutscenes, there is an equal amount of people that criticize them for being far too overdramatic and emotionally empty.

As a huge fan of the "older" Final Fantasy entries (IV & VI!), I would normally be predisposed to agreeing with these latter sentiments. I would even argue that there is more emotion in the 16-bit Final Fantasy games than any of the recent iterations.

But, despite my thoughts on a lot of these magnificently beautiful, yet emotionally hollow modern Final Fantasy cutscenes, one sequence in a relatively recent entry really touched me in a way I never thought it would. While the melodrama is thick, one particular moment in the conclusion of Final Fantasy X shows off a surprisingly quiet confidence and impressive sense of direction.

It is my favorite moment in Final Fantasy X -- a dramatic, tragic scene that brings the epic role-playing game to a heartbreaking close.

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The Memory Card .81: A prayer for Ness photo
The Memory Card .81: A prayer for Ness
by Chad Concelmo

After a hiatus that went on much longer than planned, I am very happy to announce that The Memory Card is back for its fifth season! For anyone reading this that is not familiar with this feature, The Memory Card is a long-running series that dissects and honors some of the most artistic, innovative, and memorable videogame moments of all time.

To start off this new season, I decided to focus on a videogame moment that holds a very special place in my heart. Frankly, after all these years, I am surprised I haven’t featured this moment before -- it really means that much to me.

In the mid-‘90s, EarthBound -- a game I am sure most of you are familiar with -- was released for the Super Nintendo. The odd, but utterly fantastic RPG defied all genres with its modern-day setting and unique, extremely quirky and dark personality. There is a reason this game is still adored all these years later. It is an undisputed masterpiece.

And this week’s moment is one of numerous reasons EarthBound is considered by many to hold this inarguable title of masterpiece. Occurring at the end of the game, this surprising moment still holds up as being just as revolutionary, powerful, and moving as it was almost twenty years ago.

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4:00 PM on 12.30.2009

The Memory Card .80: The return to Shadow Moses

“The Memory Card” is a seasonal feature that dissects and honors some of the most artistic, innovative, and memorable videogame moments of all time. I can’t believe this is the fourth season finale of the Me...

Chad Concelmo

4:00 PM on 12.23.2009

The Memory Card .79: Inside the worm

“The Memory Card” is a seasonal feature that dissects and honors some of the most artistic, innovative, and memorable videogame moments of all time. As a huge fan of old school videogames (SNES 4 LIFE!), I love wh...

Chad Concelmo

4:00 PM on 12.16.2009

The Memory Card .78: The statue of a hero

“The Memory Card” is a seasonal feature that dissects and honors some of the most artistic, innovative, and memorable videogame moments of all time. The realistic passage of time is something surprisingly ignored ...

Chad Concelmo

4:00 PM on 12.10.2009

The Memory Card .77: Prince Froggy

“The Memory Card” is a seasonal feature that dissects and honors some of the most artistic, innovative, and memorable videogame moments of all time. What makes a good boss battle? When you break it down, it’...

Chad Concelmo

4:00 PM on 11.19.2009

The Memory Card .76: Brotherly love

“The Memory Card” is a seasonal feature that dissects and honors some of the most artistic, innovative, and memorable videogame moments of all time. We all have experienced our fair share of sad moments in videoga...

Chad Concelmo

4:00 PM on 11.12.2009

The Memory Card .75: The blind fighting the blind

“The Memory Card” is a seasonal feature that dissects and honors some of the most artistic, innovative, and memorable videogame moments of all time. Regardless of their varying types of gameplay, videogames genera...

Chad Concelmo