The first game to ever catch my attention and hold it was Parasite Eve on the PlayStation. I was a high school kid looking for a reason not to study, and PE was the answer to my prayers.
The opening scene had everything a young me wanted in the world: a good looking redhead, subtitles, and people spontaneously bursting into flames. From that moment, I was hooked. I stayed up late into the night, played until I reached a boss, snuck in some cigarettes before the big battle (wasn't I so edgy!), and then returned to save the world.
The game still resonates with me to this day, and I think I understand why for the first time.
The only other two games that stayed with me well after playing them were the Silent Hill series and Dragon Age. Silent Hill, of course, is the epitome of what a horror game should be. You start with a basic story (find your daughter) and it builds from there. You're thrown into a hellish situation and have no idea what's going on until the story unravels and somewhat makes sense. There are monsters galore and characters that you might or might not trust, along with creepy music, lighting, and a control system that makes running into walls surprisingly easy. Dragon Age is basically the same but without the horror. These games are all about getting lost in a world where you have no control. The genres are different, but the basic idea is the same: figure out what's going on and how to survive it.
At the end of all three games, there are still questions to be answered. You don't feel like you've won at the end. You've simply managed to survive.
Maybe that's why those games stuck with me. Isn't that life in a nutshell? We're on a rock in the middle of a galaxy we have no control over. Winning is subjective; survival is the name of the game. The best fantasy explores life in an absurd way because life itself is absurd. Sometimes, you need to use a town that has sold its soul to a demon and is overrun with killer nurses as a setting in order to explore the depths of the human condition.
Maybe I'm reading to much into these games. I know I am, and I'm okay with that.
There haven't been many games over the past few years that I've been able to read much into. Don't get me wrong; I enjoy shooting zombies and building shelters in 7 Days To Die as much as any other semi-functional 35-year-old. Battlefield and Recore are great experiences when you've got 5 hours to kill.
The problem is that I feel like those games are just there to kill some time. I'm sure there are some people that get value out of those games, but I don't. I kill a few dozen zombies, robots or soldiers, make it to the end, and I'm done.
I've won. Yay.
I don't wanna feel like I've won. I want to feel like like I've survived. It's a feeling that's lacking in a lot of games lately that, in my admittingly screwed up opinion, needs to make a comeback.