This month’s Band of Bloggers’ prompt is all about impact, but not the usual kind of impact that results in a splattered nazi head, or shattered alien carapice. I’ve been playing video games since I was about three or four years old, nearly three decades, and with that amount of time it would be weird if none of that had some kind of impact on me. I think for this month’s prompt, I’m going to just outline an anecdote or two about the games that most shaped who I am today. Who am I though, really? I’m just a person who erects massive text walls and throws them up every so often, regardless of public opinion and possibly even in spite of it. Oh hey, that was almost a segway into…
Final Fantasy! It wasn’t always a serious about ocean-deep lore barely explored in between odd MMO-style combat engines that seem to resent you for wanting to play the game. As I said above, I’ve been playing video games since before I had developed the part of my brain responsible for keeping long-term memories so of course Final Fantasy would be a franchise that I’m intimately familiar with. Unlike most fans of the franchise though, I didn’t start with any of the popular ones. I was too young to have played the original on the NES while it was still new. I eventually got Adventure on the Game Boy, but that was actually a Secret of Mana title (and a nostalgic game for me in general). My favorite games in the franchise, IV and VI (II and III on the Super Nintendo in North America at the time) were games that I didn’t know anything about until years later. My first Final Fantasy, and a game that helped teach me how to read, was actually Mystic Quest.
When I was a small child, I really enjoyed reading Little Golden Books and the Berenstain Bear books. The one series were fun adaptations of ancient children’s stories, or other simple tales featuring either muppets or Merry Melodies characters. The other, is somewhat more memetic now because nobody knows how to spell (or stay in their own damned reality), but the Berenstain stories from back in the 90’s were happy to impart simple moral lessons without beating you over the head with a Jesus stick (which I hear is the direction the books went after the original authors Stan and Jan Berenstain passed away). Everything about FInal Fantasy Mystic Quest was different: it was a story but it encouraged me to kill monsters. I could talk to people whenever I wanted. The story didn’t continue until I walked from town, to dungeon, to big monster, and made the story happen. I understand that Mystic Quest is considered Babies’ First JRPG, but that’s why I can’t hate it: I first played it when I was 5 years old when I first played it (possibly 4 depending on when we actually got it). This game isn’t the one that got me interested in writing, that was Final Fantasy VII and the next game in this blog, this is the game that helped me develop my ability to read. I will always appreciate this game for that reason, but I’ll also appreciate this game for being one of the only ones that feature monster degradation as the fights progress; Final Fantasy VII and IX didn’t have that now, did they?!
Metal Gear Solid: I received this game as a gift during Christmas of 1998 along with Final Fantasy VIII, and a memory card. I didn’t have many Playstation games at the time, and most of what I had on that platform at the time were sports games that my step-dad liked and a couple of budget licensed games (like the awesome Star Wars: Dark Forces). Up until this point, I didn’t have very much experience with story-driven games. I played Link to the Past numerous times, but the only RPGs I had experience with were Pokemon and Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest. Depending on how well you know me, you may already know that games like Death Stranding, Metal Gear 5, and Metal Gear 4 irritated me to no end. As a 10 year old, Metal Gear Solid definitely confused me when I started the game and was presented with a lengthy cutscene, and then another one, and then a lengthy codex conversation. At that age, I was happy to button-mash my way past these. I had read the manual several times, I know how to move around and I know how to fight, so why should I have to listen to a bunch of old people?
(Metal Gear? Hmm...Metal Gear)
I didn’t actually finish Metal Gear until about Spring or Summer of 1999 due to Playstation memory cards hating me and going corrupt. As I progressed through the game, there were several times when I couldn’t skip past the plot, and each time I engaged with those sections, I felt more, and more curious about what I missed out on previously. Thanks to a subscription to Gamepro, I knew that there was more to be done in the game even after I beat it once. During my second playthrough, during my summer break, I made an effort to pay attention to the plot and even call people on the codex as often as possible to get more out of the story. At this point I was 11 and not really used to complex narratives like the one present in Metal Gear Solid. I would read Goosebump books, I really liked Star Wars, but the most complex book I had read for myself was probably The Hobbit, and my Lovecraft phase was still about five years off. The mix of sci-fi and supernatural elements was something I hadn’t considered before and the way the game broke the fourth wall was something else I wasn’t expecting.
So how exactly did this game make an impact on me? Well, like I said above, if you don’t know too much about me I have a tendency to build up walls of text despite the will of those around me or those who come across my massive, impenetrable walls. I don’t think I can really blame Metal Gear for my verbosity, but it’s definitely one of the games that inspired me to start writing. It was also the first time a video game, possibly even a story in general, got to me and brought up an emotional response in me. During my playthrough where I was really hanging on every word of the story, after the second Sniper Wolf duel, something about her ending and Hal’s question about finding love on the battlefield really got to me. It was the first time a plot point in a video game choked me up, but it definitely wasn’t the last. I’m not sure why other games in the Metal Gear franchise haven’t hit me like the first Solid did, but that’s why I keep giving Kojima games a chance; I'm hoping to have another MGS experience.