Category: gaming

The Importance of Childhood Gaming Memories

 

I often wonder what makes certain memories stand out. What is it that makes something stick? Whenever it starts getting cooler and the leaves start to change color I remember the early days of fall during my childhood. The brisk air calls to mind all the evenings I spent in front of the television with my siblings playing video games. I don’t think it’s a secret that I am huge advocate for gaming, and I think it is often unfairly stigmatized. The memories I have of my young gaming history are some of my most cherished. After school, once homework was done, my brother, sister, and I would plant ourselves in front of the television and play until dinner. Typically, we would play fighting games, but one in particular draws my nostalgia more than any other, and that is Super Smash Brothers on Nintendo 64.

While I have many fond memories of all iterations of the Smash Brothers series, my most vivid memory is of the day we got the game. My brother had been asking for it for what felt like an eternity from our parents. He begged and begged until finally my father agreed to buy it for him one Friday after school. Dad picked us up from school, with my best friend in tow, and we headed to Toys R Us. My brother sprinted toward the game section and found an employee. My Dad reluctantly paid for the game. I can remember him saying, “Joe, if you don’t play with this game you will get no allowance for a month and I will give it to your cousin.” Of course, as the resident middle child, I complained that I didn’t get anything, so my Dad got Yo-Yos for my best friend and I.

We finally got home with the game, and my brother immediately took over. He already knew what you had to do for each unlockable character, so that was priority number one. When I finally got to play, my first choice of character was Pikachu, given the time period. However, my brother off-handedly said “Oh, Samus is a girl, not sure if you knew that.” I did not know that. I never played a Metroid game until we owned a Wii, but now Samus is one of my favorite Nintendo characters. The thing about Super Smash Brothers that I am grateful for is that it introduced me to so many classic characters that I wouldn’t have discovered until much later, when I got into retro gaming. Smash introduced me to my all-time favorite Nintendo character, which is Kirby. In fact, Kirby was the only character I could actually beat my older brother with.

Currently, my favorite 3DS game is Kirby: Planet Robobot. It’s such a fun little platforming game. It’s perfect for a handheld game. Had it not been for Super Smash Brothers, I don’t know if I would have ever played any of the Kirby games. Smash also introduced me to StarFox and Earthbound. To this day, whenever we are all reunited back at my parents’ house, we always break out the N64 and our game of choice is Super Smash Brothers. As I mentioned previously, the other installments are also great and hold wonderful memories, but nothing can compare to the original.

In the future, I hope to share more memories like this. I think it’s important to recognize the significance gaming has in social interaction. It’s a pipedream for me to write an essay on the positives gaming has on children’s cognitive development, but that’s not a task I am fully ready to tackle at this moment. Thank you for reading J Let me know below what your favorite Super Smash Brothers or Nintendo 64 memories are.

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Horror in Video Games

I’m a huge fan of horror in any capacity, whether it is novels, comic books, or films. There’s something innately fascinating about voluntarily experiencing an emotion we generally try to avoid in real life – fear.   Why would someone elect to experience fear and anxiety through entertainment? It’s a question that has always plagued my mind, because I’m drawn to the horror genre myself.

One thing that separates the horror experience in game versus in film is the element of physicality. That probably sounds strange, since video games are not generally associated with physicality, but hear me out. While watching a horror movie, you’re sitting fairly stationary. Of course, you could be tense or twitchy, or maybe even covering your eyes, but the horror film experience is a very passive one. That is how it’s supposed to be. It’s part of the reason why horror films have some of the most iconic scores. The music is also key to the completely passive experience. You have no choice.

In a horror game, however, you are actively choosing where your character looks, runs, shoots, etc. You’re in the nightmare. You choose to check the room in which you heard strange noises. You’re not watching Jamie Lee Curtis do it. Of course, you may be forced to do certain things to make the story progress, but it’s a conscious decision on your part. Watching a film is also a conscious decision, I mean no one is holding you down and making you watch Saw, but a different kind of conscious decision than taking action in a game. When you watch a film, you resign your mind and attention for a few hours of viewing. When you play a game, you resign your mind and attention for multiple hours of active decision-making and problem solving. That decision making and problem solving is all the more apparent in horror games.

Filmmakers can alter your perception of the nightmare you’re watching unfold by using certain camera angles or character point of views. Game creators can’t necessarily utilize the same tactics, which makes a truly scary game all the more impressive. Modern games typically have free moving cameras, which allow players to view any part of the environment that they choose, unless of course they’re viewing a cut scene. As such, the entire environment needs to be scary.

Sometimes, it’s hard to pin down exactly what qualifies as a horror game. If the game is primarily about shooting scary creatures, then the horror seems secondary. You could be shooting aliens instead, would that make it a science fiction game? What about games that involve zombies, but are not necessarily scary? Zombies are classic examples of horror movie monsters, but lately they’ve been so overused they’ve become a lot less scary. And where do we draw the line? Are the extreme survival horror games, like Asylum, too much? To literally have no weapons in a horror game seems like an exaggeration, but that’s what the game is all about.

Whatever your stance is on the horror genre in video games, I think we can all agree that it could definitely use revitalization. I’m talking about something like A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Game. Ok, not really. We all saw how that turned out on Nintendo….

Dreamcast Memories

Recently, I have been immersing myself in retro games. It may be due to the fact that no current generation titles have excited me lately, or it may be the recent rise of nostalgia I have felt over the last few months, but whatever the reason, retro gaming has been my focus as of late. Typically, when someone says “retro gaming” you immediately think of Atari, NES, SNES, Genesis, etc. I’m 25 now, so I did not play Atari at all as child, and I played very little NES. SNES and Genesis definitely have a bigger role in my gaming history, but the two systems that make me most nostalgic are the Sega Dreamcast and Nintendo 64. In this post, I’d like to share my Sega Dreamcast memories with you. 

To fully understand the gravity of my Dreamcast love, first you need a little background on me. Gaming is a huge part of my life, and it has been since I can remember. My brother is the one who introduced me to gaming at a very early age. After school at our grandmother’s house we would rush through homework to get to the SNES. Well, he would get to the SNES. If I was lucky enough, it would be a co-op game and I’d be allowed to play, but forget anything even slightly challenging, because that would occupy him for hours and he was not willing to give up that controller. If my cousin was there I lost my player 2 spot pretty quickly. I think that’s why I suck at Super Mario Bros. 3 to this day. Naturally, I was tired of always playing second fiddle to my brother. I wanted my own system to enjoy. Somehow, we had managed to get both an SNES and a Sega Genesis from our parents. My brother gravitated toward the Nintendo titles, so I was often left alone with the Genesis. When I heard about the Sega Dreamcast, I knew that was what I wanted.

 

I got my Dreamcast for Christmas in 1999 when I was 9 years old. I can remember being told, “Ok, Andrea. Open this up with your cousin.” My cousin and I both got Dreamcasts from our incredibly generous grandparents. They gave me a box containing the Dreamcast, a red VMU, an extra controller, Sonic Adventure, and 102 Dalmatians (I know, I was a 9 year old girl, ok). I couldn’t believe this would be mine! It was going to go in my bedroom for me to play when I wanted. No more waiting for “one more continue,” “one more level,” or “if you beat me, you can play.” If my brother wanted to play, he would have to ask me! Luckily, my tastes even at that age were pretty good, so I went for Sonic Adventure first. I remember that game completely blowing my mind. We were all amazed by the graphics, the music, even the sort of “autoplay” feature that exists in the game. It was unlike anything I had seen or played at the time, and I credit the Dreamcast for giving me my most treasured hobby. I even finished that 102 Dalmatians game. In fact, that game holds a lot of nostalgia for me, because it’s one of the first games I taught my little sister how to play. As soon as I see that red squiggle, all the hours spent cross-legged on my childhood bedroom floor come back to me in a wave, and it’s a great feeling.

 

There were several titles on Dreamcast that were very good, but if I’m honest I didn’t own many titles. I rented a ton from Blockbuster video, but at that time I wasn’t hungry for new titles. I enjoyed mastering the few titles I did have. In an age where there was no Twitch or walkthrough tutorials, you had to invest more of your own time into figuring out the Easter eggs and most efficient ways to conquer a level. That was part of the fun. In retrospect (pun intended) maybe one of the reasons I’ve gone back to my roots is the simplicity of it all. Sometimes I don’t want to be traversing a huge map with an unreal arsenal of weapons, abilities, and tech. It could be argued that part of the rise of popularity in mobile games is due, not only to the convenience, but also to the general simplicity of the games. In today’s world where we use every minute of every day, it can be a challenge for people to set aside time to play a game that requires strategy and concentration. We can’t all make a living streaming, so for those of us who need to work a 9-5, it can be refreshing to return to simpler time in gaming.

 

The last point I want to make about the Dreamcast is that the hardware was subpar. The Nintendo 64 that my family got in 1997 has never had one hardware problem. My beloved Sega Dreamcast? It broke three years after I got it. In my research, I have found that it had something to do with overheating and pins needing to be bent back. It would also randomly reset to the main screen during gameplay. These failures made me reluctant to ever go back to Dreamcast, even though it has a special place in my heart. For my birthday last year, I was gifted a Dreamcast by my fiancé. When I saw it, the emotions I felt were ridiculous. I know how cheesy that sounds, but it’s the truth. I love it for its good points, and I love it for faults. I love the fact that I had a terrible “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” game that I actually played for months that I now own again. I can remember being extremely frustrated with it as a 10 year old trying to  hone my skill. My Dreamcast sits right next to my Sunset Overdrive White Edition Xbox One and it does not pale in comparison. Now all I need to find is another red VMU.

 

What are your memories of the Dreamcast? Let me know if you share my feelings below.