Nostalgia Goggles

 

SONY DSCNostalgia Goggles are a real thing. There are games that I play now, as a young adult, that as a child seemed so complex, long, and difficult – but now seem simplistic. Prince of Persia: Sands of Time took me a month to finish when I was a kid, and I could play it over and over in pure awe. As an adult? I can blow through it in a day and mostly forget about it until I feel like dipping back into childhood. And then there are the games that remain exactly as you remember them. These, for me, are mostly Nintendo titles.

I’ve mentioned on the show before that I came into mainstream gaming later than most. My experiences playing Nintendo games up until I was in college consisted mainly of whatever my friends had and were willing to share (mainly Mario Kart, Smash Bros., and the occasional level of Legend of Zelda, in which my save file was inevitably deleted before my next visit). This always gave them extra weight when entering my nostalgia catalogue.

The first Nintendo system I can clearly remember playing was the SNES. I was eight years old and in Seattle’s Children’s Hospital recovering from surgery. For a kid, this is an absolutely trippy experience, because you know being in the hospital isn’t a good sign, but everyone around you puts forth such an effort to make everything OK and fun, that it actually kind of is (ignoring the literal crippling pain, of course). The SNES was hooked up to a TV in the room I shared with another child, but due to the nature of what he was recovering from, he didn’t play much. I always got the impression he enjoyed watching me play though (based on the bobbing head as the chiptune music played). At this point in my life, I can’t remember all the games that were available to me, but I know I specifically played Super Mario World and Donkey Kong Country.

There is a bizarre experience that happens to me whenever I boot these up again, now on an emulator. I try to look at the games objectively, for what they are to me now – the way I look at most other classic Nintendo games that I don’t have Nostalgia Goggles for. They’re both great games, although they have their buggy or absurdly broken levels (Donkey Kong Country’s minecart level comes to mind). But more than that, whenever I start playing, I get transported back to that hospital room, with its bright colors, friendly staff, and sterilized smell. I hear my parents laughing, asking me how I feel, or even reading a passage out of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (something else I discovered during this visit). I see my kid sister trying out a level and getting frustrated. I feel the soft fur of the beanie-baby frog my best friend brought me, sitting in my lap. Those simultaneous feelings of fear, but love and safety, and unexpected fun, always return to me – and all it takes is remembering the over-world music for Mario.

Dissociating these feelings is impossible. And there are other games that can have just as intense an effect on me. For example,  I also know that, no matter how out-of-date the BASIC programming language is, Learn to Program BASIC will always be the greatest educational game out there, because my dad made it, and brought it to my elementary school to teach me and my classmates how to program our own games.

I legitimately couldn’t tell you if any of the most meaningful games for me are actually any good in a critical sense – but they are a part of me. And I think that, in playing the games that others recommend to us because they somehow impacted their lives, we can learn a little more about the people we care about. The beauty of games is the beauty of any art or storytelling. They get tied into what we’re experiencing, and ultimately into who we are.

Ready to Switch? Everything We Know About Nintendo’s New Console

January 12, 2017 – Nintendo officially announces their new console, the Nintendo Switch, with full release date, retail price, and a handful of games to expect alongside the system.

    The presentation was classically Nintendo: bizarre. Each presenter had some kind of gimmick –  such as the Lead “Squid Research” Scientist who told us about Splatoon 2 (coming this summer) – and nearly every presenter exited by saying they were going to “switch”, complete with a snap, over to the next person. What I found especially charming was how, despite the unenthused monotone of the English translators, the presenters all seemed genuinely excited to share this new toy with everyone.

    So, what do we officially know about the Switch? Well, honestly, not much more than we got from their teaser video back in October, but now we know, rather than suspect, that we can play Skyrim anywhere. Here’s a breakdown of some other facts:

Continue reading Ready to Switch? Everything We Know About Nintendo’s New Console

The Illusion of Choice

One of the fundamental components of a game is that it offers choice. The ability to choose is what allows us to interact with the game at all – you have to choose to have Mario run to the right and jump up to the next platform. The consequences of your choices progress the game forward, or end it prematurely – if you choose not to jump to the platform, Mario falls into the perilous pit and loses a life (repeat action to get to GAME OVER). But the games that intrigue me the most are those games that offer the illusion of choice as a means of storytelling.

One game that continues to haunt me is The Stanley Parable.

Continue reading The Illusion of Choice

Stop Over-Seasoning: Your Salt is Ruining My Game

What is salt? A chemical compound that makes popcorn taste great – yes. But it’s also a colloquial descriptor for how someone may feel after being made fun of, attacked, or generally being embarrassed. Gamers in particular get referred to as being “salty” for things like losing without grace – or just shitting on a game they don’t like. And it’s ruining the experience.

Continue reading Stop Over-Seasoning: Your Salt is Ruining My Game

Escapism: A Love Story

Video games have always been there. Sure, I’ve had the occasional affair with a book, and I’m never going to deny that I, too, have done the late-night call to Netflix or Hulu. But if something is going on in my life where I need to step away and absorb myself in another world, a book is just too easy to let my mind wander, and a show is just a mind numbing experience to get through a few hours without meaning anything. But video games have always, always been there.

Continue reading Escapism: A Love Story

The Gaming Future is Now? Why I’m Skeptical of VR:

The video game industry is young and growing fast. Every couple of years, it jumps forward by leaps and bounds to give us something more realistic-looking, bigger, more complex, engaging, etc. Every time a new console or accessory launches, the marketplace is sudden buzzing with talk of “the future of gaming”, with the idea that this product will become the new norm of gaming. I suspect Virtual Reality (VR) may be heading down the same path.

Continue reading The Gaming Future is Now? Why I’m Skeptical of VR:

Quantum Break-Down: Manipulating Time and Storytelling in the Latest Xbox Exclusive

Quantum Break is the latest of the few-and-far-between Xbox One exclusive titles, developed by Remedy Entertainment and directly published by Microsoft. The basic premise is that a group known as Monarch has been experimenting with time manipulation, after a recent discovery of “chronon-particles”. You play primarily as Jack Joyce, who witnesses a terrible accident that literally fractures time, causing it to “stutter” and bend in on itself. Your goal is simple: stop the inevitable End of Time from happening by manipulating time further. It’s all very edgy and ever-so-slightly convoluted.

Continue reading Quantum Break-Down: Manipulating Time and Storytelling in the Latest Xbox Exclusive

One Man’s Trash: Knowing When a Game Really Is Garbage

We’ve all experienced it; someone, somewhere, starts tearing apart a game you love and calling it “crap”. Nothing is more heartbreaking and infuriating – and yet, just as sure as I am that we’ve all gone through it, I know we’ve also all done the same thing to someone else’s beloved title. This is, of course, just the subjective nature of any art, but it brings up a simple question: When is a game just bad? Continue reading One Man’s Trash: Knowing When a Game Really Is Garbage