Okay, so this blog post was inspired by a video on Playstation Access that talks about 7 different games that inspired the staff at Playstation Access. Gaming, along with reading and writing, and watching movies and television shows, make up a large part of my free time, so I thought that I would also do a blog post that covers seven influential games for me. I will revisit this post several different times, each time updating it with a new game.
Here are mine are in no particular order:
So, I puzzled and puzzed until my puzzler was sore for what I should do for my last game for this post. I have so many games that I’ve played that have had an influence of on me. I had to really think about a game that affected me and I finally settled on Golden Axe. As a beat’em-up much like Double Dragon and Streets of Rage, where you take control of a character and use the controller to “beat up” your opponents. While inevitably violent, most of these were never really bloody in the way a “slasher” film might be–the violence (to me) was always cartoony (a la Tom & Jerry). Essentially, Golden Axe is a side-scrolling game you move from right to left defeating monsters and creatures. You choose from one of three characters and you can play it alone or cooperatively with a 2nd player. In the late 1980s, Golden Axe was the closest thing to fantasy movies like Conan the Barbarian and fantasy novels like The Lord of the Rings. There is even a magic system using gnomes and jars that added variety to the game. I cannot tell you how many times that I’ve played this game or how many times that I’ve enjoyed going all the way though it, either by myself or with my uncle. This game is one that I played all through my teenaga years.
Street Fighter 2
Street Fighter 2 is a game that I discovered while I was in college. It became super popular during my second year at UT Knoxville. As a fighting game, it allowed one player to challenge the computer or 2 players to challenge each other. It became all of the craze at the Gameroom at the University Center and in the “arcades” that lingered on “The Strip” (the road just off of campus that divided the campus from the off-campus apartments and led into downtown Knoxville). The game was intense and even though there were only 8 characters at the time, they were so different that it was easy to pick a favorite and learn all their moves and then challenge others (strangers or friends). I remember that my best friend from high school came up to UT Knoxville during my 2nd year there and we used to have epic battles on this game. My main character was Chun Li because I loved her speed and agility and her move set (especially the Lightning Kick and the Spinning Bird Kick). My friend played Bison (aka M Bison) because of his power and powerful moves. I was so in love with the game, that I asked for a Super Nintendo just to get an arcade perfect port of the game (I didn’t need to because a later edition also came to the Sega Genesis a little later on with the ability to fight against the same character that you were playing). This is one that my uncle and I had loads of fun playing, although I think he was a little disappointed that it was just a “fighter” and didn’t have more depth. For me, however, I was enraptured. Once I learned Chun Li’s moves, it became a mini-game to see how I could beat opponents with as many of the different moves as possible. This game to this day, still is one that when the latest iteration comes out, I will at least give it a look/play, even when it steps away from the core gameplay. SFII as it is affectionately known by fans is a game that truly had an effect on me as a gamer.
The Bard’s Tale II: The Destiny Knight
So this game is one that I played religiously during my childhood. I got into D&D through the boardgame Dungeon! and bought quite a few D&D and AD&D rulebooks and supplements. I saw an ad for this in a magazine (I think) and I got it for a birthday (or Christmas) present. Rolling a character and creating a party was immensely fun for me as was adventuring in the town of Skara Brae. I, along with my uncle, scouraded the land and the dungeons. I seem to remember that there were seven dungeons (not including the “starter” dungeon in the world. We managed to map out and beat the first two dungeons (if I remember correctly), but not the “starter” dungeon, weirdly enough. I think we might have gotten one finished, but I’m not really sure at this point. I remember the puzzle that stopped us, “What is No. 9’s favorite wine?” I’m assuming there was a clue that we missed somewhere because I think this was in Dungeon 4 (???), but where ever, it stopped our progress. Even though we didn’t technically finish/beat the game, we spent hours and hours on the game, and even invested in graph paper to map out the dungeons and the game world (before “automapping” was a thing. Even without finishing, the experience of the playing the game and creating characters still helps to inform me as a writer today and that’s why this game is one of the influential games of my childhood.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
So, Call of Duty was a franchise that I knew a lot about, but didn’t actually pick up until Treyarch’s World War II game, Call of Duty 3, and I really liked the game, but shortly thereafter Infinity Ward announced that they were moving out of the WWII arena and moving the game into the modern era. I really found this to be provocative and I followed the development with considerable interest. When the game released, the campaign just blew my mind. It was tense, fun, and graphically well done and I found it to be one of the best stories that I’ve experienced in any medium. The online component also sucked me in after I finished main campaign several times. It extended my enjoyment of the game and I played the online portion religiously for the better part of two years. Modern Warfare is a game that not just influenced me, but also influenced the entire gaming industry for the better part of 8-10 years.
Okay, so I’m cheating a little bit on this entry as technically, Galaga and Galaxian are two separate games. However, they came out at about the same time, they play so similar, and they are ones where I played either of them no matter what, depending on the location–some places would have one, other places would have the other, and I personally had no preference between the two. Basically, these two games are what’s known in the gamer community as “top down shooters.” You shoot aliens as they move though space, but your view is from the top as if you were looking down on your own ship and the aliens. Much like the classic game Space Invaders you find your ship confined to the bottom of the screen, but instead of aliens coming down in straight lines, they swirl around the play area, making your job of hitting them, much harder. On Galaga, there is an extra wrinkle in that some ships are able to send out a tractor beam and capture your ship. If it was your last ship, then the game is over, but if you have another ship and can hit the alien that has captured your ship, you have the chance of getting it back and doubling your firepower. It has a great risk/reward system in place with that mechanic. Galaxian is essentially the exact same game minus the alien ship with its tractor beam. These two games were favorites of mine and earned my quarters every time I saw them in an arcade, or where ever they might have been located.
Tomb Raider 2
This is probably the most influential game for me in the “modern” era of gaming in that it was the one game that I played when I still had my entire family available to me (my uncle, my grandmother, and my grandfather), so there is a nostalgia factor with this game. Most people, scholars/journalists will cite the rise of Lara Croft as this feminist icon in video games, and while this is true, TRII is most notable to me because of its proto-narrative structure. From the introductory cutscene, all through the in-game dialogue, you can see a narrative trying to be told by the game designers. While not nearly as polished as a movie, you can see early attempts at dramatic irony, a sarcastic heroine, and a narrative structure (exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution), all wrapped around a larger-than-life character in Lara Croft. There was also an element of “world-hopping” similar to the best adventure movies with the game taking place in various real-world settings–from Venice, to Nepal, to other exotic locals. However, what I remember most about the game were the puzzles. The puzzles were clever and inventive. I remember, up until that point, I hated games with heavy puzzle elements because I felt that I just wasn’t very good with them–however, TR II, helped to change that for me. With help from my uncle, I began to be more patient with puzzles and began to really enjoy the challenge of trying to figure them out. We had the “cluebook,” and used it early on in the game, but later in the game, it became a secondary challenge, a mark of distinction, and a badge of honor, to see if we could figure out the puzzle without the cluebook. I credit this game with helping me become a better “library assistant” as it came out during the first two years of my time at the CPL. This game had a profound effect on me during my mid-20s and is still one of my favorite games of all time.
Pacman (Arcade and Atari 2600 editions)
So, Pacman had a profound effect on me. While it was the most popular of the 1980s “first wave” of video games, it was also influential on me in that it was a game that helped to cement my love of video games at that particular time period. It wasn’t the first video game I played (no, that honor goes to Galaga), but it was the game (along with Galaga, Galaxian, Donkey Kong, Asteroids, Turbo, Spyhunter, and Missle Command) that set me firmly in the camp of a gamer. While I was never really very good at the game–I never wanted to memorize patterns–I always just wanted to “play” it, it still was something that I would always gravitate to and want to play. If I (or my parents) ever had spare quarters, they would end up in the cabinet at some point before the night was over. When the game came home, I was a bit disappointed that it didn’t exactly match the arcade version, but I can still remember hearing the “dun-na-na-dunm” of the start-up screen as Santa’s elves set it up on Christmas Eve. For a game version that I was mildly disappointed with initially, I have to say I spent an inordinate amount of time playing it. I really liked the game and it was very influential for me as both a child and a gamer.
- Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 2nd Draft)
- Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
- Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue #1, Currently on Script Page 28)