Like a lot of people, I was recently shocked by the death of Satoru Iwata. He was the president and CEO of Nintendo and an Executive Producer on a lot of games. I think I’ve mentioned it here before but my first experience with video games was watching somebody play the Atari. However, the first system I played was the Nintendo Entertainment System. The original dull gray box with rectangle controllers. I was a console gamer from that point forward mostly because I never had a high performance computer to play to many things on PC.
I’ve been thinking about gaming and gaming culture for a while now. Video games seem very different from when I was just starting out but also the same. Massive improvements in technology have created a diversity in games that was unthinkable years ago. I think it has led a lot of people to play games that never would have before and I think that’s awesome.
When I played Nintendo games way back in the day they were so hard. The graphics were simple so back then it was pure gameplay. There are a lot of people that cling to that version of gaming. They don’t care about the story, they don’t want cutscenes or text. I don’t really look back on this period of gaming with great fondness. At the time I played these games relentlessly but I think I can count on one hand the games that I finished. I played the hell out of games like Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Brothers, and Bubble Bobble. However games like Contra and Bart Vs. The Space Mutants made me want to throw the controller through the screen.
Eventually, video games with more complicated stories showed up. Up until that point, all of a game’s story was in the manual or on television or in a movie. The first game I remember playing that had real story to it was Pokemon Red but it still wasn’t much. Then I played Final Fantasy VII which was my first game with a real story in the game. It was also my first game with real cutscenes and dialogue and more rounded characters. It was also the first game I played where you could make choices that mattered and a whole world to explore.
My eyes were really opened up to what games could be. It wasn’t just the advances in graphics and sound but there was more writing and character development involved. Now when my character died, I was more angry at the enemies than I was at the game. So far games had only evoked anger and joy but with this new wave of games came all sorts of emotions. When I reached that final boss and gave him everything I had, I felt a much bigger emotional release when I landed that final blow. When one of my companions died I felt bad and outraged at the enemy for doing such evil things.
Now I know some people don’t care about all of that. It all comes down to gameplay vs. story and the argument can be made for either or both. I happen to love a game with excellent gameplay but I often need a story too as motivation to play. I know there are people who are unwilling or unable to identify with their avatar in the game and are just in it for the challenge of the game. I can respect that but I’ve always needed some sort of narrative even if I have to make it up myself. This makes games with RPG elements in them among my favorite games and also any game with a strong story.
Please look foward to a follow up to this when I do a Top 11 Favorite Video Games where I’ll be able to give further examples.