Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Brief (personal) History of Gaming


I graduated about 4 months with a B.S. in Game Design. It has been an interesting road and I have learned a lot along the way, but I constantly felt that I was behind. Yes, I did grow up on games, but not really on video games that much except the ones I played on the Commodore 64. Up until I was in middle school, the only times I played console games was when my mom made my brother let me tag along to his friends’ house. They set me in front of the TV and stuck the controller in my hand and went off to do their own stuff and I was making Sonic roll across the screen so I wasn't too worried.

Mostly I played board, card, and word games and there are always strong memories associated with games. My mom is so sweet almost all the time and everyone sees her as being so sweet and mild. They have never played a game of Monopoly, Risk, or Scrabble with her. She is ruthless. She is a merciless goddess on the board game battlefield. 

And. She. Is. Glorious.
My mom has a scorched Earth policy when playing games (Source)

My strategy when I was younger playing Risk with my family was to pit my brother and dad against my mom. It was relatively easy since I was the youngest and not seen as a threat, but it never worked out quite how I planned. She slaughtered them and they only whittled her down a little but not nearly enough.
This is what one of our games might end up looking. I'm the blue. She ran out of pawns.


 As I got older I got better, and a lot of this can be attributed to my mom and the lessons I learned playing against her. Another skill I honed from playing with my mom was a certain level of stubbornness that keeps me trying even though the odds aren’t good.

While I have a lot of good memories associated with games, I also have some painful ones. I have sprained my arm three times during playground and other made-up games, bruised my hand playing the crocodile game, and managed to get tendonitis due to overplaying video games. To this day I still have an aversion to chess and checkers because my brother taught me checkers with a baseball bat. But even with all that, I still love games because even sometimes an injury is a time to take comfort in playing games. As my dad and I sat waiting tor one of the many times I had to get an x-ray, we played Octo. I made up the name because I can’t remember if we ever had a name for it. In  Octo, you build words of a part of speech such as the prefix oct-. It takes no paper, no score, just a spoken game where you imagine the results. To this day I still remember waiting to be called in and, even though pain was shooting through my arm, I was laughing at the thought on an octopan, a pan with eight handles.

Two things happened when I was in middle school: my grandma’s neighbor had a granddaughter around my age and she had an SNES and my brother got an SNES. I loved playing with my brother, but it never lasted long. I am 5 years younger than him and each year apart, seems to increase the annoyance factor exponentially. We’d play until my constantly moving with Mario annoyed him enough and I was kicked out. It was always a lot easier with my friend; she really didn’t care if I leaned when jumping a chasm. One day she got Zombies Ate My Neighbors (ZAMN) and that is when I fell in love.
ZAMN was the first game I remember playing that was truly co-op. We didn’t have to wait for one person to get through their turn or die; we could both play at the same time. It was also one of the first console games that I have played where one of could play as a regular girl. It may not seem like a huge deal and a lot of people see it as a feminist thing, but it is so much simpler than that. We want our PC to be an extension of ourselves and we want to be able to identify with it. It’s the same thing when you play Monopoly and fights break out over who gets what token. All Hell breaks loose if someone has to be the iron. While ZAMN had its flaws such as too many weapons to scroll through and a level that can act as a stop point but even with these flaws, it has my heart completely.

My first love
When I got into high school, my brother went into the Army and left me his SNES. It wasn’t until later that I got my own copy of ZAMN. The SNES moved around with me and for my 22nd birthday, I finally got my wish. My parents asked me what I wanted and the only thing that I could think of was a copy of ZAMN. My parents took me to Corvette Diner right after my play and presented me with ZAMN and a couple of Scooby Doo birthday cards. It was the absolute most perfect birthday.

This game remains my most played SNES game and is the game residing in the console as I write this. It continues to influence and inspire me. Whenever I find I doubt myself or question if I chose the right field of study, I start playing. I remember that even when I die, I get a little further each time. I may never have gotten through the whole game, but I never give up. I play and all the connections from my past bubble to the surface sparkling and I am renewed.

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