I was a timer kid.
You know the type. The kid whose daily gaming habits were dictated by the unstoppable countdown of a kitchen timer. (A half-hour on weekdays and an hour on weekends, in case you were curious about specifics.) The kid who, while everyone else was racking up kills in seemingly endless rounds of Diablo and Counter-Strike was finally, FINALLY, going up against Ganondorf after at least six months of piecemealing together Ocarina of Time. The kid who lost every round of Goldeneye because he not once stayed up way past midnight perfecting the art of “Slappers Only!” mode.
If this sounds bitter, that is not my intention. I’m actually relieved my parents took the initiative to keep me from turning into a living extension of my Nintendo 64 controller. It led me to read and write a lot, and to get way too into The Seventh Seal by the end of ninth grade. But now that I’m an adult, I’ve realized video games interest and excite me in ways beyond the childhood obsessiveness of a flightless bird chasing a shiny object. They have an allure and a visceral impact that may not eclipse my love of movies or books, but have enough of a unique emotional pull that gaming is now something forever under my skin and in my head. There certainly isn’t a shortage of young, smart people with blogs who feel similarly.
But between lack of exposure during my youth and betting on the wrong horse these past two console generations (in case you can’t tell, I’m a Nintendo fanboy slowly broadening his taste), there are some serious gaps when I try to discuss gaming culture and heritage. I decided it was finally time to sit down and play the classics, the same way I tried to take in enough of the film and literary canons to at least know what the hell I was talking about. What I’d like to do with this blog is not only write about my personal reactions to these games, but also why they resonate as nearly-undisputed classics. What do they say about the video game medium? What do they illustrate about what games do well? Are they enough to prove that there is a video game “canon,” or is this an art form so in its infancy that this is like trying to write a dissertation onFred Ott’s Sneeze?
In the next few weeks, I plan on writing about Shadow of the Colossus, Ico, Portal, and Knights of the Old Republic; I’ll obviously be adding to this list as I play more games. I’ll also be doing more general entries. (Expect a Mario post shortly following this one.) If writing about games like Ico or Bioshock seems tired, my hope is that’s because these games are the ones worth writing about. We’ll see.