In Super Smash Bros. Melee, you get to choose the character you play as each and every time you enter a battle or event. Some choose a researched “best character.” Some go straight for the heavy-hitters. And some, ourselves included, choose the characters they relate with the most. It’s appropriate considering the uniqueness of this piece.
We’re pairing 8-bit music thematically, rather than based entirely on series. You can find this track and more Tater-Tot Tunes on YouTube! Stop by and jam to some great tunes.
Normal Happenings is proud to present The Characters That Define Us, a year long collaboration of 52+ incredible bloggers! Today we’re publishing a rather unique piece: wise blogger Mr Backlog discusses how you are the character that defines him.
Well, not you specifically, but rather the representation you create when you play most games. We shall call this persona “Player One,” if only to make things easier to categorize. We loved how Mr Backlog kicked off The Games That Define Us, so we’ve been looking forward to sharing this one with you for a long time. If anyone can pull off such a fascinating premise, it’s him.
So, Mr Backlog, take it away!
“From a hiding place behind the stones of the dungeon, a dying cellmate produces a Mauser M-98 pistol fully loading with ten bullets and gives it to you. Your new mission: Find the Nazi war plans and escape Castle Wolfenstein alive.”
– Castle Wolfenstein instruction manual
In 1983, video game characters tended to have one, very important thing in common – there weren’t any.
Your average programmer wasn’t much for graphical design, and even if they were, the graphics of the day didn’t leave much to “design”. So apart from the odd Pac-Man or Q*Bert, most “characters” were stick-men, or vehicles with no discernible driver. Plenty of games didn’t have graphics at all, sticking to ASCII-like representations or plain ol’ text.
You might think this made the game less engaging, but far from it. You see, these games didn’t need “heroes”, much less the modern Marcus Fenix-type macho-men who look like they’ve eaten a brick shithouse then climbed inside a fridge. Oh no.
You see, the hero was you.
In these games there was no “Mario”, no “Mega Man”, no impossible beefcake that I happened to control. There was only me. And that was enthralling.
As a child, you can’t do much. “Don’t do this”, “don’t do that”, “put that down you’ll have your eye out”. I was the youngest of three kids, with a big gap between me and the others, so I was constantly forced to watch from the sidelines because “you’re too small”. But in games, I could do anything! Fly a fighter plane in Sky Fox, rescue the hostages in Chopperlifter, save the Earth in Galactic Attack. The feeling of empowerment was exhilarating, especially on the rare occasions I beat games my big brother couldn’t!
And as I got older the games did too, or rather my perception of them did. I think I was about 5 when I was playing Missile Command and this screen took on a whole new meaning:
I’d seen it a hundred times before, but for some reason it suddenly unsettled me. So I showed it to Mum, and asked her what it was about.
That was the day I learned about nuclear war. It was also the day that I realised, to my horror, that when that screen came up, the little world I had been presiding over was dead. That I, and everyone in it, including my family (surely there was a simulated version of us in the game world?) were dead. It wasn’t just “Game Over”, it was “The End”.
In the short-term it was horrifying, but it taught me a new lesson – my actions had consequences. Yes, in these games I was the hero, but at the same time I had a responsibility to myself and the little computer people to do the best I could.
So how did it define me? Well, from that day to this, I have been a very driven person. On some deep level I have always had a firm belief both in my own capabilities, and also in the need to push for the best result. It doesn’t always work of course, there’s plenty of times I’ve slacked off in my life, but generally speaking it’s stood me in good stead. The extent to which that’s just my personality is, of course, anyone’s guess – maybe I would have been the same regardless. But I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that those two little lessons I learned back in the early 80’s have stuck with me for the rest of my life.
And I never played Missile Command again.
Want to learn more about the lore and etymology of Q*Bert?
See the latest Magipedia entry from The Well-Red Mage!
>January 27, 2020 | Peter Parker | The Reel Anna
>January 20, 2020 | Master Chief | Hear Dave Write
>January 13, 2020 | Roger Wilco | Musings of a Nitpicking Girl
>January 6, 2020 | Yuna | A Geeky Gal
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