Resident Evil 2 | The Game That Defines Hundstrasse

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One of the best things about this game is how it uses sound design to develop great atmosphere. Add +10 creepy points to this piece. 

 

The Games That Define Us features carefully chosen music and remixes from the franchise of the game represented. Music is a key component of sharing the emotions one feels about a game, so we hope you will press the play button if you’re in a position to do so. 

introduction

Things are about to get a little spooky. Don’t panic, but stay on your toes.

Just a brief summary if this is your first time here: This collaboration is a 34-day long adventure through video games. Each piece is its own unique audiovisual experience, complete with artwork, designs, music, and (most importantly) amazing works of prose by brilliant bloggers around the world. This adventure will take you through nostalgia, joy, ambition, self-discovery, regret, anxiety, frustration, mourning, and every human experience in between. Video games exist as fragments on the timeline of our lives, and each one of us have chosen the adventure we feel most defines us.

The era of 3D gaming brought with it a wave of creepy, suspenseful horror games. Today’s game is considered an early high-water mark for the genre, and here to talk about it is the always-awesome Luke from Hundstrasse! This guy does so many cool things, and is well-respected by myself and the rest of our blogging community! He also has a thing for creepy games. So, once you get done, sneak over to Hundstrasse for more awesomeness!

No need to fear, the next chapter of The Games That Define Us is here!

– Matthew, Normal Happenings

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Luke @ Hundstrasse

Twitter: @Hundstrasse

For survival…

Game: Resident Evil 2
System: Playstation 1
Release Date: January 21, 1998

1P Start

By today’s standards the emotional content of Resident Evil 2 is clunky and melodramatic, but at the time I had never experienced anything like it in a game; even the word ‘game’ didn’t seem sufficient to describe such an immersive experience.

Spring Yard Zone, Act 2; Sonic runs forward, slows, and at the last moment turns backwards to gracefully freefall into the first halfpipe. As the ground gently curves under him those distinctive red sneakers glide over the polished Spring Yard floor, his legs moving forward whilst momentum drags him backward, up the vertical wall and then into the cool night air. His feet still moving, stare set in grim determination, a true athlete at the peak of his game… game… my favourite moment from that well worn game cartridge, a moment I’d watched countless times play out in the demo cycle through store windows and one where I still feel my own stomach tense slightly as our quilled buddy steps over the precipice. This moment I’d fleshed out in my mind, transposed the 2D graphics in to 3D architecture, an Escher-esque metropolis of bright lights, marble walkways, and gently creaking moving platforms.

… but nonetheless a game; a reality made up of bloops and dings. Get from the start of the level to the end, destroy the enemies, hit the bumpers, watch the score tick up in the top corner of the screen, make a mistake, loose a life, continue? Three acts in a zone, seven zone in the game. Best time, high score… game…

Up until I was thirteen or fourteen this experience defined games for me; levels, score, bosses, get from the left hand side of the level to the right hand side. This all changed one idle weekend when I borrowed my Uncle’s Playstation for the weekend along with a copy of Resident Evil 2.

The were parted by an inescapable destiny. This is just the beginning of their worst nightmare.

The opening cinematic plays; for our two protagonists, Leon and Claire, the slow realisation that the city is all wrong crystallises far too late. They’re already deep in the urban sprawl, the inhabitants merely walking shells of their former occupants, emotionless, unthinking, and, like a hidden current, ready to drag them into oblivion. The car crashes, the tanker explodes and they have been parted.

… and then the player is alone, standing next to the flaming wreckage, the first of the monsters staggering toward them. No points, no power-ups, no health bar, just a character thrown in to a scenario. A world presented for exploration without the interruption of stages and levels, just a seamless story with the player firmly immersed and invested. My young mind’s concept of what a game was had suddenly been shattered; it didn’t fit what I knew a game to be. There was only one goal; keep moving, survive, and escape.

As I ventured further into the city I discovered the famous Raccoon City Police Station but also that this was an experience that made me ‘feel’. Fear and apprehension upon opening every door, sadness as the cinematic loss of Ada, and relief in those first few piano notes of the simple sanctuary theme. By today’s standards the emotional content of Resident Evil 2 is clunky and melodramatic, but at the time I had never experienced anything like it in a game; even the word ‘game’ didn’t seem sufficient to describe what I felt was an immersive Romero inspired experience.

A few months later, that Christmas, I was gifted my own Playstation and copy of Resident Evil 2 – the same copy that still sits in the game drawer under my TV ready to be played at a moment’s notice.

I played it relentlessly, beginning a new scenario as soon as I finished the last, intent on exploring corner of this experience, of Leon & Claire’s story of survival. I discovered that it was a story with more shades than ‘Sonic is good’ and ‘Robotnik is bad’. I found Ada Wong who falls in love with Leon despite her ulterior mission; The blinkered determination of Annette Birkin, a scientist, a mother, and a wife; William Birkin’s genius and insanity; Claire’s quest to find her brother coupled with her compassionate care of Sherry; and of course Brian Irons’ depraved mind. Different characters with different drives interwoven to create an overall plot more complicated than kill bad guys, score points, reach the finish line.

It wasn’t just the plot that was engrossing. Visually the pre-rendered backgrounds provided an unprecedented level of detail to the surroundings and brought the world of Raccoon City to life in a way that I had never experienced before. I spent my time carefully studying these scenes looking for interesting details or clues to the events that had transpired. Even now I have certain areas in this fictitious world that are special to me: The sanctuary of quiet reflection that is the darkroom with glass cabinets of photography equipment and warm red-light glow from the developing area; The secret view out of the RPD front gate with its sense of the abandoned city outside and highlighting the perceived safety of the police station; The fingerprint room, only accessible in the B-scenario, filled with half finished monstrosities.

Despite the obvious horror, this world was surprisingly attractive and full of mystery. At the time I joked that given vast sums of money I would commission the building of a detailed recreation of the Raccoon City Police Station. The joke stemmed from a truth that I often day-dreamed about being in that world and walking the halls of the police station. I had a folder where I collected magazine cuttings about Resident Evil 2, kept my treasured Prima strategy guide, and stored painstakingly transcribed copies of in-game documents. It’s difficult to describe any of this without it sounding like a borderline unhealthy obsession, but this is a piece about the ‘Games that Define Us’, and Resident Evil 2 changed my outlook on interactive media.

I’ll always have time for fast paced, high score racking, power-up guzzling gaming, but it was Leon and Claire that showed me a way to step into another world and I revel in any game that manages to recreate the sense of wonder that I first felt in Raccoon City.

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WordPress Reader viewers, please consider enjoying this post again on the site. While we designed with you in mind, you miss some of the nuances of the piece by not enjoying it in its original form. 

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This collaboration took an overwhelming amount of time and dedication from 34 exceptionally creative, incredible makers! Help us with the resources to make more, even better, collaborations in the future! We also have aspirations of developing a podcast called Normal Talks about optimistically appreciating everyday life! Please consider becoming a patron of Normal Happenings and help us try to make the world a better, more positive place!
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Final Fantasy VII | The Game That Defines Games With Coffee

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Audio

This game’s music though. 

 

The Games That Define Us features carefully chosen music and remixes from the franchise of the game represented. Music is a key component of sharing the emotions one feels about a game, so we hope you will press the play button if you’re in a position to do so. 

introduction

Warning: coffee jokes incoming.

Just a brief summary if this is your first time here: This collaboration is a 34-day long adventure through video games. Each piece is its own unique audiovisual experience, complete with artwork, designs, music, and (most importantly) amazing works of prose by brilliant bloggers around the world. This adventure will take you through nostalgia, joy, ambition, self-discovery, regret, anxiety, frustration, mourning, and every human experience in between. Video games exist as fragments on the timeline of our lives, and each one of us have chosen the adventure we feel most defines us.

Day 12 of The Games That Define Us features something a little different. Originally this was going to be a DLC post, but through good contingency planning I was given the opportunity to promote one DLC piece into the November parade! This was the natural pick, as it was written by a super-cool blogger and is on one of the most important games ever made.

No need for jitters, Ryan from Games With Coffee is here! This wonderful, highly caffeinated writer is always fun because of his unique and quirky personality. You’ll love his blog, so you should absolutely be following. In fact, after you get done reading this amazing piece, you should grab a piping-hot cup of java and savor these recent pieces!

We hope this chapter of The Games That Define Us gives you the jolt you need to make it through the day!

– Matthew, Normal Happenings

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Ryan @ Games With Coffee

Twitter: @GameswCoffee

For the Coolest Dude In the Universe

Game: Final Fantasy VII
System: Playstation 1
Release Date: January 31, 1997

1P Start

Had Final Fantasy VII not been released in 1997 and had I not rented it in November of that year, I probably wouldn’t be the person I am today. However, I’m glad that it came into my life when it did, I’m glad that it’s affected me in a such a positive and uplifting way and I’m especially glad to say that it’s a game that has defined who I am as a person

This story starts in 1997, on a cold November Friday night. On that night, 21 years ago, I first started playing a game that would change my life forever.

In the late 90’s, the town that I grew up in was in thze midst of a vast residential expansion, with the suburban sprawl ever creeping northward into the farmlands. With more fertile land being cleared and more homes being built, there was a growing need for retail space. So in 1996, nary a ten minute walk from my home, a brand new strip mall had opened up. It had the necessities that a growing neighborhood community needed, like a grocery store, convenience stores, some fast food joints and other small retailers. What made it different, special even, was that it had an independent video rental store called Ambassador Video, similar to the now defunct Blockbuster, where an enormous selection of movies, music and video games were available to rent. Now, this video store was replaced by a sports bar sometime in the early-2000’s, but at the time when it was open, it was the place to be at for a kid.

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So back to how I started this: on a cold Friday night in November of 1997. My parents let my younger brother and I rent a video game as a reward for doing well in school that week. The two of us argued for a few minutes about which game we were going to take home, before settling on Final Fantasy VII. The moment we got home, we booted it up and were blown away at how amazing it looked.

The first thing about FFVII that differentiated it from games that I played previously was how it started. No tutorial level, no sitting down with the King and him explaining your quest and no cheerful, happy and colourful environment. I was instead thrust into the action in a dark, gritty metropolis, my character jumping off of a train and beating down soldiers armed with machine guns with his giant sword. Following a man with a gun for an arm up the stairs leading to the surface, the spiky-haired individual spoke to a group of three people, huddled in front of a large metal door. The one in the headband asked for his name. His response, in a cool, collected tone:

“…Cloud.”

And it was all it took for ten year old me to declare that he was the coolest dude in the universe.

Over the course of that glorious seven day rental period, I never made it out of Midgar. It wasn’t because I was slow at playing the game; far from it. You see, prior to playing Final Fantasy VII, I was without a Memory Card – the device necessary to save virtually every game in the PlayStation library. So, each day I would start the game anew, regardless of if my party died or the amount of daylight I had left to play. Every time I restarted, I continued to fall deeper in love with the characters, the story and the setting. Neither the “scarier” parts of the story, such as facing JENOVA’s headless body in the Shinra Building with the eerie “Who Are You” track playing alongside that high-pitched buzzing that only Cloud could hear, nor the mature subject matter I couldn’t understand at the time (Think Honey Bee Inn in Sector 6), could dissuade me from playing the game. On the last day of my rental period and noticing that I had restarted the game yet again, my dad asked me why I kept starting the game from the beginning? Once I told him about the Memory Card, he and my mom bought one that same day. And so, with Memory Card in hand and eventually my own copy of the game, I continued playing and delving deeper into the game.

Prior to my discovery of Final Fantasy VII, I was diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder) in the second grade. From that point onward, until at least high school, my life was centered around Ritalin, counselors and therapists of all kinds; speech and behavioral, among others. The combination was not only driving down my grades, but they were driving away my classmates as well. I had episodes where I became dark and paranoid of others (thanks to the meds) and I would lash out at anyone and everyone, drawing the ire of bullies who started picking on me for things I had no control over. The kids my age eventually knew full well to either stay away from or mock and belittle the weird and nerdy whitewashed Guyanese kid with the odd, easy-to-make-fun-of last name and behaviour problems. So I turned to the older kids instead, thinking I could be accepted into their group. For a time, I thought I found some actual friends until I learned eventually that they were only using me for their enjoyment, as they played cruel pranks and tricked me into doing things I shouldn’t be doing at that young of an age. Due to all of the above, I started having severe self-esteem issues, something that I’m battling with to this day. I believed whole-heartedly that I deserved what happened to me and that I was a terrible person, which of course was far from the truth. It was here, at this low point of my life, that Cloud Strife, Ex-SOLDIER First Class came into my life and as I experienced his story, I discovered that he and I were similar in many ways.

From that November night onward, I saw that Cloud was everything I wasn’t: strong, cool and confident. He was the kind of man I wanted to grow up to become and I felt so inspired by him. It was in those days, especially between the sixth and seventh grades (arguably the worst of times for me), that I started wishing I was someone else. That I could be Cloud. I used to draw the Buster Sword – Cloud’s iconic weapon – on every surface I could find. I remember that I once had an assignment in sixth grade where we we had to draw the things that define us and tell others who we are. Suffice to say, I put things representative of Final Fantasy VII on this document, like the Buster Sword, Materia and the Meteor from the cover. I would have drew Cloud himself, but (at the time) I was a terrible artist, so it was those three. Seeing the sword on the page was something that greatly worried my teachers; they didn’t understand that this was from a video game that I really loved. So, they brought my parents in for a parent-teacher conference and discussed the problem, believing that I was a violent individual because I drew weaponry. In hindsight, I could’ve tried drawing Super Mario or something to show that gaming was what I was about, but I went with what my heart was telling me; that Final Fantasy VII defined me.

So, combining what I said above with the fact that my grades were terrible, my mom was convinced that gaming was the culprit behind me not doing well in school. Thusly, she confiscated my controllers and hid them around the house with the hope that I would “concentrate” on my schoolwork. I was only allowed to play briefly on the weekends (or whenever I was lucky to find them during the week, but that usually resulted in my mom yelling at me before she re-hid the controllers in a new location). I understood that my mom’s heart was in the right place, but truthfully, I hated school. I was thoroughly disinterested thanks to a combination of my “affliction,” the lack of confidence in me from the educators and my low self-worth, but to a mother – unfamiliar with technology and concerned for her son’s education and general well-being – it was video games that were the main reason. And so, I was only allowed to play Final Fantasy VII roughly one weekend at a time for a whole year, wherein I reached the end of the first third of the story and observed the surprise of my eleven-year old life.

I seem to recall that it was a cold Saturday night, similar to that November of ‘97, when I finally finished the Temple of the Ancients portion of the game alongside my younger brother, who was watching me play. It was here that the game dropped the subtleties and showed major glimpses of Cloud’s true, Sephiroth-influenced persona. He started acting erratic in the deepest parts of the temple, where Sephiroth explained his master plan and I was more than a little worried. ‘What was happening?’ was a thought that was going through my mind during that entire experience, especially when my hero was laughing ominously and saying to “Deliver the Black Materia,” and “Call the Meteor.” Following the Demon Wall boss and Cait Sith’s subsequent sacrifice, the object of our quest – The Black Materia – was finally in our possession… only for Cloud to willingly give it to Sephiroth without any resistance. I was shocked! I couldn’t believe that he did that, or understand why he did it in the first place! From there, more things about Cloud’s true nature beheld itself to me: firstly, beating up Aerith after giving away the Black Materia for supposedly no reason. Next was the dream sequence after he was knocked out, with Aerith ominously telling him of her intentions at the City of the Ancients and Sephiroth saying to Cloud at the end that the two of them must stop her from whatever she’s planning. And finally, reaching the aforementioned City of the Ancients, the location of one of the most iconic scenes in gaming history.

My team, consisting of Cloud, Barrett and Tifa, arrived at the city and we proceeded to search for Aerith before Sephiroth could catch up with her. We ended up finding no trace of her, so Cloud and the gang decided to sleep in a nearby house and strategize for the next day. In the middle of the night, Cloud awakens abruptly, telling Tifa that Aerith is indeed here… and so was Sephiroth. At this point, my brother and I were on the edge of our seat, wondering what was going to happen next. Eventually, we found Aerith, safe and sound and I thought here that things would only look up from here. Cloud went up to the platform where Aerith was praying alone. He approached her, only for a high-pitched whine to go off – JENOVA’s calling card. Cloud started to having a fit and I could do nothing. I couldn’t force him back, I couldn’t force him to sheathe his massive blade. He regained control at the very last second, right before he was about to bring his sword down on the flower girl’s head and I was chewing my nails off in stress. I didn’t want to press Circle to continue on with the story… but I did.

And then Aerith died, killed in cold blood by Sephiroth. He descended from the heavens, impaled the Masamune into the vulnerable woman and then revealed a startling truth to my hero; that Cloud was a puppet. I was floored by that revelation, so much so that I immediately died by JENOVA LIFE’s hands/tentacles/whatever – I basically didn’t even put up a fight. My hero wasn’t a hero after all; he gave Sephiroth the Black Materia, he couldn’t save Aerith and he let his nemesis get away scot-free. I didn’t play the game again for a week; partly again because of my mom and partly because I was in shock at what happened in the story. My disappointment only grew when I learned of the full truth at the Northern Crater. Cloud wasn’t really ‘Cloud,’ at all.

He was being led on and manipulated by Sephiroth, in a way similar to when I was led on by those older kids when I was young. To me, it was horrifying to see that the person that I idolized wasn’t who he really was and that he was so easily duped into doing his nemesis’ bidding. He was indeed a puppet; an experimental Sephiroth clone constructed through a combination of injected JENOVA cells, Tifa’s memories of the past and the persona of Zack Fair, the First Class SOLDIER who was really there in Nibelheim all those years ago. All of the memories Cloud had, from joining SOLDIER, to the Nibelheim incident, were falsified and manufactured and it messed him up terribly. It culminated in the fraud handing over the key to their destruction to Sephiroth and I all I could think of was “Dick move, Cloud.”

Fast forward to Mideel, where Tifa and the gang found Cloud, who was catatonic due to Mako poisoning. He washed up on the shores of the sleepy little island town days after Meteor was summoned. I wasn’t sure if I wanted anything to do with him at that point, because he was such a fake, but I was also curious as to what happened next. I was glad that I did as after the Ultimate Weapon fight and Mideel’s subsequent destruction, I learned the truth, both of the events in the Nibelheim incident and the truth about the real Cloud.

The reason why Cloud wanted to be in SOLDIER was to be noticed by others, particularly by Tifa. Growing up, Cloud was always alone; he had no friends growing up and was always picked on for being different from the others. After the incident involving Tifa and Cloud falling off Mount Nibel, which happened after Tifa’s mother passed away, he thought himself weak and that he could never belong, both because he never liked his fellow peers and because he couldn’t save Tifa. At the same time, he was always looking to prove himself in the eyes of the villagers who looked down on him and to Tifa, whom he harboured a major crush for. In essence, the true Cloud was exactly like me. I was also alone, was picked on for being so weird and different and had very little friends growing up. I considered myself a weakling and, in my self-loathing, disliked the people around me for treating me so badly and not caring about me. At the same time, I wanted to be noticed. I wanted to be recognized and to not be defined by my grades or my behaviour, but by my character.

After that sequence, Cloud was redeemed in my eyes. Though he never made it into SOLDIER and had considered himself a weakling up until the Nibelheim incident, that same “weakling” took on and fought off the greatest and most powerful swordsman the world had ever seen, before being subjected to brutal experiments that included having alien matter injected into his body. He was catatonic now at two points of his life before recovering and regaining his sanity. He went on to defeat his nemesis again, for the second time. And in the end, he saved the world with his companions. At the end of the journey, I realized then and there that Cloud Strife wasn’t cool because he was strong and tough, but that he was cool because he survived the ordeals of his past and rose above it. He showed that I could do the same; that I could rise above being made fun of, that I could rise above my ADHD, my behavioural problems, my struggling grades and my own weakness and he showed me that I could be a better person.

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Final Fantasy VII did more than just get my life back in order, it also brought me closer to my younger brother. Though he and I played it at the same time, beyond the game we weren’t very close. I actually resented him at a couple points in my life; he was the favourite child between the two of us, probably because he was the model student while I was the perennial screw-up. However, once he started band class and I discovered I had a knack for whistling, we started bonding over the music of the game and we discovered that we had a lot more in common than we thought. Now, the two of us talk about gaming and music on a near daily basis, especially Final Fantasy VII, what with the remake coming out. I even treated him to tickets for the Final Fantasy “Distant Worlds” concert, which will remain as one of my fondest memories of our brotherhood. The best part of that night was when we both collectively freaked out as Nobuo Uematsu – the legend who composed the songs we bonded over – joined the choir on stage for the orchestral rendition of “One Winged Angel!” It was all we could talk about on our ride home on the subway.

It has taken a while and there were some bumps on the road, but I think I’m now at a point where the past doesn’t bother me as much as it did before. Though I also have to give credit to my wife, Usha, for helping me get to this point as well. She has been the Tifa to my Cloud since we started dating in our teens and I wouldn’t have been who I am today without her guidance and support. In the same way that Tifa helped Cloud break out of his shell and spurred on his fighting spirit when he was at his lowest point, my wife has encouraged me to develop my talents, both in my engineering field and my writing hobby. She pushed me creatively and inspired me to work towards my goals, even if they seemed daunting in my eyes.

Finally, I should like to end this by sharing something that Iiago (Mr. Backlog), one of the collaborators of this wonderful project, recently said: “It’s funny, I realised that my enduring love of the game was greatly affected by my life at the time in ways I hadn’t really appreciated until I wrote this article. But that’s life isn’t it? It’s not just seeing/doing/meeting something great, it’s the context of the time and place.” Writing this piece out, reliving the memories – bad and good – and juxtaposing it with my present self has made me realize that his words ring true. Had Final Fantasy VII not been released in 1997 and had I not rented it in November of that year, I probably wouldn’t be the person I am today. However, I’m glad that it came into my life when it did, I’m glad that it’s affected me in a such a positive and uplifting way and I’m especially glad to say that it’s a game that has defined who I am as a person. I want to thank Matt from Normal Happenings for setting up and allowing me to jump on this amazing collaboration filled to the brim with such wonderful and talented writers. I want to thank those very same writers for being such an inspirational bunch. And I want to thank you, dear reader, for taking the time to read my story. Be sure to check out the the other works my fellow cohorts have written; they are truly an all-star cast of bloggers, each with a story of their own to tell of a game that has defined them.

My name is Ryan. I’m an engineer, a writer, a husband, a father, a friend, a brother, a gamer, a coffee addict and an individual who still experiences some lingering symptoms of ADHD. Final Fantasy VII is the game that defines me and Cloud Strife, the former SOLDIER First Class and fellow former weakling, is the character from that game that has helped me become the man I am today.

adventure map


WordPress Reader viewers, please consider enjoying this post again on the site. While we designed with you in mind, you miss some of the nuances of the piece by not enjoying it in its original form. 

patreon

This collaboration took an overwhelming amount of time and dedication from 34 exceptionally creative, incredible makers! Help us with the resources to make more, even better, collaborations in the future! We also have aspirations of developing a podcast called Normal Talks about optimistically appreciating everyday life! Please consider becoming a patron of Normal Happenings and help us try to make the world a better, more positive place!
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Crash Bandicoot | The Game That Defines The Gaming Diaries

<< Previous | Adventure Map | Next >>

TGTDU Logo - Copy

Audio

These N-Sane Trilogy remixes of the original soundtrack are seriously on-point. Here is a collection of some of my favorites!

 

 

The Games That Define Us features carefully chosen music and remixes from the franchise of the game represented. Music is a key component of sharing the emotions one feels about a game, so we hope you will press the play button if you’re in a position to do so. 

introduction

Wow, we’ve really been getting through these! It’s Day 11 of The Games That Define Us! 

Just a brief summary if this is your first time here: This collaboration is a 34-day long adventure through video games. Each piece is its own unique audiovisual experience, complete with artwork, designs, music, and (most importantly) amazing works of prose by brilliant bloggers around the world. This adventure will take you through nostalgia, joy, ambition, self-discovery, regret, anxiety, frustration, mourning, and every human experience in between. Video games exist as fragments on the timeline of our lives, and each one of us have chosen the adventure we feel most defines us.

Today we’ve been graced with on of my favorite bloggers, The Gaming Dairies! If you’ve never discovered their personal and creative recollections of gaming, you are really missing out. After reading today’s amazing piece on a game that I have tons of childhood memories with, you should check out these pieces:

Please enjoy this fantastic next entry in The Games That Define Us! 

– Matthew, Normal Happenings

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The Gaming Diaries @ The Gaming Diaries

Twitter: @thegamingdiary

For AGOOGAHBOOGAH!

Game: Crash Bandicoot
System: Playstation 1
Release Date: September 9, 1996

1P Start

Childhood and Crash Bandicoot go hand in hand for me. When I think of happy childhood memories some of the best I can think of are my gaming time and Crash.

Let’s journey back to the 90s. I was beginning my gaming journey and this came at the time of the two most exciting gaming consoles for me, the Game Boy and the PlayStation. To be honest, if people guessed the console that the game I was talking about was on it would be pretty split between the two, maybe verging to the Game Boy. However, I’m taking you back to the PlayStation and one of the games that has stuck with me and stayed in my heart and mind all this time.

This game was released on the 9th of September 1996. Back when Bill Clinton was US President and John Major was the UK Prime Minister. Back in the year where Independence Day was one of the highest grossing films, along with films such as 101 Dalmatians, Mission: Impossible, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Nutty Professor. In the UK music charts the Spice Girls were on a roll with Wannabe having held the number one spot from the 27th July to the 7th September. So by the 9th September we were on our way to a new number one which was Flava by Peter Andre and I don’t think I’m the only one who wouldn’t be able to remember that one versus Wannabe. So do you wannabe in the know as to what game made me? Sure if you have read any overall posts or the title to this you may have a clue but hey I can introduce it. That game is Crash Bandicoot.

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I have written about Crash Bandicoot on my blog recently, and the nostalgia of playing the games again for the first time with the release of the N-sane Trilogy. I had written about the best and worst of Crash Bandicoot, again inspired by the N-sane Trilogy. These posts included things that have stuck with me all this time but are not all I want to talk about.

Why is this the game that I come back to when I think of games that mean the world to me? Why this is a game that is permanently entwined with my childhood?

crash1

I came to the PlayStation late in terms of owning it, the PS2 had been released and I got a second hand PlayStation. I had played on a PlayStation at various friends houses so I had wonderful memories of taking turns at levels in games or finding some random games in their selections. I was drawn towards Crash Bandicoot every time I saw it. There was something magical about this game to me. Here was a game that you play as a running, jumping, spinning, box smashing, Wumpa fruit collecting Bandicoot in jeans and trainers who gets chased by boulders and rides wild hogs as well as just running/jumping for the sake of it but it encaptured a little bit of something and everything that I wanted in a game even though I didn’t know it when I first played it. I played some levels over and over at friends houses, which may be why even today I remember some very well. I seem to recall trying to unlock the relics for friends that were struggling with some of them. As much as I wanted to try every level through properly my first experiences, I think, were a random mix of levels, I may have eventually got my own save within one friends memory card but I’m not sure. Remember memory cards? A save was a big thing back then.

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Then when the PS2 came out, I got my second hand PlayStation. So what game was top of my list to buy? Well it just had to be Crash Bandicoot and its sequels, as well as a very popular Dragon franchise. As much as I had probably played most of Crash Bandicoot, if not all of it, I was so excited to start again. This game just hadn’t grown old. I couldn’t wait to just jump back in and have my proper first attempt as I was playing it through from the beginning all by myself. Get Crash on the go and collect all the gems and relics and go through his platforming adventures. Even though I fell in love with other games on the PS1, be it the Spyro games or the Tony Hawk games or whatever, I was always drawn back to my plucky Bandicoot pal, my go to mate, the game that I could play no matter what. I dread to think how many saves I had for Crash over the years as I know I played it from beginning to end time after time. And yes I mean the three original Crash games when I say that! It was just that game. That one that no matter what you could replay it and still enjoy it like it was the first time.

Childhood and Crash Bandicoot go hand in hand for me. When I think of happy childhood memories some of the best I can think of are my gaming time and Crash.

Playing Crash Bandicoot as a child has definitely influenced some of my loves in games. I still love platformers, even if they can frustrate me for hours, and I am willing to try, try, try again with them. I will play them through again from the beginning at times after finishing them. There was a magic about Crash, a magic that sparked something in me that still exists as a gaming love now. If that isn’t special then I don’t know what else is. It is the game that if anyone asks me what my favourite games are it will always be mentioned, no matter what amazing games are to come this will still be up there for me. It is a game that it didn’t matter when I played it that just made things better, be it forgetting the bullies, forgetting the bad things or just an average day got better. It is a game that comforted me when I needed it.

Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy_20170707141608

Crash became a friend that I could rely on and he is still there today, somewhere in my heart, reminding me of happy days and the way that games were changing which was exciting to see as a child. Now games have come and gone, got more realistic, longer, more advanced, whatever you want to say about them. However, even now the games that I look to most fondly include this one and I was so excited for the release of the N-sane Trilogy on Xbox One and Switch this year.

Thank you Crash Bandicoot for making my childhood, for giving me happy times, for teaching me that games can be ridiculously hard (though I seem to have forgotten that from the original game but I’m definitely learning it from trying the remasters) but you can always get there in the end.

adventure map


WordPress Reader viewers, please consider enjoying this post again on the site. While we designed with you in mind, you miss some of the nuances of the piece by not enjoying it in its original form. 

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This collaboration took an overwhelming amount of time and dedication from 34 exceptionally creative, incredible makers! Help us with the resources to make more, even better, collaborations in the future! We also have aspirations of developing a podcast called Normal Talks about optimistically appreciating everyday life! Please consider becoming a patron of Normal Happenings and help us try to make the world a better, more positive place!
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Pokemon Red and Blue | The Game That Defines Murr

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Pokemon + Chillstep = Perfect

 

 

The Games That Define Us features carefully chosen music and remixes from the franchise of the game represented. Music is a key component of sharing the emotions one feels about a game, so we hope you will press the play button if you’re in a position to do so. 

introduction

We’ve hit double digits, folks — it’s Day 10 of The Games That Define Us! 

Just a brief summary if this is your first time here: This collaboration is a 34-day long adventure through video games. Each piece is its own unique audiovisual experience, complete with artwork, designs, music, and (most importantly) amazing works of prose by brilliant bloggers around the world. This adventure will take you through nostalgia, joy, ambition, self-discovery, regret, anxiety, frustration, mourning, and every human experience in between. Video games exist as fragments on the timeline of our lives, and each one of us have chosen the adventure we feel most defines us.

We’ve been blessed with both members of the double-act Geek. Sleep. Rinse. Repeat for this collaboration! Today, amazing writer (and new father) Murr is going back in time to the halcyon days many of us experienced — walking around with out Game Boys catching Pokemon. After you get done here, you should definitely check out Murr’s domain over on G.S.R.R., the Geekly Reviews!

Gotta catch all pieces of The Games That Define Us, especially this one! Enjoy!

– Matthew, Normal Happenings

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Murr @ Geek. Sleep. Rinse. Repeat.

Twitter: @Murr_GSRR

For Missingno

Game: Pokemon Red and Blue
System: Game Boy
Release Date: October 5, 1999 (E.U. …
yikes, that’s way later than everyone else… )

1P Start

Pokemon Red & Blue changed the world for everyone, but it certainly reminds me of one of the greatest times of my life when growing up. It was one of the most magical journeys of discovery I’d ever taken.

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Pokemon, it’s the fad that isn’t going away. Sure the popularity and craze isn’t the same heights it was years ago, but you’d be foolish to think that it will ever stop selling millions of copies each new iteration.

I was introduced to Pokemon all those years ago by a neighbour who used to live across the road from me. He was a four years younger than me, but growing up, we’d always hang out after school and do standard stuff kids would do back then. Build dens, ride bikes and occasionally play computer games, either on his SNES or my Master System. I would eventually get a SNES and with it the ‘Super Gameboy’ which allowed you to play Gameboy games on the SNES. Ultimately it was sort of irrelevant before Pokemon, but I digress.

So my neighbour comes home from wherever it was he went with his parents one day, and he comes running over to mine with his Gameboy and this brand new unopened game. It was Pokemon Blue. Genuinely, I had not heard of this game at all. The TV Show hadn’t hit Sky One yet in the UK, or if it had, it hadn’t taken off yet. Pokemon cards weren’t big — it was just the early stages of this phenomenon in the UK. I can’t remember exactly how the conversation went all those years back, but it ended up with us digging out the Super Gameboy I owned, sitting in-front of my SNES and playing Pokemon Blue. So to start with I hand the SNES controller over to my neighbour as it’s his game after all. The process starts, the now classic introduction to Professor Oak takes place, along with the silly opening mistake of trying to leave Pallet Town without going to Oak’s lab first. All of this was occurring, and each line of text we read captured our imaginations more and more.

As it was back then, you’d always have to beg the parents if you could have a sleepover, and after hours of not moving from the TV while we were progressing further into Kanto, I do the deed of pleading with my parents, and then my neighbour pleading with his parents if he can stay over the night. They give the green light and we’re good to go. As the night progressed I selfishly ask if I can play and take control. I didn’t relinquish the controller then until the sun began to rise. Each day after school he’d come over and I’d again take control and end up playing the game for him. Four years his senior, I had the right to, right?

Pokemon RB2.jpg

In the end, I knew I had to beg my mum if I could have Pokemon Red. She had already bought it for me for Christmas (I was to find this out years later) and she was actually worried I was ruining the game by playing my neighbour’s version so much — after so much begging and pleading, she gave me my copy of Red early and this is where my journey began.

To this day, no journey has stuck with me more. Of course I’ve played some incredible games that will stay with me forever, but Pokemon Red was something entirely different. It became a sort of way of life for me. With every stupid thing kids believed in, like making wishes when seeing a shooting star or throwing pennies into wells, every wish I’d make was “I wish Pokemon were real.”

As we’re all aware, Pokemon certainly took off in a huge way. I know there are so many people out there that claim to be the biggest fans of such games, and now especially I can completely appreciate that there will be many people that adore Pokemon much more than I do now. But I legitimately think back in the Gen 1 days that I was the biggest Pokemon fan going and I sincerely mean that. As the TV show began to take off, I’d record all the episodes in the morning including the Pokerap. After school I’d come home an re-watch the episodes that I’d already seen in the morning, and then would sit there with a pen and paper and write down the names of the Pokemon featuring in the episode. When the Pokerap would come on, I’d pause it, rewind it, replay it and again write down all the names of the Pokemon trying to build up my own Pokedex of the 150 Pokemon. As I said, the craze was taking off, but the names of all the Pokemon were yet to be discovered, and while yes there was Internet, it was a more wondrous time of discovering these things naturally via other sources.

It got so crazy that my neighbour and I made our own Pokemon RPG in which I would draw out routes and towns and mark encounters with Pokemon on them. I’d created Pokemon player cards with circles representing health points which we’d colour in with pencil when taking damage (so they could be marked out when a potion was used and health was regained). I made cards for the Pokemon that you bumped into in wild encounters so again their damage could be marked down, and if you caught them, you’d attain that Pokemon card and it’d be part of your party. It got so deep, I’d worked out the system for experience gained from battles and leveling up. I’d use dice to give damage from moves and the higher the level the Pokemon you battled, the more the multiplier of damage would be. We loved it — we’d sit there with Pokemon on the TV playing this while playing link player battles and trades with our versions of Red & Blue. There was such a good competitive rivalry there between us.

As the craze continued to take over the world, my collection ever increased. Any magazine that even had a mention of Pokemon in it, my parents would buy for me. When the N64 came out, before any Pokemon game was even announced we were in dreamworld at just how amazing the Pokemon N64 game was going to be. While we didn’t end up getting that dream 3D RPG, we did get Pokemon Stadium that took us to another level of competition with our teams being uploaded to proper 3D visuals. The merchandise was taking over my bedroom, posters and cutouts all over the walls. Figures and plushies everywhere. Magazines piled up.

I can always remember in one of the daily newspapers Sky One included a blue poster with a picture of each of the 150 Pokemon on it in their Pokedex order with their name. This poster lived on the wall next to my head in bed and it was like a ritual every night before hitting the light off to stare at it and memorise more of them in their Pokedex order. That poster lived there for years. Other posters came and went, but that stayed there for as long as I can remember — oh how I wish I still had it.

I even started to get into theories about Pokemon after studying the guides so much. Like shouldn’t the evolution of Venonat be Butterfree, and Caterpie -> Metapod -> Venomoth based purely on their designs. And of course the infamous Cubone and Kangaskhan relation and theory, and the Clefable and Gengar connections. It was all I’d think about. I’d have notebooks full of drawings and scribbles about these silly theories and myths. The TV show would help fuel these notebooks of silliness with some of their unique Pokemon featuring in episodes like the huge Dragonite that came to the lighthouse and of course the infamous Ho-oH appearance in the very first episode.

While the craze continued to grow, so did the amount of Pokemon related stuff I’d carry around. Naturally I’d need my Gameboy with my copy of Red, I’d carry my Pokedex around with me, my folder full of Pokemon cards. I’d keep all this in a case designed to carry the Gameboy and a few games — this case was an official Pokemon one of course. On the front cover of one of the many magazines I had was a blurb of text about how Pokemon had taken over the world. I cut this paragraph out and kept it with me in that carry case at all times. So strange I know, but the impact of this paragraph of text reflected how important I felt that Pokemon had become. I actually have the cutout paragraph on the wall in my office today. This is the paragraph:

While I would go on to enjoy all the Pokemon games after Red & Blue, It was these games that of course started it all. I can’t explain how much these games mean to me. They’ve impacted me even now in my 30s. As silly as it sounds when abroad and seeing wildlife unique to that country or setting, I still think of it as seeing rare Pokemon in their region. Like in Mauritius, seeing sea turtles and octopi, I was just thinking of it as seeing them as Pokemon in their natural habitat and sort of like ‘ticking them off’ a check list having seen them. So strange I know for a 30+ year old to think like that.

I became a father in October of this year, and I’m already getting excited about when my son is old enough to appreciate the Build-A-Bear Workshop in our mall, taking him there and getting him his own Pokemon — I’m hoping he takes after his father and picks Charmander. I shall do my best to encourage and influence him to become the fire type fan that I was and still am, to be honest. In a few days, the Switch will be getting its first Pokemon title, and in terms of nostalgia I can’t wait to get a copy of Pokemon Let’s Go and retrace all those steps that I’m so familiar with in new beautiful presented visuals.

Pokemon Red & Blue changed the world for everyone, but it certainly reminds me of one of the greatest times of my life when growing up. It was one of the most magical journeys of discovery I’d ever taken. It captivated my imagination so much and still does to this day.

adventure map


WordPress Reader viewers, please consider enjoying this post again on the site. While we designed with you in mind, you miss some of the nuances of the piece by not enjoying it in its original form. 

patreon

This collaboration took an overwhelming amount of time and dedication from 34 exceptionally creative, incredible makers! Help us with the resources to make more, even better, collaborations in the future! We also have aspirations of developing a podcast called Normal Talks about optimistically appreciating everyday life! Please consider becoming a patron of Normal Happenings and help us try to make the world a better, more positive place!
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NiGHTS into Dreams | The Game That Defines HideNGoShauna

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I believe this is one of the most underrated soundtrack in video game history. Stay and listen a while?

The Games That Define Us features carefully chosen music and remixes from the franchise of the game represented. Music is a key component of sharing the emotions one feels about a game, so we hope you will press the play button if you’re in a position to do so. 

introduction

Happy Friday, and welcome to Day 9 of The Games That Define Us! 

Just a brief summary if this is your first time here: This collaboration is a 34-day long adventure through video games. Each piece is its own unique audiovisual experience, complete with artwork, designs, music, and (most importantly) amazing works of prose by brilliant bloggers around the world. This adventure will take you through nostalgia, joy, ambition, self-discovery, regret, anxiety, frustration, mourning, and every human experience in between. Video games exist as fragments on the timeline of our lives, and each one of us have chosen the adventure we feel most defines us.

Today we’re graced with Shauna from HideNGoShauna! This brilliant writer has a whimsical spirit and writing style, and her game choice couldn’t be more appropriate. I’d like to spotlight a series she did recently: Japan memories. She spent three weeks there, and chronicled each day. Travel blogs always get my attention, so to see one of my favorite bloggers crafting one so adeptly was a major treat! I recommend you block off an hour of your life, start at Day 1, and work your way forward in time.

That is, after reading today’s amazing piece of course! We hope you enjoy today’s dreamy entry of The Games That Define Us! 

– Matthew, Normal Happenings

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Shauna @ HideNGoShauna

Twitter: @HideNGoShauna

For Claris and Elliot

Game: NiGHTS into Dreams
System: Sega Saturn
Release Date: July 5, 1996

1P Start

The unique creatures, lovely soundtrack, and overall magic of the game really made an impression on me. I remember drawing my own renditions of the worlds in my sketchbook. To this day it’s still one of the most uniquely creative games I’ve played.

In my earliest years, I grew up watching my Dad play video games, and eventually playing them with him. We would sit together on the lumpy futon in the den, peering up at the tiny television. Sonic was one of the first games I remember, along with Mortal Kombat, Ghouls & Ghosts, and a few other favorite Genesis titles.

And Altered Beast of course. WIIIISE FWOM YOUR GWAVE!!!

As I grew, Dad stayed by my side as a guide to the exciting world of video games. Dad was firmly a Sega fan; he believed that Nintendo, while fun, was always a step behind Sega as far as technology and graphics were concerned. As such, instead of having a GameBoy like my friends, I had a Game Gear (which Dad reminded me had colour display several years before Nintendo) and instead of N64 we got a Sega Saturn.

One result of the Sega-mania of my upbringing was that, while I occasionally felt like I was missing out on the popular games my friends were playing (Pokémon, Donkey Kong Country, and Super Mario 64, mainly) on the other hand my consoles were a source of wonder to my friends, and I soon came to love that I had my own special set of magical worlds to peruse.

Occasionally friends would come over to play video games with me at my house and wouldn’t want to leave.

Sega Saturn had a really awesome diversity of games. We would visit our local Cash Converters (used goods) store and eventually amassed a good stack of titles. Some of my favorites were Astal, Bug, Clockwork Knight, Shining the Holy Arc, Sonic R, and Tomb Raider.

Dad would play Virtua Fighter 2 with me often; I only learned many years later that he was letting me win on occasion — as such I feel a bit embarrassed now of all the smack-talk I used to give him after delivering a K.O.

I had a teeny crush on Lion…

Playing the Saturn was the first time I really felt like “I’m a gamer. This is my console.” I was old enough to start beating levels on my own (okay, I did ask Dad for help from time to time) and the Saturn was a precious possession to me. Heck, the thing was even my first CD player, and I delighted in changing the pitch, tone, and speed of my AQUA: Aquarium album with the Saturn.

The game that stands out the most from this time though has to be NiGHTS into Dreams.

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NiGHTS Into Dreams came bundled with a “3D Control Pad” controller that was innovative for its time.

The fantasy stages and bosses in NiD were so creative and strange. The main character, NiGHTS, is an androgynous, elfish being that can fly in a beautiful, acrobatic way.

The entire mechanics of gameplay felt different than anything I’d controlled before, designed to be used with the 3D Control Pad. You could make NiGHTS fly in any direction, forming giant loops to suck up gems and executing sudden turns as you pleased.

The unique creatures, lovely soundtrack, and overall magic of the game really made an impression on me. I remember drawing my own renditions of NiD-like worlds in my sketchbook. To this day it’s still one of the most uniquely creative games I’ve played.

I enjoyed the landscapes in NiD so much that I would often linger on purpose without hitting the checkpoints, forcing NiGHTS to transform into one of the two human characters whose dreams he inhabits. As such, I had the opportunity to walk and run on the ground and get a better look at some of the interesting designs in the game, but before long the egg-clock, bane of my existence, would begin to chase me with its terrifying searchlight.

I hated that clock with a passion. If it caught you in its bright ray, you would “wake up” and fail the stage. As a child I strongly wished that there was an alternate game mode where I could explore the fascinating worlds at leisure without that cursed clock dogging me.

I’ve always had a penchant for baddies, and Reala, NiGHTS’ rival, intrigued me. He was like the evil twin of NiGHTS.

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I was stoked when a new NiD game was announced for Nintendo Wii some years ago, but it really didn’t capture the magic of the original. I’m not particularly fond of the altered version of NiGHTS that was presented; in the original game NiGHTS doesn’t really speak, whereas the posh female voice in the new game really throws me for a loop (a loop, get it? Like how NiGHTS uses loops to collect energy gems? … )

I’ve often thought that NiGHTS would be fun to cosplay, and that I’d like to design the costume someday — I was so excited when I saw a cosplayer at the Edmonton Expo last year wearing her own handmade NiGHTS costume! I should have gotten a picture with her, ah well. She told me that the headpiece was a pain in the butt to craft, and I totally believe that!

NiD, for me, is a reminder of my happy childhood, a special time when I had nowhere important to be, nothing particular to do, and seemingly all the time in the world to play games on my beanbag chair in my tiny, cozy room. It is one of those magical games that can remind us how video games can be an interactive art form, a format for creativity where dreams can become reality.

adventure map


WordPress Reader viewers, please consider enjoying this post again on the site. While we designed with you in mind, you miss some of the nuances of the piece by not enjoying it in its original form. 

patreon

This collaboration took an overwhelming amount of time and dedication from 34 exceptionally creative, incredible makers! Help us with the resources to make more, even better, collaborations in the future! We also have aspirations of developing a podcast called Normal Talks about optimistically appreciating everyday life! Please consider becoming a patron of Normal Happenings and help us try to make the world a better, more positive place!
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Breath of Fire II | The Game That Defines The Well-Red Mage

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Come for the great writing, stay for the lovingly orchestrated and animated cover of a slightly obscure SNES RPG. It’s a win-win. 

 

The Games That Define Us features carefully chosen music and remixes from the franchise of the game represented. Music is a key component of sharing the emotions one feels about a game, so we hope you will press the play button if you’re in a position to do so. 

introduction

Just a brief summary if this is your first time here: This collaboration is a 34-day long adventure through video games. Each piece is its own unique audiovisual experience, complete with artwork, designs, music, and (most importantly) amazing works of prose by brilliant bloggers around the world. This adventure will take you through nostalgia, joy, ambition, self-discovery, regret, anxiety, frustration, mourning, and every human experience in between. Video games exist as fragments on the timeline of our lives, and each one of us have chosen the adventure we feel most defines us.


Mild Trigger Warning: this blog delves into topics of faith and spiritual identity. We believe these are important parts of life and identity, but as always, we have no desire to push these beliefs on other people.


The mage. The myth. The legend. You are truly in for a treat today. I must admit, though I try not to play favorites, I have truly been looking forward to publishing today’s piece.

I’m a proud patron of The Well-Red Mage, and for good reason. He leads an army of bloggers to writing critical long-form pieces about video games, and they must be seen to be believed. Each piece he publishes is well-paced and deliberate, refusing to let the sensationalism of modern-day journalism (in)sensibilities seep in. You’re about to see some of that in action, after which you might be interested in some of these:

He has been so supportive of Normal Happenings since all the way back to when I published the retrospective on my first video game. Since then, we’ve built up a truly great blog partnership. While I’m dragging my feet (for now) on becoming a mage, mainly because I get obsessed and am worried I wouldn’t be able to devote the time to make the pieces as complex as I would like, we still work together on a multitude of projects. I was recently on MAGE CAST, the Well-Red Mage podcast, discussing Sonic the Hedgehog 1, with a rumored Sonic Mania podcast in the future. Meanwhile, his retweet support is helping both Normal Happenings and this collaboration find new audiences. I’m looking forward to all the tasks we’ll be working together on in the future.

For now, however, let us begin! Please enjoy this next chapter of The Games That Define Us!

– Matthew, Normal Happenings

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The Well-Red Mage @ The Well-Red Mage

Twitter: @theWellRedMage

For the warriors of light.

Game: Breath of Fire II
System: SNES
Release Date: December 2, 1994

1P Start

The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.
-John C. Lennox

Preamble Ramble

I want to thank Matthew from Normal Happenings for asking me to be a part of this collaborative undertaking. I’m not always able to dig into the fun community events happening all over WordPress, but this one was normal enough to be irresistible! My heart is in this community of writers and I wish I could clone myself for more time to be everywhere, read everything, and interact with everyone. Until that technology is invented and the inevitable clone wars begin, this stopgap of an article will have to suffice. I’ll treat it as a love letter to this great and welcoming community.

So anyway I was asked to talk about (not review) a game that means a lot to me personally. The title of the project is “Games That Define Us”, after all. To prevent myself from running my mouth dry about Chrono Trigger yet again, or any of the other games I never shut up about, I decided I’d talk about Breath of Fire II and how it played a major part in my life’s journey so far, specifically regarding theology. I don’t want anyone to feel shanghaied into reading this under different expectations: I am about to talk about my perspective on God and religion, topics not always for the faint of heart, but ultimately, this is a post about my life and how I arrived at certain philosophies and systems of thought which I maintain to this day. You don’t have to agree with me; that makes us individuals, but I’m going to talk about my life, nonetheless.

Whiff of Fire

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If I remember correctly (though if I have to have a past I prefer it to be multiple choice), I first randomly encountered Capcom’s JRPG epic Breath of Fire II at my friend Jacob’s house. He had a Super Nintendo before I did, and spending the weekends there was a big factor in why I love the SNES so much and got one of my own eventually. We played a lot of Earthworm Jim, Street Fighter II Turbo, Chuck Rock, Mega Man X, and Rock n Roll Racing among many others. There was some PC gaming that went on, too, with the likes of Duke Nuk’em and Another World.

There was one of his cartridges, however, which stood out to me. We never played it together and I didn’t know why, especially since we traded off or played co-op with pretty much all the other games in his collection. Since I spent so much time there, and since it rained so frequently, we eventually got to the point of boredom where I could play whatever I wanted with or without him. He let me have access to his entire library. Generous guy! I went straight for that cartridge and plugged it in… the familiar 90’s Capcom logo warbled on a black screen, followed by the title screen (the incendiary insignia of a dragon’s silhouette). An adventure then began, the likes of which my young mind really was not prepared for.

After a haunting, if not terrifying, opening sequence with a talking eye, I followed a little boy named Ryu in search of his sister. He finds her but when he returns to his village, nobody recognizes him. So begins a story bigger than I could’ve imagined. Breath of Fire II involved lots of dragons, a catgirl, a dog-man, a human armadillo, a monkey, a tree sprite, a French frog, an exile with black wings, a huge fantasy world, many monsters galore, and… church?

I was kind of surprised to see it there.

Encountering Religion

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See, I grew up in the church. Sometimes you see that phrase passed around. It doesn’t really mean anything other than my parents made me go to a place I didn’t want to go every Sunday. I drew pictures and learned some stories without any indication of their meaning or relevant significance, and more than a few times I drew from my tiny cache of childish wiles to get out of it. Once, I put bubble gum in my hair to try to stay home so I could play The Legend of Zelda. I just ended up with a new haircut and all the old women who smelled like hair and muumuus complimented me.

Anyway, I was still going to church with my mom when I played Breath of Fire II. I eventually got to the part in the game where the Church of St. Eva (more on that here) became antagonistic, its hypnotized congregants shepherded by the literally diabolical high priest Habaraku. Turns out (spoilers, I guess) the Church of St. Eva was actually a front for demons. The Church was siphoning the prayers of its parishioners and converting them into power for its slumbering demon-king, Deathevan. This was fairly typical for the JRPG scene at the time, which had a tense relationship toward depictions of Westernized religion, at best, stemming from what appears to be a distinctly Japanese perspective.

This concept terrified me when I first encountered it, though. It was an entirely new idea to me that a church could be actually evil. I went to church only begrudgingly back then, had the occasional stirs of inspiration when a song I liked was sung (“My Sheep Know My Voice” since I loved animals when I was very young), and I don’t remember having any meaningful tie to the church I went to. It was a place to play and see friends. That’s it. But I never thought of it as an evil place. I felt the people were nice and the food was good and it was peaceful.

The idea that the church could be worshiping evil instead of Good never left me, and as I grew up into high school age, it was one which continued to haunt me now and then. I had the occasional nightmare about it. In reality, what it did was provoke me to research. I remember growing up that I spent a lot of time alone in nature; being by myself in the forest or at the beach let me think on my thoughts. Growing up, I told a few people who didn’t know that I got dragged to church that I was an atheist, my young life punctuated by the divorce of my parents and a subsequent perspective of the universe as capricious, cruel, and meaningless: the atheistic admixture.

However, it was in nature that I reached a point in my life when I had my inciting incident. I realized if the God they talked about in church was real then that meant everything in my life had to have meaning, significance, and a fundamentally different reality than the one I usually considered: being an unwanted accident. But if God didn’t exist or worse, if he was actually something else entirely, then that meant something, too.

All Things Permissible

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I began to feel like Ryu and his party creeping down the Infinity Dungeon step by step, plagued by random battles, toward the inevitable end as the daunting scope and resolution of my studies ahead settled in on me. Still, I felt the task was unavoidable. I had to figure these things out. I couldn’t just live as if they didn’t matter.

I later read about how C.S. Lewis, the most reluctant convert, came to believe in God and fought against it with all the intellectualism he could muster until the horrible, irresistible, pacifying realization came down on him like an avalanche and he had no choice to accept. Why the horror? Well, to accept that there is an infinite Mind watching you from conception, more powerful than anything else in existence, is and ought to be a humbling realization, at least. That’s why I take some irritation with some who treat their believing in the existence of God with frivolity and indifference.

And only does taking the next step further toward personal explanation on the part of that God as loving dispell any of the horror of that belief. I’ve heard Christianity described as a fairy tale for those afraid of the dark, but God’s not a teddy bear… He’s pictured as a consuming fire, someone who won’t be mocked.

Questioning the Unquestionable

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It’s okay to question, be curious, skeptical, doubtful, and then search for an answer.

As a boy, I remember being fascinated with folklore and mythology but that doubled after playing Breath of Fire II. Thanks to my local library (I didn’t have internet access in my home back then), I could study as much as I wanted.

I dug through the pantheon of the Greeks and Romans. I picked up some Japanese vocab to delve into the myths of the rising sun. I felt the ice of Norse eschatology. I looked to the heavens with Native American beliefs. I even learned about the ancient tales of the Hawaiians, my own people, but, becoming rapidly superstitious, I avoided learning Hawaiian chants and prayers in some of the schools I attended, even though I remember standing at the seashore and cursing Nāmaka the goddess of the sea just to see what would happen. People are complicated contradictions, I guess. To me, those things were real until I reached an age when I learned to study if they really were.

Hawaii is both a very superstitious and spiritual place, come to think about it. As a place where the fusion of cultures functions rather well, foods of all kinds are in abundance, as are traditions and religions. Within the small circle of my friends, I knew an atheist, a Buddhist, a Christian, and a Mormon. Hawaii had a lot of religions going on in just a small plot of land.

It was in this realm of fusion and confusion that the roots of my interest in spirituality and religion was cemented, but I realize I can trace that interest back to Breath of Fire II. It wasn’t until I moved to California and went to college that all the questions I’d ever asked came to a head and I found myself the disinclined convert made inclined. In other words, I couldn’t think of a way out of it. That’s my story, trying to rationalize God because of a video game.

How do you rationalize God? Lots of people say that the Christian monotheistic model of God is so supreme so as to be disprovable (invisible, all-powerful, all-knowing, beyond physical reach, etc.), the equivalent of “Well I’ve got a dinosaur who eats forcefield dogs!” I don’t think that’s the case, though.

Antony Flew, when he was still an atheist, attempted to demonstrate that the Christian God is an inherently incomprehensible concept by suggesting God’s attributes are incompatible with each other (grace and justice, for instance). He later discredited his own work on the subject but at least he established the honest potentiality for disproving God if He could be demonstrated to be fundamentally inconsistent: the theological equivalent of a zero-sided square or other such nonsense.

What Breath of Fire II did for me was it prevented me from taking anything at face value, not accept that church or God were good just because my parents went there for a time. I had to dig into these things myself and try my best to see and study and research the reality of things, if there indeed was any at all. I had run the gamut from Buddhism to Shintoism (two faiths which grabbed my attention when I was younger) and an array of others in books in full circle back to Christianity.

Personal Discovery

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Really, I couldn’t be more grateful for what Breath of Fire II did for me, indirectly.

Could I have encountered God without it? I don’t know, but if I had, maybe it wouldn’t have been in the same way where I came to think of the Uncaused Cause as logically coherent within Himself, not that there are no more mysteries or that I have no more doubts (wrestling with the nature of reality is what religions are about), but learning to be assured is something that’s been a crucial part of finding meaning in my life.

Now, I’ve experienced a lot of joy, done a lot of cool things, and met a lot of incredible people that I never would have without the experience that Breath of Fire II led me toward. Literally, I wouldn’t be the same person, spiritually, certainly, and those of you who are spiritual reading this will know that that speaks to a core part of your being. If you’re not at all interested in that sort of thing, at least you can get a glimpse of what video games can do and how they can impact people, provoking them to ask questions about epistemology, psychology, history, sociology, anthropology, eschatology, and theology itself. I don’t have all the answers, just as no one in any other field of study has all the answers, but I’ve rarely been so impacted by other samples of entertainment.

Because I believe in a personal God now, I’m impressed at the sagacity in using a simple 16-bit video game to get to me. I’ve been able to find this meaning that has carried me through the later, harder parts of my life thanks to this game. Sure I discovered that meaning a little later in life but it was just like waking up on a Saturday and having breakfast at noon.

This is the second time I’ve connected Breath of Fire II to my faith in writing, so I hope it’s not old hat at this point. Thank you for reading my story!

-Moses
thewellredmage.com

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WordPress Reader viewers, please consider enjoying this post again on the site. While we designed with you in mind, you miss some of the nuances of the piece by not enjoying it in its original form. 

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This collaboration took an overwhelming amount of time and dedication from 34 exceptionally creative, incredible makers! Help us with the resources to make more, even better, collaborations in the future! We also have aspirations of developing a podcast called Normal Talks about optimistically appreciating everyday life! Please consider becoming a patron of Normal Happenings and help us try to make the world a better, more positive place!
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Donkey Kong Country | The Game That Defines TWOTALL4UFOOL

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Audio

David Wise and Eveline Fischer, the composers for the Donkey Kong Country series, are the masters of ambiance. Open your ears, I’ve found a musician on a mission to restore the series tracks to their uncompressed glory. If you love the originals, you’re in for a treat. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Games That Define Us features carefully chosen music and remixes from the franchise of the game represented. Music is a key component of sharing the emotions one feels about a game, so we hope you will press the play button if you’re in a position to do so. 

introduction

We are one full week into The Games That Define Us, and it had been an incredible journey so far! Thank you to all the readers and contributors who are making this amazing event a reality! We truly appreciate your support.

Just a brief summary if this is your first time here: This collaboration is a 34-day long adventure through video games. Each piece is its own unique audiovisual experience, complete with artwork, designs, music, and (most importantly) amazing works of prose by brilliant bloggers around the world. This adventure will take you through nostalgia, joy, ambition, self-discovery, regret, anxiety, frustration, mourning, and every human experience in between. Video games exist as fragments on the timeline of our lives, and each one of us have chosen the adventure we feel most defines us.

Today’s blogger has such a big personality, I’m going to keep things brief and not hog the spotlight. You know him, you love him, it’s Justin from TWOTALL4UFOOL’s Gaming & More! He’s been a great blog friend for a while now, and he always keeps you entertained with his enthusiasm. We’re grateful to have him here, but once you’re done you should check out these recent posts on his blog:

Without further delay, take it away Justin with one of my favorite games on the SNES!

– Matthew, Normal Happenings

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starring

Justin @ TWOTALL4UFOOL

Twitter: @TWOTALL4UFOOL

For you and yours!

Game: Donkey Kong Country
System: SNES
Release Date: November 21, 1994

1P Start

This had to be the best Christmas gift I ever received as a kid. If I could go back in time, I would just want to watch younger me having a blast with Donkey Kong Country.

Blogging live to you and yours! It’s your boy TWOTALL4UFOOL!

It was probably summer when I first saw the commercial — sometime in 1994, though I have forgotten the exact month. By then I would have had my Super NES for about three years. I either got it at launch, or if not, definitely my seventh birthday shortly after launch — sometime in 1991. Since having it I was having fun with the games I had. Some I had asked for. Other games were given to me as a gift. And then, of course, the rental games I would play on it from Blockbuster Video. Whatever game I was playing on it I made the best of. But even at a young age I knew some games were definitely better than others. And to be honest when I look back on it I feel the Super NES was just on an even plateau with the Sega Genesis until I saw this commercial. This game was going to change everything! Take a look below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After seeing that commercial, I knew that had to be the next game I got for my Super NES. I didn’t know how or when I was going to get it, but I knew that had to be my next game for this console. I instantly fell in love with the game and I didn’t even have it. I didn’t even know too much about Donkey Kong to tell you the truth. I knew that he was the main villain in the Donkey Kong arcade game and that there was GameBoy version of that game that game that came out earlier in the year. And I also knew a character by the name of Donkey Kong Jr. was playable in Super Mario Kart. So I had an idea of who Donkey Kong was, I just didn’t know the whole back story at the time.

This had to be the only game I ever wanted instantly after watching a TV commercial for it! I just wanted it. I didn’t want to rent it. I didn’t want to read reviews on it. I just wanted the box so I could rip that thing open and start playing it and read the instruction booklet before I went to bed. I think the commercial did everything in terms of selling me on the game.

Where you gonna find it?
Not on Sega!
Not on 32x Adapters!
Not on CD-Rom!
It’s only for Super NES!

And if you look at those graphics. During that time, those had to be some of the sweetest graphics I had ever seen. Another thing that sold me on the game after watching the commercial. I was blown away by the commercial to say the least. And I was thrilled that it was only for the Super NES! It was a direct shot at Sega, I feel, because it didn’t need any CD adapter or 32x adapter to play a game of this caliber. All you needed was Super NES.

Now if I had gotten this game for my tenth birthday that would make this the perfect story. But since the game came out November 21st (19 days after my birthday) I had to wait a little bit longer. Instead, I got it for Christmas. This had to be the best Christmas gift I ever received as a kid. If I could go back in time, I would just want to watch younger me having a blast with Donkey Kong Country. I knew beating the game would be no easy task, but if I could beat Super Mario World I knew I had a chance at beating this game.

For those of you have never played Donkey Kong Country, here is how the game works. It’s a platformer similar to a Mario game. Donkey Kong can either jump or do a roll at his enemies for them to be defeated. However this won’t work on all enemies. For more complicated enemies, you can throw barrels at them and they can be defeated. Speaking of barrels, if you come across a DK Barrel, you’ll get your sidekick Diddy Kong. You can switch between the two as you please. Diddy Kong can also jump on enemies and do cartwheels, knocking enemies out. Going through the level, if you got hit once that would be it. But if you have both Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong whoever you are controlling will run off then you take over as the other. There are multiple DK barrels throughout the level so you would have a chance to get your Kong buddy before beating the level.

You start out with 5 lives, with the opportunity to get more for every 100 bananas, finding DK Balloons, or reaching bonus levels within each level. Reaching Candy Kong would be the only way to save your game. Funky Kong will allow you to go back to worlds that you had already beaten. And Cranky Kong gives you “helpful” advice on how to get through the game. You also have animal buddies that help you throughout the adventure as well. They are in certain levels throughout the game and can also be used in various bonus levels. At the end of each world you face a boss, and after you get through the six worlds, you fight the main villain in the game — King K. Rool, leader of the Kremlings.

Now, when I started the first world that was nothing out of the ordinary. I was able to pass the first level and first world with flying colors. It was when I got to the second world is where the trouble began. Mine Cart Carnage was the first level I struggled with during this game. That level is fun, but not an easy task in the slightest. It takes perfect timing to spell KONG, jump over all the carts, and not get hit by Kremlings in other carts coming right at you. The Stop & Go Station was another unique level. The concept that you couldn’t kill those baddies at all — you could only go by them when the barrel light was on stop — was something very unique and had never been done in any video game at the time.

Moving on the more memorable levels in the game: when I reached the fourth world (Gorilla Glacier), the level Snow Barrel Blast was so complicated. Not only was it slippery because of the ice, but thick snow coming down in that level makes it impossible to see. The other level in that world that I remember well had to be Torchlight Trouble. This is the only level where Squawks the Parrot made an appearance by holding the torchlight for you to see. Moving on to the fifth world, Kremkroc Industries, I went through some of the hardest levels the game had to offer. Elevator Antics, Mine Cart Madness and arguably the hardest level in the game, Poison Pond. I had met kids who had quit the game because they couldn’t pass Poison Pond. It is a complicated level, but your animal buddy Enguarde the Swordfish makes it a bit less complicated.

In the sixth and final world, Chimp Caverns, there is a level called Loopy Lights. It’s similar to the Stop & Go Station where you have to keep the lights on in the level. Another one that frustrated me quite a bit was Platform Perils. This is the last level you do before fighting that world boss. Looking back at the most of these levels, they each have a unique stipulation. You didn’t really see that too much in other platformers during that time, such as Mario or Sonic games game. Donkey Kong Country sure broke barriers, and I feel rewrote the rules on what a good platformer video game looks like.

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Fighting King K. Rool wasn’t easy. Besides throwing his crown at you, you had to time his jumps and be in the right place at the right time or you were a goner. I remember when I first thought I beat him and then the credits rolled and after the credits were done rolling he got back up and just killed me out of nowhere. That was so wrong! But I stayed patient and calm and eventually defeated him. What can I say? That game was a wild ride — one that I never get tired of playing.

Here is how this game defines me. It came out during the prime of my childhood. I saw a commercial for it. I didn’t read reviews, or rent it. I just saw it, asked for the game, got it, and beat it! It took me a while to beat it but it eventually happened. I never looked at video games the same again after beating Donkey Kong Country. It helped me realize that all video games are beatable (with the exception of sports games, I guess). It helped me look at some of the games I had played previously and had never beaten. One of those games was Super Mario Bros. 3., which I would eventually go on to beat in the Super Mario All-Stars compilation. And I don’t think I would’ve had the smarts to get through that game without getting through Donkey Kong Country first.

Overall, I couldn’t think of a better game that defines me and my video game playing skills than Donkey Kong Country. It is one of my all time favorites. When it came out, there was no game like it, and I don’t think there will ever be another game like it. The only sequel I feel comes close is Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest. That game could arguably be better in overall gameplay than the original. There’s only one thing that’s missing, though: Donkey Kong. We love you Dixie, but I feel they could’ve found some way to make Donkey Kong playable. And I still think it’s a robbery that game wasn’t on the SNES Classic Edition. But Nintendo knows they would’ve messed up if they didn’t include the first game on there. If you haven’t played Donkey Kong Country, I highly encourage you to do so. And think of your boy as you play!

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WordPress Reader viewers, please consider enjoying this post again on the site. While we designed with you in mind, you miss some of the nuances of the piece by not enjoying it in its original form. 

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This collaboration took an overwhelming amount of time and dedication from 34 exceptionally creative, incredible makers! Help us with the resources to make more, even better, collaborations in the future! We also have aspirations of developing a podcast called Normal Talks about optimistically appreciating everyday life! Please consider becoming a patron of Normal Happenings and help us try to make the world a better, more positive place!
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Myst | The Game That Defines Imaginating Life

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Let’s go ahead and kick-start the audio for this post! We can’t go through this entire piece without hearing the wonderfully bombastic main theme for Myst — calmer tracks to follow.

 

 

 

 

The Games That Define Us features carefully chosen music and remixes from the franchise of the game represented. Music is a key component of sharing the emotions one feels about a game, so we hope you will press the play button if you’re in a position to do so. 

introduction

Hello, and welcome back to The Games That Define Us! We are six days into this amazing collaboration, and there has been so much positive feedback. Each of you reading this are amazing, and I’d like to give you a big “thank you!”

Just a brief summary if this is your first time here: This collaboration is a 34-day long adventure through video games. Each piece is its own unique audiovisual experience, complete with artwork, designs, music, and (most importantly) amazing works of prose by brilliant bloggers around the world. This adventure will take you through nostalgia, joy, ambition, self-discovery, regret, anxiety, frustration, mourning, and every human experience in between. Video games exist as fragments on the timeline of our lives, and each one of us have chosen the adventure we feel most defines us.

Today we’re joined by the talented Amanda from Imaginating Life! Like me, she’s both a graphic designer and blogger, which is always a great combination. You can check out her amazing design portfolio — her use of color is on point! You should also check out her fantastic blog post, It’s Dangerous to Go Alone – My Thoughts on Depression, when you finish up here.

Let’s get started, then, with Myst — the best-selling PC game until The Sims! We hope enjoy discovering this chapter of The Games The Define Us!

– Matthew, Normal Happenings

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starring

Amanda May @ Imaginating Life

Twitter: @ImaginingDesign

For the ages.

Game: Myst
System: PC
Release Date: September 24, 1993

1P Start

The memories formed when we were playing Myst I still hold dear today. Though my mom is no longer in this realm to reminisce about the good old days of PC gaming with me, or to help me create my own game in the future with her programming expertise, Myst continues to inspire my love of gaming.

When I was a kid, I loved reading fantasy fiction about far away mystical magical lands. Anything that sparked my vivid imagination was inspiring to me. I would even invent my own mystical magical lands. I enjoyed sketching them out, and would create stories around them in great detail, filling up notebook after notebook.

When my mom bought our first home PC for the family back in the early 90s, I began to shift my focus from imagining fantastical tales to game strategizing and connecting patterns. I was all about some Space Invaders, Pong, and my favorite, Tetris. On DOS. Yup.

Later I would go on to play such “innovative” games as Hero’s Quest, Lemmings, and Fable (the 90s DOS adventure game, not the 2004 version on Xbox — totally different games!). My mom was a computer programmer after all, so she also encouraged learning about computers, and would even involve me in the process whenever she would upgrade our computer — yes, my mom actually built computers!

But the real “game changer” (pun totally intended) came when Mom bought a new PC, upgrading us to Windows 95, and purchased the game that would eventually be the standard I would hold all future games by. That game was Myst.

Myst was, at that time, cutting edge and revolutionary. It received high praise for its amazing and detailed graphics, unique storyline, and beautifully composed soundtrack — all ahead of their time by industry standards back then. The soundtrack was of particular interest to us, as my mother was herself a pianist and composer, and would often sit at the piano recreating the game’s music. I always enjoyed listening to her play. But I would go on to remember this game for another reason: it was the first game, and first activity in general, that my mother and I truly bonded over.

In the mid-90s my mom had become disabled, and had to step down from her corporate job as Sr. Computer Analyst, a title she was proud to have at that time. Though pain and restriction of movement limited her, she did have more free time to play games and watch movies with myself and my brothers. Myst, though, was our game — just Mom and me.

This in-game merger of fantasy worlds with strategy and puzzle solving led me into a new phase of creative inspiration that was the start of my interest in game design and, later, web design. I started filling up notebooks with not only new fantasy world sketches and story lines, but also images of my own puzzles and actual dialog between characters I had created.

Mom and I would play other games like the Myst series between releases, such as Obsidian, 7th Guest, Shivers, Qin:Tomb of the Middle Kingdom, and Schizm: Mysterious Journey, which would all inspire even more sketches and descriptions of game mechanics. (By the way, if you ever get the chance to play Obsidian you’ll be in for a real challenge! It’s my second-favorite game of all time after Myst.)

When it was time for college, the schools nearby that I could afford on the state scholarship I’d received sadly did not offer Game Design or Game Development as part of their curriculum. So I settled for a dual major in Web Design and Visual Communications. But I kept up my dream of creating my games someday. Having a programmer for a mom was also super helpful in my studies too, especially when I started working with animation scripts like JavaScript and Flash. (I know, it’s an obsolete skill now. One day I’ll find time to sit down and sink my teeth into Unity!)

The memories formed when we were playing Myst, and its many sequels over the coming years, I still hold dear today. Though my mom is no longer in this realm to reminisce about the good old days of PC gaming with me, or to help me create my own game in the future with her programming expertise, Myst continues to inspire my love of gaming. I’ve always felt proud to boast about playing the game whenever I’m included in a gaming discussion. Moreover, it helped my mom hold onto her sanity when she became disabled, and helped us to stay close through my turbulent teenage years and onward.

I believe our relationship was strengthened through our bond over Myst, and I will never forget those days. It was more than a game. It was a place of calm respite. A ray of hope. The beginning of my future career path. It was, and still is, the game that defined me.

And so I close, realizing that perhaps the ending has not yet been written.
~ Atrus, Myst

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WordPress Reader viewers, please consider enjoying this post again on the site. While we designed with you in mind, you miss some of the nuances of the piece by not enjoying it in its original form. 

patreon

This collaboration took an overwhelming amount of time and dedication from 34 exceptionally creative, incredible makers! Help us with the resources to make more, even better, collaborations in the future! We also have aspirations of developing a podcast called Normal Talks about optimistically appreciating everyday life! Please consider becoming a patron of Normal Happenings and help us try to make the world a better, more positive place!
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Zombies Ate My Neighbors | The Game That Defines 3PStart

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introduction

Welcome to day five of The Games That Define Us! You’re in for a treat this week, as we’ve got some absolute beasts in the writing realms presenting some outstanding contributions.

Just a brief summary if this is your first time here: This collaboration is a 34-day long adventure through video games. Each piece is its own unique audiovisual experience, complete with artwork, designs, music, and (most importantly) amazing works of prose by brilliant bloggers around the world. This adventure will take you through nostalgia, joy, ambition, self-discovery, regret, anxiety, frustration, mourning, and every human experience in between. Video games exist as fragments on the timeline of our lives, and each one of us have chosen the adventure we feel most defines us.

And the award for most fun to design goes to… this one! At least for now. What is it about quirky zombie books, films, and video games that can always be counted on to capture our collective imaginations?

Today we’re joined by The3rdPlayer from 3PStart for a very surprising pick: Zombies Ate My Neighbors. I remember playing this 16-bit cult classic a while back, and it just oozes with quirky undead charm.

Here are a couple of 3PStart pieces you should absolutely pick up after finishing here. Also, kudos to those awesome blog post titles:

All right, enough from me. We hope your braaaaaain enjoys this chapter of The Games The Define Us!

– Matthew, Normal Happenings

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Audio

Well, at least we managed to work in one Zombies Ate Me Neighbors remix into the playlist. After that things began to get a little crazy.

 

 

 

The Games That Define Us features carefully chosen music and remixes from the franchise of the game represented. Music is a key component of sharing the emotions one feels about a game, so we hope you will press the play button if you’re in a position to do so. 

starring

The3rdPlayer3PStart

Twitter: @the3rdplayer

For the neighbors!

Game: Zombies Ate My Neighbors
System: Sega Genesis
Release Date: July 19, 1993

3pstart

Zombies Ate My Neighbors is satisfying candy. It’s a game that I can pop in to start the distraction that will lead to me feeling better. While it’s a fantastic game, there is no story to speak of that will snap me back to reality.

It would be an understatement to say that the early 1990s forged my pop culture tastes. I was preoccupied with horror movies and finding the next great game to play. When I came across Zombies Ate My Neighbors at the tender young age of 10, I only knew two things — the cover looked like a cheesy black-and-white horror flick and the back sounded goofy and entertaining. After convincing my mother to buy it for me, I went home and popped the game into my Genesis, eyes wide and white knuckles on my controller.  

Needless to say, my mind was blown.

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Around this time in my adolescence, I was still playing at games in the backyard over at my best friend’s house. If we were playing a game that would normally involve guns, it was Super Soakers or Nerf guns in lieu of the real thing. Shields were inner tubes or plastic garbage can lids. If we were using magic or superpowers, we found a dodgeball or something less damaging than rocks to lob at one another as spells. While 1993 was the time when reality was setting in inch-by-inch during our hangouts, we still incorporated things like squirt guns and other props into our more frivolous moments.

Zombies Ate My Neighbors is a crucial element and persistent reminder of those definitive times for a number of reasons. In a very straightforward way, it was a go-to game for me whenever I had someone to play it with. Whether it was my best friend or my mother, it was a bonding experience laced with the frustrations and joys of cooperative gaming. Growing up as an only child, it was one of the first games I really played with friends rather than alternating one controller, spawning my love for couch co-op and eventually online gaming with friends. There’s so much more to how this game really defines me, though.

I’ve told a few folks, if they want to get to know me as a gamer and a person, play Zombies Ate My Neighbors. Plenty of gamers have a specific game or two that they resonate with; it truly feels like the game was made for them. It reminds me of a prominent concept that people talk about with music — if you listen to their favorite song, you’ll understand them better. This game — from the case, to the manual, to the actual game experience — has always felt like my game in that sense. Heck, growing up, I’ve spent two Halloweens as Zeke from both the original game and the sometimes maligned sequel, Ghoul Patrol.

Above everything else, the game is quirky and doesn’t take itself too seriously. The only real direction that you get outside of the instructions comes in the form of level introductions, all of which are some play on pop culture from all over entertainment history. Fighting giant babies, tourists-turned-werewolves, and chainsaw wielding stalkers with soda can grenades and silverware felt reminiscent of movies like Monster Squad and The Goonies where kids had adventures full of danger and resourceful solutions. While there was the fear of Game Over screens, the horror always felt light and tongue-in-cheek. Rather than the game feeling like it was punishing me, I felt like it was there to entertain and challenge me. Much like the films I mentioned, it also gave me the desire to go outside and be active — in between gaming sessions, of course.

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I also learned how important having interesting game design is. At the base of everything, you’re doing the same thing over and over again. The undeniable allure for me comes from the touches that are so easily overlooked. I still remember finding all kinds of secret passages in the pyramid levels and tripping across the secret lair of the questionably named Dr. Tongue in a solid nod to Frankenstein’s monster. I remember getting lost in the hedge mazes strewn throughout a couple of levels, but never being so frustrated that I gave up trying to navigate them. Even the scope of the levels felt different with neighborhoods always feeling like sprawling fields compared to office buildings and cave systems that appropriately felt claustrophobic and a little tougher to navigate but easier to strategize around. Among plenty of other examples, these pushed my interest in game design and intention. Each level just feels custom-made to give a great experience, once again prioritizing my experience as a player rather than a need to pad out the game to justify a price tag. The construction of these levels and small touches cultivated my opinions on what makes a great game so great.

On the deeper personal side of things, Zombies Ate My Neighbors has always been my failproof mental health enhancer. As a huge fan of RPGs growing up, I have plenty of games to go back to for that warm and familiar feeling that bring me back into the positives when my mood is low. Those games, though, have beautiful stories with conflict, self-discovery, and grandiose adventure. They also tend to bring up reminders of the issues that have gotten me into the negative place I’m in, so there can be fluctuation as to whether they can be a positive influence on me as the experience goes on. During a the few devastating events in my life involving relationships and family, I could only get so much mileage out of returning to games I love like Final Fantasy VI and Secret of Mana.

Zombies is satisfying candy in this sense. It’s a game that I can pop in to start the distraction that will lead to me feeling better. While it’s a fantastic game, there is no story to speak of that will snap me back to reality. Levels are short so there is always some sense of achievement and the game really is just goofy fun laced with exploration and reflexive interaction. There are more than a handful of specific memories that I have of racing around as a teenager, straining to make sure I took all of the right precautions to swoop in a retrieve that last cheerleader before some axe-throwing killer doll could, all while I felt like my life was coming down around me half an hour before.

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Like me, this game is nostalgic, quirky, full of esoteric trivia and references, and just a little bit long-winded. Much like an important part of my own philosophies, it also feels like, despite its difficulty, it wants everyone involved to have a good time; developers, programmers, designers, and most importantly, the players. LucasArts has always felt that way, as anyone who has played Maniac Mansion, Day of the Tentacle or any of the Monkey Island titles can tell you. The fact that this game is my go-to for hard times is completely incidental, but I’m glad it has been. Zombies Ate My Neighbors suits me and my tastes to a near-perfect T from the humor to the references and everything else that it has to offer.

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Sonic the Hedgehog 2 | The Game That Defines Me

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Audio

In my quest for the perfect soundtrack to this post, I discovered one of the finest ambient remix albums I’ve ever heard. Please enjoy this playlist from the marvelous Ace Waters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Games That Define Us features carefully chosen music and remixes from the franchise of the game represented. Music is a key component of sharing the emotions one feels about a game, so we hope you will press the play button if you’re in a position to do so. 

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Matt @ Normal Happenings

Twitter: @normalhappening

For all creatures of West Side Island

Game: Sonic the Hedgehog 2
System: Sega Genesis
Release Date: November 21, 1992

Just a brief summary if this is your first time here: This collaboration is a 34-day long adventure through video games. Each piece is its own unique audiovisual experience, complete with artwork, designs, music, and (most importantly) amazing works of prose by brilliant bloggers around the world. This adventure will take you through nostalgia, joy, ambition, self-discovery, regret, anxiety, frustration, mourning, and every human experience in between. Video games exist as fragments on the timeline of our lives, and each one of us have chosen the adventure we feel most defines us.

1P Start

Anything is possible with enough planning and determination, but to accomplish my goals I must strive to improve constantly.

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As you read this, you are breathing. You are thinking, feeling, and experiencing. This is not news to you, who are almost certainly old enough to understand and process the complexity of human emotion. When you were very young, however, the enormity of existence was like an overwhelming light piercing the darkness. The world was so big, and there was too much to process and consider. Time heals you from this predicament; like wading into water slightly cooler than expected, you are surprised as to how quickly you get used to the once-incomprehensible sensations of everyday life.

A funny thing happens as you get older: it takes more to impress you as adolescence fades and adulthood worms its way into your heart. As time begins to close in on you, the years of experience surround you like fractals on a snowflake. However, this is no cause for alarm. Seven, 27, 67 rotations around the sun – those are just statistics, and while I take great comfort in statistics, a number does not define how you choose to experience a life of wonder.

Instead I chose to find happiness in the small things, looking back at them as a trail of breadcrumbs leading me to this point. One of those small things was, in fact, measurably so: 108mm (4.25in) long, 68mm (2.68 in) high, and 16mm (0.63in) wide – the size of a Sega Genesis cartridge. Specifically, that cart that contained a copy of Sonic the Hedgehog 2: the game that defines me.

The Architecture of a Soul

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I often imagine my life as a bar chart; as I said, statistics comfort me. Charts are the source code for my life, something thematically appropriate as I program the CSS for this collaboration. I have learned that, if there is something I don’t like about who I am, I often just need to reallocate sections of my chart to accommodate my goals. For example, right now physical activity is a segment of my life which I am steadily working to increase for the betterment of my future. But like the half-life of chemical elements making up the microscopic world, nothing is ever truly gone. Hidden are the memories sometimes, sure, but never gone — even as I write this, childhood memories of being fascinated by standing between two mirrors flood my brain. I would often contemplate if those refracted images went on forever, and how many I could count before losing the ability to envisage just one more layer.

With such an active imagination and curiosity, those few pixels of my life between where Sonic 2 begins and ends may not seem like much, and indeed there are certainly things in my life which comprise far more real estate. I am an adult now, not the shy kid who came home everyday to his grandmother’s house, popped in a copy of Sonic 2, and started barreling through Emerald Hill Zone. But the residual effects of my experience with this game means that tiny portion will never blink out of existence. Sonic 2 will always reside there, sandwiched somewhere between my love for the science of cooking, my peculiar interest for the 1960’s marionette show Thunderbirds, my determination to remember all the song titles on Sufjan Stevens’s masterpiece, Illinois, and my obsession with filling up all available character spaces on Twitter. (Five characters left? Inconceivable!)

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I can close my eyes and play Sonic the Hedgehog 2 — every track, every zone, every branching path memorized in acute detail. I did it, in fact, before writing this piece. My mobile phone (with a brilliant copy of the game, interestingly, downloaded on it) far away in another room, I rested on my bed and pressed the power button on the Sega Genesis of my mind. Zoned in, I gripped the familiar Genesis controller as I would in a dream or a trance. The ubiquitous SAYYY-GA chant, love it or hate it, greeted my ears. The sparkles and chimes, unique to the title screen, soon broke the black – Sonic and Tails jumped into the frame like total goofs, and before I knew it I was off to the races. Removed from my much more pleasurable life with an amazing wife (plus two cats), intriguing education, good career, deep spiritual life, and pursuit of writing, I would make a good Sonic 2 speedrunner.

Inadvertently Speedrunning Life

As a kid, through repeated playthroughs, constant mistakes, and critical failure, a pattern began to emerge. Sonic 2 taught me, more than strict parents or a highly, highly challenging social life, that nothing ever comes easy.

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At first, unable to comprehend the finer mechanics of game design, I looked at this as a curse. I comprehended that the goal was to make it to the end of the act as quickly as possible, but it took an enormous amount of practice to dodge all of the enemies, an intelligent grasp of the physics of the game to build a sustainable pace, and a lot of good luck throughout each run. Why didn’t they make the game easier? I constantly asked myself this as a nine or ten-year-old, without noticing all the while I was shaving seconds off of my total time.

Those questions paralleled very similar ones in my own life. Why must individuals constantly go to blows with each other just to get what they want? Why couldn’t we live in a utopia where people are free to explore their naturally artistic hearts unrestricted? I was starting to get to the age where I noticed nature’s constant competition, while at the same time I was learning the skills needed to be competitive. At some point — I feel like I may have been doing a quiz in my fourth grade classroom — my daily adventures through Sonic 2 and my real-life desire to learn collided and I had a revelation.

Anything is possible with enough planning and determination, but to accomplish my goals I must strive to improve constantly. This realization marked when I became stupidly good at Sonic 2 — imagine an eleven-year-old blasting through each act of the first three zones in under a minute. I would consult online guides, which were still in their infancy — usually text-based on GameFAQs. I would use debug mode to analyze each branching path, attempting to crack the code of how to access a new, faster, section of the course. I would doodle sketches of the levels in class, planning with architectural precision how to bypass a slow section as quickly as possible.

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Something else happened as well, something wonderful. The attitude of knowing that anything is possible translated one-to-one into real life. I began applying the lessons I learned to all aspects of daily experience. I viewed every math problem and every multiple choice quiz question as an obstacle to overcome, as if in a video game. By fifth grade, I was reading at a twelfth grade level, understanding the works of Bradbury, Tolkien, and Rowling with great cognizance. And, while I struggled mightily with the social aspects of life as a child — it would take until university to unlock that part of myself — the gamification of obstacles is an element of my childhood that has only been strengthened and fortified in the present.

My parents would often laugh at me as I desperately tried to explain that video games improve lives. My dialectic discussion of how they helped improve spacial orientation, reaction time, and problem solving skills — Sonic 2 is a master class in all three — must have sounded outlandish coming from a child. I do not necessarily blame my parents for this short-sightedness, as culture often passes off new technologies as harmful. However, I do wish they had cross-referenced my perfect grades with my passion for becoming remarkably efficient at games for my age.

Pulled Into Focus 

My dad once said, “you have got to stop living in this ‘Sonic-world’ of yours.” I’m forced to disagree, the “Sonic world” gave me my sense of aesthetics. It may seem a little strange, but there is one final feature of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 that defined my life: this game is drop-dead gorgeous. It does not even matter that it the game will be celebrating its 26th birthday this month, it will always be one of the most aesthetically appealing games to my brain which so fondly values geometric precision and vibrant colors.

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These are not glamor shots or tech demos, but rather screenshots of the original game. In modern games, I’m completely unconcerned with spectacular graphics, but Sonic the Hedgehog 2 far exceeds any game that had ever come before it. Still, it’s not the technical impressiveness of the graphics that I adore so much. Rather, the style is what blows me away. As a child, the exhilarating speed and gameplay of Sonic 2 defined me. But as an adult, the graphical style of the masterpiece is what truly adds to the substance of my life.

Some may say all of the bright colors look gaudy at first, and removing myself to become an independent observer, I completely understand why. When not invested in the game, the constant input of colors can be overwhelming in a very similar manner to the aforementioned blinding light that pierces the darkness. That sensation quickly subsides, however, as you rub your aching eyes and truly invest yourself in the experience. I am a graphic designer by trade, and the straight-line geometry and color coordination that went into the game continues to impress me. Each stage has little details and patterns that fit together like an unforeseen art piece. The skill in which the visual elements of this game are assembled always put my mind at ease and gave me a strong sense of stability when I had few other sources.

My final takeaway is this: those pixel size portions of your life on your bar chart mean more than you know. It may not seem in the moment like something so non-essential as a video game can be instrumental in providing foundations in essential elements of identity, but until you scale that mountain and look down from above, you don’t realize how important your little adventures are. You envision the things you’ve accomplished in life spread across the landscape below, and with them you see the assemblage of small things which bring you to those milestones. When I look down at my life, I see a tiny amount of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 in most of the things that have happened to me. Therefore, because of how influential the game is to my development to this point, I would not trade those lightning-fast romps across West Side Island for the world.

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adventure map


WordPress Reader viewers, please consider enjoying this post again on the site. While we designed with you in mind, you miss some of the nuances of the piece by not enjoying it in its original form. 

patreon

This collaboration took an overwhelming amount of time and dedication from 34 exceptionally creative, incredible makers! Help us with the resources to make more, even better, collaborations in the future! We also have aspirations of developing a podcast called Normal Talks about optimistically appreciating everyday life! Please consider becoming a patron of Normal Happenings and help us try to make the world a better, more positive place!
become_a_patron_button

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