Digimon World | The Game That Defines The Modern Gafa

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Enjoy some laid-back tracks from across the Digimon World Playstation games.

 

 

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.

Happy Friday! We’re over the hill for November — it’s Day 16 of The Games That Define Us! The next three days will all be devoted to titles from the Warcraft franchise, but first we’re finishing the veritable parade of Playstation 1 titles — there is so much love for that console in this group.

Today we’re joined by Victor from The Modern Gafa, whose overwhelming coolness is only matched by his clever wit. Reading his work will keep you entertained for hours, and he wrote a book, you know. For real, if you’re at all interested in getting review copies of stuff for you blog, this guidebook is for you. You will also love some of these pieces from his blog… if only we knew what a Gafa is.

Let’s boot up the next chapter of The Games That Define Us!

– Matthew, Normal Happenings

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Victor @ The Modern Gafa

Twitter: @TheModernGafa

For getting lost in the wilderness…

Game: Digimon World
System: Playstation 1
Release Date: January 28, 1999

1P Start

It’s one of the most beautiful worlds in any video game I have ever played. I’ve always wanted to see a manga or even an anime take place in this world. It’s one of my favorite fictional places of all time.

When toy stores in Japan opened their doors on June 26, 1997 a new and exciting item appeared on the shelves. It was part game, part toy. It was an attempt by Bandai to create something like Tamagotchi that would appeal to boys by replacing the cute and funny characters with strong and scary monsters. Additionally, this new Tamagotchi had the ability to fight. The first of its kind was known as the Digital Monster V-Pet Ver. 1, but the kids on the playground knew it by its short name: Digimon.

It was an instant hit, and the project quickly grew until it was a massive multimedia franchise that included a total of five versions of the original V-Pet design, a popular anime series, a manga, and of course: video games. The first attempt at bringing the handheld game to consoles was a straight adaptation of the V-Pets on the original Playstation. The follow-up would be a fully fledged video game adventure that took the simple idea of raising a battling monster out of the confines of it’s tiny LCD screen and into a massive universe that would become Digimon World.

Digimon World

While Digimon V-Pets were available in America, most first became aware of it when the anime series, titled Digimon: Digital Monsters, first premiered on Fox Kids in August of 1999. Since Digimon was a very loose concept with no established lore or rules, the writers of the first anime series were given free range to craft a story around the set of Digimon they had to include. They crafted an exciting adventure that followed seven young kids whisked away to a digital world where they are partnered with loyal Digimon of their own. At first, the kids are lost and explore the land on their quest to find a way home. As they begin to learn more about the world and how they got there, the children accept their calling and fight to protect both worlds from evil Digimon. Along the way, the kids learn a lot about each other and form an emotional connection with themselves, their Digimon, and the audience. One cannot put into words how much the first season of the digimon anime means to its fans.

While the story of Digimon’s first season, subtitled “Adventure” in Japan, was a fresh take on the “monster battle” genre, the world wasn’t exactly new to Digimon. The first story arc of the anime takes place on File Island. Japanese fans may have recognized it from its first appearance in Digimon’s first true video game experience. For American fans, we got the reverse experience.

Digimon World was released in Japan on January 28, 1999, a few months before Digimon Adventure would premiere. The game didn’t come to the west until May 23, 2000 after the franchise’s popularity was solidified. By that point, the first season was airing its final episodes on Fox Kids. V-Pets based on the show were released, multiple series of trading cards were available to collect, figures of all sizes allowed fans to play with their favorite Digimon. But it wasn’t until the release of Digimon World did we really know what it meant to be a Digimon Tamer.

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While a similarly named franchise’s anime series is a direct adaptation of its popular games, Digimon World offered its fans in the west something new and exciting. When players first begin, they are greeted with a series of cutscenes that depict a normal kid hanging out with his friends, playing with their Digimon V-Pets. When he returns home, his V-Pet opens up and the boy, as well as the player, are sucked into Digimon World.

The city at the heart of File Island was once a prosperous home to all kinds of Digimon. And then something happened that caused the Digimon to turn wild and savage. They abandoned the city and went off into the wilderness. Your task is to find the lost Digimon and convince them to return to the city while uncovering the origin of the problems on the island.

It’s a simple objective, far from the epic Final Fantasy games that had dominated the Playstation up until that point. However, the story is secondary to the experience of Digimon World. Almost twenty years later and I personally don’t understand the villain’s goals or how exactly he achieves them. I don’t even care. That’s not what the game is about.

There is truly no other game like Digimon World. One of its most well-known and well-loved features is its Digimon raising system. Just like in the V-Pet and in the anime, players are partnered with only one Digimon who follows them around on their adventure. Elements from the V-Pet are adapted into this 3D adventure. You can feed different kinds of food that can be bought or found around the world. Digimon can become sick and require medicine, injured and require bandages, and even become tired and require sleep.

Just like in the V-Pet, the different ways you raise your Digimon will determine how they Digivolve. For Japanese fans experiencing this game as an extension of the V-Pet, this is a no-brainer. To western fans more familiar with the anime, this concept was completely unknown and often a huge surprise to may players. Everyone knows that Agumon Digivolves into Greymon. Imagine my surprise when my first partner Agumon turned into a Meramon instead.

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This is the first of Digimon World’s profound demonstration of exploration. There are dozens of Digimon available for the player to attempt to Digivolve into and each one has its own special requirements. Some need lots of food, others need more experience fighting. One special form is acquired after sleeping in a special spot in the forest. The game keeps a chart of the Digimon you have Digivolved into, inspiring the player to explore different techniques in raising and training their Digimon unlock as many forms as they can.

For many fans in the west, the shock of seeing Gabumon Digivolve into anything that wasn’t a Garurumon never wore off. For many, it’s been accepted as the norm. In fact, it’s generally agreed upon that these multiple possible evolutions – which date back to the original V-Pet – represent the core theme of the franchise. How you grow when you are young affects what you will become when you are older. A symbol in the original anime is the butterfly, a symbol of evolution and change.

As much as I love the Digivolution system in Digimon World, I completely believe that the game would be just as good if you were stuck with just an Agumon for the entire adventure. Because this is Digimon World, and once you’ve discovered how you will change, it’s time to discover where you will go.

As stated above, Digimon World takes place on the same File Island as Digimon Adventure. So while western fans were introduced to unfamiliar concepts, they were shown to them in a familiar world. Several iconic and memorable locations and landmarks appear in both with the game allowing fans to fully explore the areas from the anime.

File Island is a circular land mass with a tall mountain, Mt. Infinity, sitting in the middle. Players are dropped in the middle of the island, in the empty ruins of the city, and can choose to work their way east or west. The areas loop around so players who head east may eventually return from the west. However, you can’t explore the entire world right away.

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I call this semi-open world because there is plenty of freedom and exploration, but there are still roadblocks that prevent you from going too far until certain story beats are hit first. A path up a mountain is not cleared until an earthquake from an underground tunnel causes a landslide. You’ll get lost in a misty forest until finding someone to life the curse on its woods. As the players fulfill their mission of recruiting Digimon to return to the city, more areas of the world will open up.

Many future Digimon game developers seem to think that the Digital World is like Tron or something because the areas are always overly Cyberpunk. Or they just take generic video game areas like “the desert” or “the forest” and slap computer parts haphazardly. The environments in Digimon World on the other hand each feel as if they were carefully handcrafted by an artist.

What gives Digimon World it’s unique and beautiful environments is the use of a technique called parallax mapping. Instead of the world being built on a grid with tiles individually drawn from a chipset, each background is designed first and then loaded into the game as a whole. Areas are blocked off as impassable and additional objects such as trees are laid overtop. This technique was popular in 3D games at the time for its ability to produce crisp worlds without having to rely on a grid-based tile system or having to load fully 3D environments.

This results in not only the most beautiful environment in a Digimon game, but one of the most beautiful worlds in any video game I have ever played. I’ve always wanted to see a manga or even an anime take place in this world. It’s one of my favorite fictional places of all time.

My earliest memory of playing Digimon World was at a friend’s house. He loaded up a new game for me – I had no idea what to expect. My gaming experience at that point was nothing more than my green Gameboy Color and a few bouts of Tekken II with my brothers. I played Digimon World until I had to go home. After a while, my friend let me borrow his copy and the strategy guide. When he wanted it back, I asked to keep the strategy guide just to flip through it and immerse myself in the world. Eventually I acquired my own copy, but had trouble finding time to play it on the Playstation that technically belonged to my brothers. But I savored every moment I could possibly spend exploring the vast island of Digimon World.

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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Spyro the Dragon | The Game That Defines A Geeky Gal

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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 officially halfway through the month of November, and it’s been an amazing ride! Welcome to Day 15 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.

The snow is blanketing St. Louis right now, as it is for many other areas, so it’s a very good day to get cozy with a blanket and some coffee and catch up on some pieces you may have missed!

This is a good place to start, as today we’re joined by the Geeky Gal herself, Megan, for her journey with Spyro the Dragon! A close friend and colleague, I’m not even going to try to list all the things Megan has helped Normal Happenings with — not the least of which is our logo and branding! She’s also a wonderful writer, as you’ll see here, so once you’re done you should absolutely check out her wonderfully-designed site:

The next chapter of The Games That Define Us is taking flight now!

– Matthew, Normal Happenings

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Megan @ A Geeky Gal

Twitter: @ageekygal_

For finding happy places…

Game: Spyro the Dragon
System: Playstation 1
Release Date: September 9, 1998

1P Start

Spyro shielded me from a lot of sadness and pain during that time. I didn’t even realize this in those moments, I just knew I wanted to get to the next world; one more dragon left to release, one more egg to catch, one more hot air balloon ride, and get one more step closer to the happy ending Spyro was seeking.

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Some people can’t tell you the exact moment when they fell in love with gaming. My moment was a cool Christmas morning in Gulf Shores, Alabama, U.S. in a cabin by the ocean when I was almost six years old. I awoke to my mom and grandmother (who I affectionately call my Nanny) speaking in whispers over a pot of steaming hot coffee.

The sun was just beginning to come through the curtains as I stretched and yawned before rolling out of the bed. The smell of coffee led me into the kitchen where my mom and Nanny were still in their pajamas, wrapped in blankets, with their feet in fuzzy slippers. They smiled at me and offered some hot chocolate. I eagerly sat down at the table, knowing that Santa had come the night before, but by tradition we had to eat breakfast before opening any presents.

While drinking my hot chocolate and digging into a bowl of grits, my mom brought over a tin box that Santa had left for me. Inside was a few Pokemon related toys and a note from Santa thanking me for the milk and cookies we had set out for him the night before. I was very worried Santa wouldn’t be able to find us so far from home when mom took us down to the beach for Christmas vacation. It was a magical Christmas already since we’d never had the money to go to the beach before. Santa assured me in his note that he had no problem finding us and that I’d been very good that year. I was ecstatic and couldn’t believe Santa himself had written me such a note.

I quickly finished my breakfast and finally went over to the living room where a big box waited for me. I looked at my mom with my mouth open. “Is this mine?” I couldn’t believe something of this size contained my Christmas present. She said, “It sure is.” I squealed and asked if I could open it now. She and Nanny brought their coffee over to the couch and settled in before giving me the go ahead.

I ripped into the present, excitement flooding my body. I had no idea what could be in such a big box. It was almost taller than me! After getting off the wrapping paper, my mom came over to cut the tape off and help me look inside of it. I can’t remember what all was in the box except for one thing that I still have with me to this day: a Playstation.

My family had always lived paycheck to paycheck. We didn’t always have the best electronics or name brand clothes. My mom did what she could for us. Getting something so “high end” and expensive was truly a treat. I knew how precious the Playstation was.

We pulled it out and set it up on the small living room TV our cabin had. It only took moments to do, but it felt forever for an almost six-year-old. My mom presented the two games that Santa had brought: Frogger and Spyro the Dragon. I really wanted to share my first experience with the PlayStation with my mom so I picked Frogger, and we sat down together to play a few rounds. We laughed and talked, my mom even convinced my Nanny to try it out, as lunch time approached.

Eventually, the adults were ready to move on from the video games and hit the beach outside our door, but I wasn’t quite ready to stop playing. I picked up Spyro and switched out Frogger. I had no idea that the next few hours would change my life so much. As soon as I met Spyro, the cute, sarcastic purple dragon and his dragonfly companion Sparks, I was in love.

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I felt my heart race as I took down enemies, released dragons, and collected gems. Charging through the home world, Artisans, felt like a dream. Breathing fire to defeat gnorcs made me feel powerful. Finding the secret world in Artisans made me feel smart. I was completely immersed in this world, and I needed to see more.

Our Christmas vacation ended, and we headed back home to our small house in the country. Mom set up my Playstation in my bedroom, and I felt so grown up to have such an expensive thing in my own room. School started back, and I focused on my studies, but on the weekends, it was just me and my purple dragon taking down the gnorcs, trying to defeat the Gnasty Gnorc himself. I’d play for hours in my room on top of the daybed that was much too tall for me. My stuffed animals were my audience as the shine had quickly worn off for mom. I tried over and over again to beat levels and bosses. I even remember famously taking my favorite Power Ranger bowl and filling it with ice and cold water to soak my thumbs after a particularly hard boss battle.

Despite such an amazing Christmas that year with a game that I grew to love quickly, I can’t say that I had a happy childhood all of the time. I love my mom, and I know she gave me all that she could, but I had a very tumultuous relationship with my biological father which caused me to experience more sadness than a child ever should. On the Fridays that I found myself at home, still waiting for him to pick me up, I’d load up Spyro and lose myself to get away from the pain in my heart. It was something that affected me for many, many years.

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Spyro shielded me from a lot of sadness and pain during that time. I didn’t even realize this in those moments; I just knew I wanted to get to the next world, one more dragon left to release, one more egg to catch, one more hot air balloon ride, and get one more step closer to the happy ending Spyro was seeking.

I knew I found my happy place in Spyro the Dragon and, eventually, gaming. Spyro helped me escape my childhood sadness and eventually led to my love of gaming now. Gaming became my comfort then and I still turn to it in times of sadness or stress or loneliness. I never felt alone when I had Spyro to occupy my time.

Months of playing Spyro on the weekends finally came to an end one Saturday. I had finally beaten the game. It wasn’t 100% completion (I found the flight levels especially hard), but I was proud nonetheless. I ran to grab my mom and we watched the ending scene and credits together. I was so happy but also so sad to see it end. I still played after that, trying to reach 100% completion. I was never able to do it.

Almost twenty years later, I downloaded Spyro the Dragon from the PlayStation Store to my PS3. I had no idea if it would hold the same magic it did when I was six, but I was feeling nostalgic. When I saw the familiar Insomniac sign held by a gnorc, my heart started racing, just like it had all those years ago when I first put the disc in. I truly lost myself in Spyro all over again almost twenty years later. That weekend, I beat the entire game at 100% completion. The child in me felt a pang of sadness and pride. I beat my favorite childhood game again, and this time, I did everything that needed to be done. Spyro could rest easy this time around.

After putting down the controller and saying goodbye to my favorite sarcastic purple dragon, I thought back to six-year-old me and what she’d think of me right now. I never in a million years thought I’d go to school to learn how to make video games or work on simulators. How crazy is it that a small purple dragon and his dragonfly sidekick inspired a sad little girl to make video games her passion? Thanks Spyro for lifting me up when I was down and giving me a passion for gaming and creating. And special thanks to mom for buying me such an amazing gift that has only fueled my love for gaming since. Six-year-old Megan would be proud right now.

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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!
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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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Dpk2H51W0AAD7YW

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.

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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Final Fantasy VII | The Game That Defines Games With Coffee

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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 the 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 having another breakdown and I could do nothing to stop him. 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.

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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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Crash Bandicoot | The Game That Defines The Gaming Diaries

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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

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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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Adventure Map | The Games That Define Us

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introduction

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.

Welcome to The Games That Define Us, the second Normal Happenings collaboration! Starting on November 1, you will be embarking on a 34-day long journey 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. These contributions go beyond mere game conversation, though each of these artists have proven time and again their ability to think critically about game mechanics and presentation. One need only view their blogs to see they are well-versed in the art of critique.

But that’s not what The Games That Define Us is all about.

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.

What does it mean for a video game to define you? It can be hard to tell at first, but here is a good starting point: close your eyes and just think “video games.” What games pop into your head? Maybe there is only one – if so you may have already discovered the one that defines you. If there are several, ask yourself which one is the most meaningful to you. We think that is where you should look, and we would love to know what game defines you in the comments. Perhaps it’s even one of ours, and if so, you’re in for a treat.

This adventure map will serve as a guide through each day’s pieces – a table of contents, if you will. There will be a mini-version affixed to each post, but you can treat this as a table of contents or a launch point. We recommend reading each post in order, as they are arranged by game release date. However, feel free to dive right in to your favorite games. With these incredible bloggers, you simply cannot go wrong no matter where you start. And with that, let us begin The Games That Define Us!   

– Matthew, Normal Happenings

adventure map

patreon

This collaboration took an overwhelming amount of time and dedication from 34 exceptionally creative bloggers. Help us with the resources to make even greater collaborations in the future. We also have aspirations of developing a podcast called Normal Talks about finding optimism in 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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