One thing we share in the htxt.africa office is our love of games. Sometimes we share the kettle as well but games are something we all love.
Whether it’s a roguelike on the Switch, the latest triple-A title on PS4 or a game of Mario Run between stories, we love playing games.
Last week Twitter presented us with the hashtag #GameStruck4. The hashtag saw folks sharing four games that defined them and ultimately shaped the person they are today.
Scoff at that if you will, but games are an art form and can influence people just like music and movies do.
So over the weekend, we set out to do some hard thinking about which games we loved and how they influenced us. These were our results.
My parents were very much against us having video games until my whining for a Playstation became too much. While other kids had Sega Saturns and Nintendo consoles growing up, my first taste of gaming was on the first PlayStation.
As a result, many of the games I loved were on that console. Medievil taught me the value of getting up after you fail over and over again. The number of times I died in that game with a victory in sight taught me that failure is just another reason to try again.
Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 taught me to be gracious in victory. I was great in that game and I learned very quickly that my friends wouldn’t play the game with me if I jeered and taunted them in victory.
Resident Evil 3 didn’t just influence me as a person, it influenced my gaming tastes as well. After seeing the horrors contained in that game I wanted more. This, combined with my mother’s love for horror novels got me interested in the darker side of pop culture. Today it takes a lot to scare me, but I like to think that Resident Evil 3 prepared me for the horrors that awaited me in the real world to some degree.
And finally, the game that has influenced me the most is Solitaire.
Am I joking? Not even a little bit. Solitaire is one of those games that taught me that sometimes your own company is okay and that being alone doesn’t mean you have to be lonely.
There are far too many games that have influenced me growing up.
Metal Gear Solid with its innovative gameplay, plot twists and gripping story is a title that I played so many times over the years.
Final Fantasy X, being the first Final Fantasy game I played, introduced me to the RPG genre and got me instantly hooked.
Valkyria Chronicles combined strategy with traditional RPG elements fusing together the best of both worlds. It had a brilliant storyline too.
And finally, Pokémon Sapphire let me catch ‘em all! These 4 games in particular got me #GameStruck.
You know how Game Freak has always tried to push the single player Pokémon games as some kind of shared adventure? Well, I actually had that experience. In fourth grade, my friend lived down the road from me, and we shared a cartridge that we played together over many months.
I’ll never forget the time we first got poisoned (which causes a screen shake effect) and we thought that the cartridge had overheated from an all-nighter. Our solution? We stuck that thing in the fridge. Good, dumb times.
Apart from being another game I played with the above friend, San Andreas showed me that you could do anything in a videogame. We’d played open world games before, but nothing like this. I can still hear all the music and remember all our favourite stunt jump locations.
I’ve probably spent more money on these games than any other: my Friday nights, for the longest time, were exclusively for going to the arcade to play Metal Slug and maybe some Time Crisis. I would kill a man in the streets for a new game. When the arcade owners pump up the difficulty and you’re burning through tokens, what’s a kid to do?
Warcraft 3 is the game that got me into computers. I got to play a few minutes at an internet café (remember those?) and I was hooked. A few months later I had cobbled together a PC and bought myself a copy of the game with my pocket money. I have fond memories of playing against the PC on the easiest difficulty and creating mazes of watchtowers to see the enemy army try and get around it while being shot to death.
As the resident old fart, I’ve been playing games for longer than some of our staff members have been alive. I can’t point to four games that won my heart for this medium; I was blown away by the first game I ever played – it was Donkey Kong, if you must know.
But over the years my interest waned sporadically. The four games I’ve chosen are two I obsessed over and two that ultimately won me back for good.
When I was around six years old, my dad cemented his reputation as the coolest father ever by buying his kids an Atari 2600, and the first game that sucked hours off my life is a largely forgotten title from that console called Berzerk.
In it, you played a little man with a laser gun trapped in a never-ending maze with killer robots. If they shot you, you died. If they touched you, you died. If you touched any of the electrified walls, you died. On top of that, the game featured a smiling foe called ‘Evil Otto’ who could move through walls and couldn’t be killed. When he got hold of you, you died. I still see Evil Otto’s smile, in my nightmares.
When arcades were a thing in South Africa, Street Fighter II was the shit. Here was a game that conferred bragging rights to any player who could finish it on one coin, thanks to its maniacally deep mechanics and the fact players couldn’t button-mash their way through.
After having my arse handed to me by the odd kid who’d butt into my game and challenge me, I started buying gaming magazines, just so I could bone up on better strategies.
I also remember how much my hands shook and my mouth went dry the first time I ever faced M. Bison.
Between 1999 and 2002 I didn’t play any games. I didn’t have a decent PC and most of my friends at the time scorned consoles as being ‘for kids’. Videogames and I were on the verge of parting company altogether.
This changed when I went to an installation at the London Barbican gallery, which documented the evolution of the videogame. One of the playable games on display was Max Payne. I played it so much, I was asked to leave by one of the gallery’s staff members. The next day I went out and bought a PS2. Hilarious, stylish, violent, dark and ridiculous, Max Payne is the game that brought me back to gaming.
Hands-down my favourite game of the last generation, BioShock ensured that gaming would forever be a part of my life. While its simple mechanics and lack of punishment may put off the more hardcore, the game’s plot, ideas, characters and world-building have few equals in my view.
BioShock is still one of the gold standards for storytelling in games, even a decade since its release. It’s also the only argument you need to throw at an Ayn Rand fan to show them that Atlas Shrugged is garbage. How many games can say that?
The four games that left me Gamestruck were Quest for Glory, Space Quest, Kings Quest and Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards – quest games from the late 80s/early 90s from a publisher that has long since gone out of business called Sierra Online.
Quest games were king back in my day and these were the ones that I kept playing over and over again; in fact, I still occasionally fire some of these up for a quick playthrough. I loved the humour, the stories, the characters, and with Larry the titillation (I was 11, forgive me).
They taught me critical thinking to a degree, but of the games themselves because OMG some of those puzzles were ridiculous and entirely illogical. They also helped me develop my typing skills as Sierra’s early games all used parser-based interfaces, and 11-year-old me took to keyboards like a fish to water.
Watching games evolve from their 4-colour, Hercules-monitor-supporting, 320 x 200, awful beeping beginnings into the 4K/60fps high-poly works of art they are today has been a real pleasure for me. I am grateful to have experienced the early days of gaming as that has given me a deep appreciation for where they are now.[Main Image – CC 0 Pixabay]