Chronicling stories of how gaming has changed us – one moment at a time
I’m about to embark on a journey with this post – and I’ll need your help. This journey will either lead to a honeycomb of new tales and new faces, or it will peter out and be assigned to the graveyard of faded feature ideas. So on that jolly note, here goes.
Real-life story features in game magazines and websites are some of my favourite. They are the ‘My Favourite Game’ articles. The community spotlights that were previously so common on GameSpot and IGN before social media killed forums. The career spotlights in the likes of Develop magazine. Or, occasionally, the one-off posts by guest writers who give you a whole new perspective on a game or genre.
They are the reason it’s such a joy to stumble across the personal blogs of game players and, especially, game makers. Because it’s a delight to read about people’s gaming experiences: what they loved, what they disliked, the puzzles they got stuck on that you got stuck on too, what an ending meant to them, and the gameplay moments that changed how they see games and the medium’s possibilities.
That last one is a particular favourite of mine because it’s the hardest to express to those who didn’t grow up playing ‘traditional’ video games and, perhaps, still don’t.
But anyone who’s spent sufficient time playing arcade classics, console or PC titles, a MMOG or even the mobile games of today, knows that moments in gaming can be equally as memorable as song lyrics, poetry, or pivot dramatic scenes in film, TV or theatre.
More than anything, this is about you and your stories. Below you will find information on how to get in touch with me to share the gaming moments that are dear to you.
Further down are three examples of gaming moments that changed how I saw video games. And you can read a longer reflection of my reaction to a pivotal encounter from Shadow of the Colossus here.
Share the gaming moments you remember
It is moments such as those in the examples below that I hope to chronicle in this new blog series. Happy moments, frustrating moments, puzzling moments, sad moments, silly moments, funny moments, cooperative moments, still moments, eureka moments, beautiful moments, musical moments, exhilarating moments, and many more besides.
If you have a video game moment that forever changed how you see games, or even changed your life, and you’re willing to share it, I’d like to hear from you.
Contact me at word[at]aaronlee[dot]co[dot]uk with the subject line ‘Moments We Remember’.
Tips for sharing your gaming moment:
- A moment, or moments, from a single game are preferred
- If a moment in gaming has changed your real life that’d be even better
- It would be ideal if you can sum up your moment in 300 words or less
- Alternatively, video blogs about your moment are welcome
- In describing your moment, what was it you felt? Why was it significant for you?
Other than that, thank you for reading. And if you have friends who may be interested in this sort of thing, please do share this post with them.
A shared experience: Metal Gear Solid (Konami, 1998)
I remember marvelling at Metal Gear Solid in 1999. Solid Snake, a collection of faded grey and blue polygons on a 9” CRT screen, tapped away on the seemingly concrete walls of Shadow Moses in time to my friend’s button presses. “Listen for the one that sounds different,” he told me, as we watched Snake sidling along, tap, tap, tapping. “There!” I said. A button press or two later, we watched Snake place a demo charge, and, kaboom! A passageway was revealed and we ventured deeper into the complex. The whole sequence took little over two minutes, but has stayed with me to this day, because it felt like a joint accomplishment. So nervous was I that I would be seen by the game’s roving guards, I left most of the actual playing to my friend. Still, watching this new PlayStation game that tested more than just your trigger finger, I was glowing with pleasure, because I could make genuine contributions.
The most unlikely TV aerobics routine ever: Burnout Revenge (EA, 2005)
From starting rank to world tour finale, Burnout Revenge consumed many a weekend of mine in 2006. And when you play Revenge for as long as I had, honing your racing lines, never settling for anything less than platinum, and becoming one with the lights and sounds, you start to perform your own aerobic feats into front of the TV. I would tilt into turns and twist my DualShock 2 in a sideways fashion, as if spinning an imaginary steering wheel that would help my on-screen car find purchase on the tarmac, instead of careering into the trackside barriers. I would lean back – as if getting ready for a spot of indoor gymnastics – as my race car leaped bravely across the broken suspension bridge on Mountain Pass. Exhaling momentarily and taking in the whistle of the in-game wind, before the wheels hit the asphalt and I lurched forward again, teeth gritted in concentration. And I remember sunny Sundays spent charging around the grubby, urban streets of Motor City in an F1 supercar in service of a platinum trophy and a personal best. OK Go blaring out of my TV speakers; my skills building with every restart until I nailed it. At which point, my hands were little more than stiff claws. Revenge bottled the manic thrill of arcade racing and gave it depth that was easy to pick up, but took hours of practice to master. And, yeah, it’s part of a club that had players throwing absurd shapes in front of their TVs long before the Wii and motion control came along.
An emotional shock: Heavy Rain (Sony, 2010) (Mild spoilers)
Playing a pre-release copy of Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain for review was a special moment for me. Not least because it felt like games were finally turning a corner into a more thoughtful, emotionally complex place. Even if, in retrospect, the game was simply an elaborate piece of interactive fiction, its linearity and botchy tank controls all painfully clear in subsequent playthroughs, at the time, the first trip through this grimy, rainswept thriller felt like nothing else. In the weeks and months after its release, I would hear comments and see status updates from friends and acquaintances who ordinarily took no interest in games, but suddenly had to find out what Heavy Rain was all about. So there I was reviewing it, two weeks before its European release – no guide, no GameFAQs, nobody else to ask for help, swap stories with or influence my judgment.
During my playthrough, when I was suddenly faced with the tense decision to mutilate my character – Ethan Mars, a desperate father whose son has been kidnapped by a killer with an tendency for Saw-like tests of morality – I was genuinely horrified. I had already failed one of the killer’s test, and had the scars to prove it. Now, in a dank, burnt out shell of an apartment, the lifeless voice from a laptop was instructing Ethan to cut off a finger and show it to the camera. And a timer was ticking down. Normand Corbeil’s tense orchestral score rushed in to fill the void as my mind raced, a look of disgust and confusion all over my face. Could I refuse the killer? No. Could I fake it? No. I had only one choice if I wanted to see Ethan reunited with his son and I knew it: cut off a finger. In the time remaining, I prompted Ethan to seek out a knife (at the time, I had no idea you could find antiseptic to lessen the pain) to do the deed as swiftly and painlessly as possible. Of course, the knife was blunt. I felt myself biting down hard on my lip as Ethan stuck his left little finger again and again before it was finally severed. It was done. The killer gave up the clue. I threw my controller across the room to my bed, and turned off my console. It was the middle of the night and I didn’t feel like ‘playing’ anymore.
For more, see the Moments We Remember archive.