You always dread days like these. You write imagined speeches in your head in preparation of such an inevitability. Heartfelt eulogies that poignantly convey a genuine emotional sorrow to such a tragic eventuality. I thought I’d know what to say, how to express my gratitude. Perhaps share some insightful anecdote about the significance of his work and how it got me through some tough times as a confused, introverted kid. Alas I find I’m at a loss, desperately seeking the appropriate response for such a profoundly despondent event. Stan Lee’s passing is one such incident that truly hurts my heart. The grief that I feel is a sensation that seems wedged in my subconscious somewhere. Lodged and niggling internally but unable to manifest as anything other than numbing shock.
I’m devastated I never got to meet him, to convey my sincerest admiration for his inspirational contribution to my formative years of reticent adolescence. To grovel at his feet and declare my unwavering support for the characters and stories he helped create. Despite never meeting him I always felt like I knew Stan Lee. His distinctive voice was so iconic that he could narrate the most monotonous parts of my day with that insatiable enthusiasm he harnessed and make it seem like final panel in an Avengers comic. His face was so ubiquitous that even people outside the comic book community recognised him, even if they weren’t sure where. What I’ll most remember about him however is his creations, most notably Spider-Man.
Spider-man was a considerable influence on me growing up, imparting admirable ethical values to a kid who would expedite his mother’s ire to get attention. A kid who selfishly considered his own arbitrary needs rather than that of his mother or sister. The principles of being a decent human being were inspired by the virtues instilled in characters like Spider-man. That “With great power comes great responsibility”. This is an expression of such eminence that still resonates with me today. One which I try to respect and preach to my own daughter. I’ll never get the chance to thank you Stan, but something tells me that a great many people have already made him well aware of his inspiration many times.
Stan Lee was truly the greatest Superhero of them all. Nuff said!
So here we are, finally my number one most inspirational game. Its been challenging trying to disseminate so many crucial titles in my life into a compiled list that accurately reflects my own experiences. When I devised the preliminary list over a year ago the selected games I’d compiled were shifting almost daily. Some would move higher, others fell off the list entirely. One game however remained unflinching, vigilant atop a totem of diverging quality and adjusted influence. It was clear even then that “Super Mario World” would top my listing, its venerated effect on me never in doubt no matter how cluttered the rest of the directory was. But the reasons for its exalted position rests not only on the game’s legacy but also because of the stipulated principles for which this entire top ten list was conceived on: influence.
All of the games in my Top 10 have had a profound, influential effect on my life in some manner. They have provided many dutiful hours of irreverence, fun and necessary reprieve from the galling irritation of real life and the confounded people who operate in it. Super Mario World was different however. It didn’t simply distract me from the wearisome strife of school but nurtured my growing affinity for the captivating allure of gaming. Super Mario World enhanced the creative aptitude we all possessed at such a tender age. The boundaries of practicality didn’t apply to us. Reality, responsibility, maturity; these were the afflictions of grown ups. The Mushroom kingdom was my home, little green dinosaurs were my companions and the only threats that accosted me were those instigated by Bowser and his fanatical offspring. When I was here battling stages of disreputable goombas and cunning spectres with a penchant for “peek a boo”, I felt a comfort that few games illicit. Yet the one thing I’m reminded of most when I recall playing this game is my mother and fathers unceremonious split.
I’ve already detailed this traumatic event with emphatic detail in a separate article, so I’ll spare you the entire sob story. But it was one of those life altering moments that despite almost 25 years worth of intervening experiences I can still remember the entire day with vivid clarity. In fact that very day my mother openly encouraged me to play this game to distract me from the suppressed verbal altercations going on between my parents. It might seem odd to associate such an emotionally traumatic period of my life with a game, but it offered so much comfort and stability at a time when life was erratic and confusing. It was an almost cataclysmic event in my life that galvanised my relationship with my mother and frankly destroyed the bond between my father and I. Super Mario World was the comforting antithesis of my parents impending separation. A shield to protect and neuter the pain of witnessing the demise of my family. Playing that game truly was like a cathartic consultation with a psychiatrist, helping me adapt to the inevitable changes in my life. Not through any overt psychological aid, but a pathological solace that remedies that kind of heartbreak by simply entertaining.
I’ve probably made this sound far more dramatic than it really is, accentuating the tragedy of divorce as if it crippled me emotionally for the rest of my life. But it was such a significant part of my childhood that I don’t think I would have dealt with quite as well if not for Super Mario World. This is more than just a cherished piece of nostalgia that evokes memories of care free childish youth and misspent endeavours, but evocative therapy that made me feel better at a time when I couldn’t have felt worse. That is the power of computer games, the purity of their willing ignorance to the real world. And precisely why Super Mario World is and will forever be my #1.
What are your most inspirational games? Let me know in the comments below. Cheers.
The pursuit of realism is something most modern games should aspire to. Simulated instances of authenticity give a game added complexity, allowing players to really integrate themselves with the environments, characters and even the narrative. Sure it’s not necessary for Mario to adhere to the laws of gravity or for Sonic The Hedgehog to run at a glacial pace, but in some cases such attention to detail can benefit an experience. Red Dead 2 exemplifies this methodology with a veracious depiction of the old West, without binding the player’s experience with mundane trivialities of real life. Such as going to the toilet, preparing meals from scratch or dying without the convenience of resurrection. But there’s one aspect of Red Dead 2 that I confess leaves me rather conflicted: Hunting wild animals.
Though I’m not opposed to its inclusion, particularly as a means of commerce, I just find the whole sordid business rather unsettling. Hunting in Red Dead isn’t vindictive or a malicious undertaken, implemented as a kind of incentivized errand arbitrarily installed to accentuate the expansive diversity of the environment, but a necessity to survive the harsh, oftentimes unpredictable climate. As a source of nourishment hunting deers, elks and even rabbits are invaluable to your little menagerie of fiends, crooks and outlaws to sustain a faction separate from the binding authority of civilised society. Not only is the meat harvested for food to feed your camp, but the Pelts can also be used. It’s an understandably popular feature that has probably enticed a number of prospective poachers to seek fabled beasts of notorious repute. But to me it’s not an attractive errand.
It’s curious as to why the simulated slaughter of animals is so deplorable to me, yet persistent explicit violence against virtual people who I’ve callously mutilated without any hint of morality is acceptable behaviour, particularly as a practiced and veteran carnivore. There is so much to do, see and be killed by that such a barbaric activity can be ignored or at least mitigated. Does it ruin my experience? No. Do I wish such an inclusion, indicative of such times was exempt? Again, no! What this demonstrates is that a game of such eminent quality and scale can provide a multitude of features to engage you that even something I find conflicting can be completely ignored and not diminish my enjoyment. Damn this game is good!
What have you made of Red Dead Redemption 2? Let me know in the comments below. Cheers.
I have a confession. An admission of guilt that I’ve been too ashamed to confess until now. An incident of the most heinous betrayal that could very well jeopardise my relationship with my mother. Seldom has there been an experience that I look back on with penitent remorse as I do when recall this odious deed. In my repentant defence I was young, completely unabashed by my insatiable curiosity to discover where the secret lies, what restricted alcove concealed my Christmas present.
It was December 2001. For months I had indicated with less than sophisticated tact to my mother that it might be nice, if it wasn’t too much trouble to request a Gameboy Advance as my primary gift for Christmas. I made no attempt to influence what games came with it nor solicited a specific colour of the GBA, I just wanted one. Now my mother is a wise and astute women, well-trained in the art of concealing items from an inquisitive prodigy who dedicated 20 hours of their day to not leaving the house. She was also foolish enough to leave me alone in our home trusting that I would never violate the unspoken treaty between parent and child that forbade the invasion my mother’s bedroom. She was wrong.
After a number of failed exhumation in drawers and cupboards, rifling under a bed cluttered with boring bank statements and other mundane declarations I finally discovered a suspicious package suppressed under bags of old clothes and board games in the bowels of the integrated wardrobe. I was careful not to disturb the delicately assembled bric-a-brac that cluttered this small dark chasm, making a mental note of the order in which certain items were stacked so I could put them back in order. There wrapped in an unassuming indistinct plastic bag was a box containing my purple GBA. As I gazed upon its alluring packaging, seducing me with its captivating images I couldn’t restrain myself any longer.
I opened the box, relieved that the seal had already been cut, probably inspected by my mother to verify the contents. I removed the device from its corrugated confines and inserted “Mario Kart: Super Circuit” that also partnered my temporarily pilfered Christmas present. Using batteries from my arcane Gameboy, so as not to arouse suspension as to why the batteries contained won’t work come Christmas morning and I played. In fact I played it surreptitiously for weeks, winning every 50cc race, as well as a handful of 100cc contests. In fact by the time Christmas jingled its way to me I’d almost half-finished it.
Of course once my mother had carefully wrapped the gift in preparation for Christmas my interactions had to be suspended. Then once the day came I had to replicate a performance worthy of the genuine childish giddiness I’d exert as a boisterous pre-teen on Christmas morning. I was no Daniel Day-Lewis, but convincing enough to belie my condemning duplicity. Again though it’s not something I look back on with pride. Not only did I deceive my own mother but also cheated myself of that special Christmas day reveal we all remember as kids. Waking up early, coaxing your parents from their own deep slumber just so you can eagerly tear into those presents lavishing the base of the tree like a ravenous feral dog that’s been starved for weeks. I don’t have that memory, that experience of unveiling a games console I really wanted, but didn’t know I’d get. I regret that decision and regret the deceit, but most importantly: mum, I’m sorry.
People don’t like change. Having something they cherish distorted and altered beyond recognition is such a difficult thing to accept. Your immediate instinct is to rebel against it. To dismiss the alteration as misguided and better to be ignored until the decision can be rectified and subsequently retracted. This seems to be a position currently espoused by some members of the Fallout community in response to “Fallout 76”. Evidently fans are divided about this multiplayer variation of the series traditionally developed as a single player experience, with some almost vitriolic of the accursed integration of other human people inhabiting the same decrepit land as themselves. I find all of this controversy fascinating. I can’t confess to being a devout admirer of the franchise, nor a detractor of it either. My butt cheeks are comfortably, if precariously situated on a rather stable fence of neutrality between this two conflicting paradigms. I believe this impartial position affords me an objective perspective on the entire situation, and why Fallout’s support for expanding player interaction may not be such an unsavoury addition.
I guess the primary catalyst for many fans vehement umbrage is the interaction with real players infiltrating their experience with potentially hostile incentives. Traditional commerce with people and environments were artificial, with many instances scripted to enhance “your” experience. Fallout 76 removes those premeditated stabilisers by introducing a threat you can’t predict: idiots. Dangerous, free thinking idiots with personal agendas. Impediments that won’t hesitate to shoot you on sight simply because they believe that fedora your currently wearing would look so much better on them. Because Fallout imbues the player with purpose, creating a narrative that emphasises your significance in this world. But when there are thousands of players similarly empowered suddenly you aren’t as important. And as such you are more vulnerable, susceptible to the whims of a more organised party that will flaunt their superior ballistics regardless of your passivity. That can be intimidating for people who like to feel important, as they have done in previous entries.
You read phrases from disgruntled detractors like “This isn’t my Fallout”, “who asked for this?!” and other pernicious statements and wonder if fans are just being arbitrarily dismissive of a game they haven’t even played yet? Or perhaps their anxiety concerning the intimate single player game-play could become compromised if Fallout 76 is a success? It’s a legitimate concern. Really there are too many variables to definitively support either theory, but I believe Fallout 76 validates its existence by being an aberration rather than an extension of the franchise, much like the Elder Scrolls Online. Personally when the ESO was announced I was similarly sceptical about the series perusing a more communal area for players to explore, especially when it was announced that players required a mandatory monthly subscription to participate, a service quickly revoked before hitting consoles. Visitation to Tamriel felt less appealing to me if I had to share it with similarly endowed users. But having played it periodically over the years, you begin to realise that the MMO style is not a continuation of the series, and certainly not indicative of the franchise itself.
If Fallout 76 expansion into multiplayer doesn’t appeal to you than by all means don’t play it. There’s certainly nothing wrong with preferential affinity for Fallout’s established single player content. With only cursory research about Fallout 76 and no direct interaction with the game I can’t comfortably assuage your fears that it won’t lead to more preferable sequels that include multiplayer, the kind of sustainable income afforded by micro-transactions is highly lucrative after all. But again using Fallout’s mythological sibling as a barometer, the Elder Scrolls single player experience will continue to thrive along side its MMO partner. Of course be vigilant, but also amiable of a new way to play a revered and respected series. This generation has proved just how relevant single player games are to the community, and its unlikely that Bethesda, a studio that has embraced personable experiences, would have forgotten that.
Are you looking forward to Fallout 76? Let me know in the comments below. Cheers.
The demise of such a distinguished and prevailing studio such as Telltale is another crushing example of the fickle, congested and vulnerable nature of the games industry. From an ethically minded position its dispiriting to see so many people lose their jobs, particularly when the companies financial defects can be attributed to managerial incompetence rather than the general staff. It’s certainly a situation I can relate too. Rumours have persisted that Telltale’s strenuous regime, toxic working environment and languishing creative verve have all contributed to the studios sad but inevitable decline. The studio’s increasingly precarious financial security had become unsustainable, with its dedicated employees facing unemployment after years of stifled creativity. The fact that most were not even granted a severance makes the entire affair even more remarkable. And sad. Though my condolences won’t placate their unjust situation, I do sincerely hope that everyone is able to secure work quickly. From a consumer standpoint however I can’t say I’m entirely aggrieved to see Telltale go into liquidation.
The narrative based, partially interactive content developed by Telltale never really appealed to me in the way I thought it would. Games like “Game Of Thrones” and “The Walking Dead” relied on minimal player directed conversations that were meant to advance the story in a personal, meaningful way but just felt kind of hollow. Many of the decisions were superficial dialogue exchanges that had limited repercussions, other than a character being mildly irritated by it. The animation used in many of their games felt flat and lifeless, like a newspaper print that had become damaged by damp. It was indistinct, gloomy, utilising a wide variety of greys and bland hues that I guess was supposed to convey a sense of realism. Crucially for me however were the mediocre stories.
I’m sure many of you will refute that appraisal, but I personally just couldn’t connect or even care about the characters depicted in either “The Walking Dead” or “Game Of Thrones”. They weren’t bad games, just tolerable ones. I realise they produced other critically lauded games like the “Wolf Among Us” and “Tales From Borderlands” but I never played them, and if I’m honest I probably never will. The concept of a narrative driven experience, with branching tangents that allowed the story to adapt to your catered direction was inspired, yet ultimately floored when you didn’t really care about the events that transpired around you.
But this is why I didn’t enjoy them, and by no means a factual account of Telltales revered history. If you’re a fan I’m sure you are devastated, but perhaps not surprised. The over saturation of content was probably a clear indication of the companies deeper financial difficulties. No doubt that Telltales sizeable team will go elsewhere and tell many more tales without the restrictions that seemingly stunted them there. And though I didn’t enjoy their full body of work as much as I wished, I doubt even the most ignorant of us will forget their contributions to gaming any time soon. Best of luck to everyone affected.
Did you enjoy Telltale games? Let me know your favourite in the comments below. Cheers.
Traditionally the release of a new game would necessitate time off from work and a chance to reserve a couple of days devoted to the engagement of some relaxation. Usually I’d bookend the weekend with the nurturing splendour of a new exciting game, brimming with untapped potential. All the speculative assertions you’ve made about a games quality can be vindicated, the game has the potential to exceed all expectations, with the farcical monotony of the world and all its trivialities for a short passage of time is everyone else’s concern. Your world is localised entirely through your 50 inch, 4K television with soundbar and compartmentalised on your preferred gaming console. An uninhibited experience that truly enables you to absorb a game without distraction or adhering to the limitations of time. Time off work or perhaps even school are always the best gaming times.
For most of us any opportunities to play a game is solely regulated on the caveat of restricted time. Whether there are other domestic or professional obligations to full-fill, borrowed time, restricted and mediated by the critical considerations that dominate our lives. So any time dedicated to the solitary delights of gaming is embraced as though the 4 Horseman were coming round “with the boys”. Utilising this time efficiently is dependant on external interference’s or in later years, battling dreaded unconsciousness, at least in my case. The only truly liberating method is taking time off these compulsory duties. To really engage and assimilate without yielding to some other pedantic or menial task. These are the best times to game.
Memorable moments are almost exclusively reserved for those introductory sessions of uninitiated catharsis. Those little points where your grasp of game mechanics are erratic, tentative and downright embarrassing. Familiarizing yourself with it takes time, with only fleeting sporadic periods that impart the briefest slivers of potential skill. You can’t replicate this kind of “toddlers first steps” progression with interspersed engagements, nor truly immerse yourself in new insatiable environments. You have to take your time to marvel at what you are playing. To savour the experience permitted by the luxury of time unrestrained by responsibility.
I remember playing Skyrim on day of release. I’d booked the day off, ventured out bright and early to my local Sainsbury’s that I’d reserved a copy from. Entering the store I sauntered over to customer service desk and requested my copy of Skyrim. After explaining to the elderly receptionist precisely what a Skyrim was, I purchased my copy, thanked the bewildered lady and dashed off picking up a few choice snacks to consume over the course of my day. I’m not ashamed to admit that I spent the first 20 minutes just looking at the case, not even considering the contents. Of course I eventually tore through the protective casing and rescued the trapped disc from its cellophane prison, idly trekking through this frigid and enchanting land. Such extended vagrancy and slow, listless ambling wouldn’t have been possible without taking time off work.
With only a few hours at your disposal you’re compelled to make good use of the time. You can’t compromise it by idly wandering with no direction, at least not without feeling like you’ve wasted your evening. That’s why it’s so important to take time off to play new titles. No commitments. No responsibilities. Just you, some unhealthy food and oodles of time to meander. I had the same experience with GTA V, Uncharted 3 and many others besides, simply because my first play-through was uninhibited by life. The simple extension of time is crucial to really experience a game without restriction. And nothing promotes this quite like a day off.
There, I think I’ve just about justified to myself that booking the day off to play “Red Dead Redemption 2” is the right decision. As if I needed an excuse.