100 Things #25: Video Games

…No one who knows me at all is surprised by this. Prepare for a ramble.

I’ve been a gamer since almost before I can remember. One of my earliest memories is sitting in front of my grandparents’ 27-inch TV (because that’s what we called a big TV back then) while we all passed around the Nintendo Light Gun and played Duck Hunt. Big Dad—Gramps to most people—was performing quite well, knocking down ducks left and right, but then he got a run of bad luck when the ducks just wouldn’t pick one direction for long enough for him to be able to get’em. As rules established, the gun went to the right—Bigmama (Grandma) was next.

She began to wipe the floor with the rest of us. Effortless, she just pops ducks off one by one—bam! bam! bam! My cousin and I just looked at each other, our faces a matching “whoa”-oh. Big Dad points out something then: Bigmama’s not using the sight. On this realization, she ALSO stops, looks at the gun, notices the sight…says “Huh,” and keeps wiping the floor with us.

My cousin and I just sort of slide over to one side.

Another thing that anyone who knows me is that I’m a sucker for RPGs. I got into them because I needed something to do when I was sick. A trip to Phar-Mor, an old pharmacy, resulted in a crapton of medicines for me and my parents promising to rent me a console while I recuperated. I picked Final Fantasy Mystic Quest for one of my choices, because the box was pretty and because the guy at the check-out counter said there was a lot of reading involved in that game.

Being a huge reader, of course, I called “CHALLENEG ACCEPTED…” or I would have if that meme existed when I was five.

Gaming became an outlet for frustration then, as I dove into shooters and harder RPGs—nothing like shooting someone’s head off to get that bad mood knocked down. Putting a controller in your hands—it’s got this sense of power that I’d never really felt before, being the family’s runt preemie and having never really caught up to average. Even if I was spending most of my days being beat up by my cousins, or later in adolescence, my aunts, uncles, and even father—at night I could beat the living daylights out of whoever I so chose. Mooks had my family’s faces superimposed on their heads, and I’d pump them full of lead and lasers until I felt better. And then there were the rocket launchers…

In the game Perfect Dark, there were two kinds of rocket launchers. The first one was this normal run-of-the-mill rocket launcher that had two modes: shooting rockets, and shooting heat-seeking rockets. It was efficient enough and got the job done. But that wasn’t my favorite one. That title went to a weapon named the Slayer. The Slayer had two modes as well—really, every weapon in this game, even your bare hands, had two modes. (Barehand’s second mode was stealing the other guy’s gun right off of him.)
Anyway, the first mode of the Slayer was a standard rocket. A little slower than the standard rocket launcher, but with a bigger boom. Its second mode? Remote controlled camera-augmented rocket. You had to ‘drive’ the rocket to its destination, using the camera view to steer properly. So you could shoot a rocket, run it to the player who’s been getting on your last nerve thus far, and then aim the rocket at their face. …Your decision as to whether you let the rocket explode on its own or kicking its detonation button immediately.

I think that the thing that stuck with me more than anything else about video games is the potential for beauty. (Funny, seeing this after I wax rhapsodic about the wonders of exploding face rockets.) Games could have wicked scenery that distracts you from your mission. Games could have a storyline that makes you forget that it’s a game.

Most of all, games can have chillingly beautiful music.

I suspect that I am into the ambient genre thanks to video games—specifically the RPGs. People say that games can’t be art, that the music is just throwaway jingles. That a gamer is biased in this argument because it’s built solidly on nostalgia.

I refute that argument because the composition that had me BS-ing an allergy attack to explain the sniffles was from one of the games I had never played.

I’ll leave it with that: one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard.

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