For I and many other school children, the summer months are always filled with warm memories – perhaps it is of random events with friends, or simply one’s naïve childhood, but, in looking back on it, it’s sure to make most people happy. In reflection, I remember that my childhood was spent playing video games, oftentimes with friends or simply by myself, and only just recently have I remembered just how wonderful these memories really are.
I remember the day I made a purchase for my purple lunchbox, otherwise known as the Nintendo Gamecube. It was a fateful evening where the car ride home seemed to be longer than usual, as my itching to play Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles was almost unbearable. And I remember, alone in front of the television screen, the room darkened and the speakers blaring, starting a new game and having my tiny mind blown away. I would later bring the game over to friend’s houses, along with the barrel of required accessories, and plug in many fictional years into the game.
And then I left it alone, and moved on to other, better, more “mature” games – I traded in the youthful charm and colors of one world for the violence and blood of other games, and never looked back upon those days.
Now, in digging through my closet, I came across a few lonely game cases that I had not seen in a long time, their bright, pastel colors giving them an odd charm that drew me closer in. I had found my old Gamecube games. Almost in a nostalgic daze, I dug out my Wii (having been dismissed to an expensive paperweight), controllers, memory cards, and strategy guide, and placed the petite monochrome disk inside the futuristic glow of the Wii’s gaping maw.
I found my old file, a Yuke by the name of Cid who had seen 11 trips of his caravan out into the world, carrying proudly the Mystery element within his chalice gained from deadly and ancient sands as carried by the proud and obedient Moogle, his fur color-coordinated and cut to never tire, never burn, and to knowingly assist in casting more magnificent and powerful spells. And I found all of this outside of the game’s final area.
The visions of attempts past rushed into my mind – running headfirst into whole groups of enemies without any cause or care, being slaughtered by foes invincible through my lack of preparation, choking on the miasma as I panic, my chalice growing dim by the power of some dark crystals… I remembered this all and was scared – I no longer wanted to play. I was afraid by what my memory told me would happen, and I began to reach for the power switch.
But I stopped. I would not leave the game in my closet again – I would see this memory through. And so I did. Three painstaking hours later, three hours of combat, of storytelling, of frustration and resetting later did I find myself the victor of the game. And I was proud! I conquered my fear and bested all that the world of the game had to offer.
As I sat and listened to the closing theme, however, I began to remember something – it was around this game I had built up memories, and it was this game that played into what I remember of my childhood – and it was not just this.
Soon, days of youth were upon me once more – days spent learning the spawn points in James Bond: Goldeneye so that I could apply proximity mines there to never let anyone play the game and watch my kill count soar; weeks huddled with friends over The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and trying to figure out just how to get through that damned water temple, before I lazily ran through the entire thing to the bewilderment of everyone.
The laughs, the fights, the smiles that all came from the stories woven into the games and the stories we wove ourselves, of epic battles between Pikachu and Link and of daring races wherein a single banana peel could spell victory or eternal shame…
Video games just weren’t something I had enjoyed over the years – they were the very thing that put forward into motion so many of the wonderful memories of days bygone, but also of only recent days; of nights spent roaring in victory over the death of all of the survivors at the hand of the tank; afternoons huddled in the very pits of hell, commanding others to create portals to town and not to take my epic maul that I so needed, and my friend, the sorceress, was forever stupid for selling; of watching friends tear apart an entire mall of zombies with anything she could lay her hands on…
Even as I let these thoughts fly past on the computer, the icon of another world, the world of Azeroth, remind me of relationships – of a night, out by a pier, under a pink umbrella and with a small picnic basket that bestowed upon me a cute little buff, that I founded a cherished relationship, only to have forgotten that that very pier would have boat land on it every few minutes and harbor passengers that would be undoubtedly confused by the Draenei and Night Elf lying together on the dock, but we cared not, for, if only for a moment, we made a massively multiplayer world ours, and only ours.
People can play games, and many do – we play them at parties, and at our own home; we play with friend, family, millions of strangers, by ourselves, or with that special someone; we play for fun, we play for laughs, but as I’ve come to realize and cherish, we play for memories, for those bytes, clicks, shots, points, and deaths all come together to form some of the most enjoyable moments of my life.
That is not to say that the world outside of these walls do not hold their own memories, just as important and cherished, but only that I have come to respect my hundreds, perhaps even a thousand, hours spent on games for all of the good times they have brought me, and all of the moments I can look back upon. Sure, one can say that they’re worthless and that I should be outside forming other memories…… but at least the video game world offers me a second chance if I totally screw over my marriage by sleeping with someone else. The real world, unlike The Sims, doesn’t offer me that luxury.