Sometimes its important to contemplate the more deeper and profound meanings of life’s existence, on other occasions it’s fun to just sit back and reflect on a hobby or pastime. Today is one such day and as such I felt intrigued to answer the Gamer Tag from A Geek Girl’s Guide having read the most recent contribution from The Hannie Corner on the topic and set out to reveal a little more about my personal gaming habits and hobbies. On reflection, some questions were a little easier to answer given the somewhat singular nature but others required a little delving into the subconscious to answer truthfully. Either way, an enjoyable few moments to reflect on some of my more enjoyable titles and releases and give a little insight into my own personal tastes.
1. What is your all-time favorite video game?
A relatively ‘easy’ one to start with, and a title that continues to act as, sort of a Litmus test on a number of variables including quality and production values for all subsequent releases, a sequel but also a soft reboot and introduction to new fans, the 2001 Role Playing Game Baldur’s Gate 2 from Bioware. Having only experienced the wealths and joys of console gaming up until this point it was a revelation the intricacy and complexity of this title, a benchmark against which I continue to judge most other similar titles that use RPG or RPG lite mechanics in their gameplay.As a blueberry iMac owner and gamer at this point in time in 2001 my choice of games and titles were relatively slim, before the heyday of Apple ownership and popularity took hold you were left with relatively few titles to choose. With a legacy of role playing games and 4x strategy titles historically of the options available at that time included Civilization 4 and Baldur’s Gate 2, an entirely unknown factor and choice but one whose intriguing box cover and substantial manual promised great things ahead. In today’s world we would research said titles thoroughly before hand and lose some of the mystique behind an impulse purchase. In the halcyon days where phones were phones and reviews were a monthly event with the release of dedicated gaming magazines, remember those? a shiney box and recommendation stickers were a magnetizing pull and as such I took the plunge and invested in this game that has continued to pay dividends many years later. Shockingly, I now own this game on at least 3 different platforms and 4 different formats for no other reason than the accessibility of being able to play this on my current setup of choice. With the volume of choice, the quality writing and memorable characters, a fantastic soundtrack and a rich and varied world to explore I will always champion this title to anyone and everyone with the slightest interest in gaming.
2. What is your current favorite video game?
Always a contentious question with the temptation to veer away from more mainstream titles and opt instead for a more niche or obscure title to prove your credentials. I do enjoy some big budget titles, the Ubisoft title is somewhat repetitive but does provide a base level of enjoyment in exploring the many different open worlds and environments, last year I took the slightly older Syndicate game and did a number of comparison pieces for example around London and perhaps enjoyed this game to a greater degree than it deserved. Most recently, I would probably say the game I have enjoyed most that had an emotional impact on me was Firewatch, a stunning realised version of rural America modelled after the national parks and as such just a pleasant game world to explore and enjoy. Certainly, my own personal tastes have turned in recent months more to the experience than the narrative, appreciating the themes in leaving a lasting impression on me as a user. The so called Sony Formula of games have each left an impression to an extent whilst using a similar methodology but none quite so profound as say Baldur’s Gate 2. Instead it has been the smaller games such as Firewatch or Old Man’s Journey I have found a great resonance in recent times. Firewatch especially as anyone who has ever ventured beyond the suburban environment and into the great outdoors there is always a huge sense of respect paid to the magnitude of the open world before you, an appreciation both of the beauty of nature but also its inherent dangers. With an optional free roaming mode to enjoy at the stories conclusion, its a title I cannot recommend more at the moment.
3. What is your favorite video game genre?
On balance, probably Role Playing Games, both traditional 4x strategy games, titles such as Civilization, Baldur’s Gate 2 and to extent more recent releases such as the XCom franchise but equally I do enjoy more recent entries in the open world and the RPG lite mechanics that have found themselves in most titles these days with changeable statistics and abilities. During the halcyon days of the XBox 360 probably I would have preference cover and co-operative shooters such as Gears of War or Resident Evil 5 and its repeatability factor, there was something almost cathartic and bonding about playing that game with a brother in arms. But as those memories have diminished certainly my love and passion for RPG games has remained, driven perhaps by my favourite game Baldur’s Gate 2 which I always tend to go back to when the itch to explore this type of genre returns. To an extent I did enjoy the Dragon Age and Mass Effect games even if the main character was less of a blank slate with a pre-determined back story to progress the narrative but certainly they were enjoyable extensions of an already fantastic genre of gaming.
4. How long have you been playing video games?
Probably since the late 80’s, early 90’s. For those of a younger disposition, imagine a period of dodgy haircuts, a fundamental conflict between socialist nation states and the capitalist west and a fixation upon a wall dividing a nation. So, basically today but without the distraction of social media and mobile phones. I count myself fortunate to be on the relative curve of progression owning and playing a Gameboy and being old enough to appreciate each subsequent expansion of hardware into the 16bit, 64 bit and to today’s hardware of choice. So in total, perhap just under three decades of gaming across a variety of platforms and genres.
5. What’s the first game you ever played?
Journeying back into the 1980’s I remember, whether accurately or through tinted glasses being far more interested in using my playsets and toys to create my own fantastical adventures, a lego child who spent hours and days constructing ‘intricate’ Star Trek sets to enjoy, even mimicking my sci fi heroes with my Mantra Force Space Ship, blown away with all the sea and air vehicles under my command and the many tales and adventures. Whether I knew it or not it was another classic toy of that era that really captured my attention for the potential for adventure it inspired, talking of course about my first ‘video game’ in the loosest sense, the Tomy Turnin’ Turbo Dashboard, a small portable racing game unit with a stunningly cool look and appeal allowing a young impressionable gamer to experiencing driving for the first time as a child, your inputs captured faithfully on the small screen as you accelerated forward using the speed thrust stick? to accelerate your onscreen car. In today’s world, a trivial novelty and harking back to a simpler more basic time but at that moment I was everything from a Formula One racing driver to Marty in Back To The Future driving my bed shaped Delorean with my trust steering wheel and gear stick. I loved the little touches, the ignition key, the automatic gear stick and the movable steering wheel. I loved the fact as you turned the wheel your car would move across the lanes of traffic moving ever forward. To the best of my knowledge there weren’t any obstacles to overcome or challenges to beat, it wasn’t attempting to compete against Pole Position, it was a simple childrens toy but for me, the greatest video game at that moment in time inspiring a great many adventures in my bedroom, as a single male child with three older sisters allowing me to keep hold of some masculine aspect of my personality experiencing the thrill of driving and the associated challenges.
6. What game have you clocked the most hours into?
Admittedly somewhat of a conceit but given any subsequent update or release has seen only incremental or cosmetic upgrades and changes I would probably have to say Football Manager and attempting to steer my beloved Leeds United back into the promised land of English and European football. As any widow of this title will attest to for any devout or even partial fan of the beautiful game its pull is strong, playing on your tribal sensibilities to your team of choice with a seemingly simplistic aesthetic at times that hides a behemoth and comprehensive strategy game underneath. One of my giddy, fanboy moments came with the launch of an entirely pointless feature that allowed you to create and design your avatar character and the means to import a photo of yourself that was copied onto your figure. With some degree of accuracy and success, before your eyes you were the Football Manager of your dreams. I love these games, they have an addictive quality about them that demands your attention to detail to succeed to any great degree in the more competitive competitions. And with the added option of having an avatar that resembles yourself, can easily lose hours and days in this game.
7. What’s your longest gaming session?
I never really enjoyed or chose to pursue an all night gaming session, even in my youth I enjoyed my sleep to a large degree and with a limitation of technology in my early days in contrast to today with TVs in every room there really wasn’t an opportunity to enjoy long gaming sessions on consoles. That said, I did clock some substantial day based sessions on strategy games of old, specifically one of my former all time favourite games Civilization 2 on the Mac. I loved this game, it was possible to play a campaign through to completion for a dedicated gamer starting after a quick breakfast and playing it through into the night. Today, most likely it would be considered trivial but even in my love for this game I do remember feeling when I finished the game and launched my English civilization into space towards Alpha Centauri feeling both a sense of satisfaction and fatigue at having spent a good solid 12 to 13 hours sat in front of the computer. Looking at my gaming habits I’ve probably spent my longest gaming sessions with the 4x strategy game genre always inclined to press that button and enjoy one more go or Football Manager in its many iterations. Competitive shooters and online play are largely a lost art on me, perhaps in my youth they would have held a place but today I enjoy being able to lose myself in single player titles or strategy games that allow me to return on a whim and find no great detriment to my style and capability to succeed.
8. Who is your favorite game developer?
Probably a fairly safe and easy one to say but it has to be Bioware. I’ll plant my flag and stand my ground and declare I’ve been following Bioware long before there expansion and decline with my love of their smaller Role Playing Games such as Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale on the home computer market. As purveyors of the Role Playing Game genre they were able to accomplish some fantastic things with the Dungeons and Dragons license using the isometric game engine. I enjoyed Mass Effect for its foibles but struggled to love Dragon Age at first before pushing through to completion. Ever since I have played and enjoyed with the exception of Anthem each of their home console games and enjoyed the same magic and dedication to crafting a believable and engaging narrative. Given natural staff turnover and reported working conditions without a doubt the same team who developed my beloved BG2 are long gone or developing other games such as Pillar’s of Eternity which is a far more faithful continuation and evolution of the game than Dragon’s Age ever was but for all the joy one studio has brought me, it has to be Bioware.
9. Who is your favorite hero character from a game?
A deceptively tricky question to answer but one I’m going to totally cop out and instead give my favourite hero character in general who just happened to have a decent video game or two about his exploits, that being the professor of archeology, part time and hero in his own right, Henry ‘Indiana’ Jones Junior. I’ll readily admit to having a total man crush on Harrison Ford through out the year in his various exploits, from his roguish charm in both Indiana Jones and Star Wars to his more patriotic self in Clear and Present Danger and Air Force One. When I first played Fate of Atlantis I was sold straight away into the world of my favourite film character and actor, also the premise of experiencing an adventure beyond the three movies I had watched repeatedly was such a great experience to behold. That Fate of Atlantis was such a memorable and great game in its own right was an added bonus. You could of course argue or debate that characters such as Nathan Drake were modelled after Indiana in both personality and narrative and with the added bonus of modern day graphics are ‘better games’. But Indiana Jones was always my childhood hero, on the silver screen or the digital world.
10. Who is your favorite villain?
Let’s go for a villain from one of my favourite games, Resident Evil 5 and the central villain Wesker. Despite not featuring to as great an extent as the other villains in the game when he makes his entrance, it’s a memorable one and when you take into the DLC package it only expands the impact of his arrival upon the game. Having played the earlier titles it was such a thrill to see the return of the series one true memorable villain and to see his eventual demise in a thrilling final battle. Unlike other games, I enjoyed the fact up until the final stage there was never a sense of confidence or ability to destroy this character until your final confrontation, perhaps artificial constructs designed to prolong the game but certainly you never felt it was a broken mechanic or an unfair spike. When you confront Wesker aboard the Cargo Vessel it’s a stark contrast to the battle only moments before against the squid like creature you had fought. Additionally earlier, when Jill makes her appearance the tone and style of the battle is different once more. I know thematically there are perhaps better villains, for me, this was my personal favourite.
11. Who is your most hated character of any game?
This made me stop for a moment but actually the answer is quite simple, the rival trainer from the first Pokemon Games. At no point did he show any remorse or contrition for his actions, he was just an annoyance and, excuse the vulgarity but a bit of a prick. From the first moment you encounter him in the first generation of games he just comes across like a petulant jealous idiot, continually blocking your progress at times and having the sole motivation of defeating you despite the wonder of living in a world of talking creatures. Seriously, if you lived in the world of Pokemon would your entire ideology be on defeating a teenage boy? I’d question your motives and and character. Some of the best and most memorable villains in any media have showed some form of depth or reasoning for their actions, the character flaw of Javert, the obsession of Ahab, take your pick from any classic literature. Rival Trainer is just a stock, rubbish villain who has no real reason for his motivation besides being slightly jealous of a relative coaching another child in the ability to catch creatures. I call BS, the Rival Trainer was a rubbish villain, he was then, he is now.
12. What gaming systems do you own?
A great many platforms spanning the years, a bad trait of hoarding my old hardware for a rainy day and never having the strength or desire to say goodbye to any of my old systems. At present, an N64, Gamecube, Wii, Gameboy Advance, Gameboy and a SNES classic, if you can’t tell I was definitely a fanboy of this company for a great many years before shifting my allegiance in the seventh generation. The allure of a Switch is ever present but haven’t given into temptation yet although give it time. An Xbox 360 and Playstation 4 bring me into the current generation and of course a laptop for my various Steam RPG titles, even my dusty but operational iMac Blueberry in the loft somewhere. Also a desktop PC but as that’s running Windows Vista will probably cease to function as a viable operating system in the near future. I guess if you include Smartphones as a form of gaming system then a iPhone Xs and Samsung S6, all in all a great deal of hardware and gaming systems to enjoy.
13. What was your first game system?
As with many a child of a certain generation the original and still functioning amazingly, Gameboy from Nintendo, perhaps one of the most durable and lasting console in modern existence. Quite unlike anything I had experienced up until that point it was an amazing achievement to experience, a portable gaming unit and a selection of titles allowing me to experience new and exciting worlds from the Mushroom Kingdom in Mario Brothers to the waters of the Atlantic in the Hunt for Red October game. When you consider the plethora of titles that were released on this unit including the original Pokemon titles in contrast to the earliest games such as Tetris it was amazing hardware to own and play, and as said that it continues to operate and work perfectly well is testament to the durability of its design and construction. I visited Nintendo World in New York last year for the second time, both a shrine and shop for fans of the company in the heart of Manhattan. One of the more intriguing displays on exhibit was a Gameboy unit that had been recovered from a bomb blast at an American military camp during the Gulf War. Perhaps not the most pristine nor resellable unit on the market, the fact it survived and continues to be able to play and run games despite damage to its external surface is fascinating. Anyway, my Gameboy never underwent such torturous conditions but it was my first gaming unit and I loved it all the same.
14. What’s your favorite gaming system and why?
Every system has had its merits and benefits, each with a highlight that has cast a lasting impression on me and my gaming history. I thoroughly enjoyed my N64 for example and my introduction to the open world genre in Zelda and the FPS in Goldeneye. But there was always a slight envy towards my Playstation owning friends and their plethora of third party titles and exclusive games. I enjoyed the Gamecube and its library of games, the Wii to some extent for its novel use of motion controls but probably my favourite gaming system of all time to date was the XBox 360, my first mainstream entry arguably having opted to always go with Nintendo’s consoles and my one and only machine. Over the decade I built up a large database of games and titles of various genres and types, I spent a great deal of time on this console given the exceptionally long life cycle experiencing the dreaded red ring of death on my first unit but experiencing no subsequent faults on my second professional edition. Over the years of an old relationship it was the console I introduced to my ex-partner who had never enjoyed or experienced gaming up until that point and we built up a great many memories playing together the various multiplayer titles. I’ve enjoyed my Playstation 4, its had some memorable games but it hasn’t created as many memories and impressions as my 360 created.
15. Do you prefer to play male characters or female characters?
Depends on the narrative I guess, when your avator is effectively a blank slate and a representation of yourself then I prefer to play as a male character as I am able to project my sensibilities and choices onto my user. I don’t see a huge contention in opting to play as your own gender when your character story is of your own making, certainly in some titles the level of acting is greater in one choice over another, female Shepard often regarded as a better experience over her male counterpart in the Mass Effect series. I do enjoy Role Play Game’s that introduce nuanced changes in the narrative and presentation depending on your gender, Kaidan in Mass Effect would react differently depending on your gender in the first title and how he opened up to you. That said when your narrative is structured around a specific character such as Lara Croft or Nathan Drake I have no qualms or hesitations playing as a character of a certain gender over another. I suppose honestly I do prefer playing as a male character for a simple reason it reflects my own physiology and mentality but that’s an entirely subjective notion.
16. Do you follow walkthroughs, or do you play through on your own?
I have used walkthroughs at certain moments, not methodically and not following them from beginning to end but at times when it feels you come up against an artificial spike in difficulty in contrast to the majority of the game I will turn to a walk through to assist to move past a certain juncture or moment. To the best of my recollection, a couple of moments I recall in recent years the sliding puzzle in Resident Evil 4 was one example, I just didn’t have the patience to stop and attempt to figure out a sliding puzzle, in truth it didn’t fit the narrative of the game, my own personal perspective. The Mira Core Puzzle from Mass Effect was another although thankfully there was the option to bypass the puzzle and instead solve the issue using omni-gel. I’ll accept walkthroughs can be a crutch to skip trickier puzzles and not challenge you in the same way however I’ll always contest when you come across a spike in difficulty to pause your progress for the sake of ‘length’ then I’ll happily skip pass these as fast as I can. In contrast, there was no walk through to the strategy games of old, I enjoyed the thick manuals for example with Civilization but they provided base information on the units, not how to win the game. That was clear to see, build a spaceship, how I accomplished that was at my own doing. When I am a secret service agent or space adventurer fighting waves of enemies then stopping entirely for 15 minutes or so as you solve an ancient puzzle completely breaks the illusion.
17. Have you ever been to a gaming convention?
Have always wanted to attend a gaming convention but tend to find the prospect somewhat daunting which in turn prompts me to question my convictions on my hobby. That said have attended a few exhibits which don’t strictly qualify as a convention but are fascinating to visit in their own merits. Last year I visited the Video Games Design/Play/Disrupt exhibit at the V&A museum in London which showcased a number of games developmental processes both in terms of production and design from the more mainstream to the niche and independent games. I wrote extensively about this last year both in the design aspect but also the ‘disrupt’ portion with its somewhat overt politicization and leaning, it was an informative experience to attend and I was glad I did, I guess as I’ve grown older but deters me somewhat from visiting gaming conventions is the subjective mindset of whether honestly its a worthwhile use of my time or largely a self indulgent experience. At this point in my life I opt to choose and enjoy experiences that both entertain and educate in equal measures, I’m under no illusion studios are in a position where they can showcase the entire development process at these exhibitions requiring instead a punchy trailer or demonstration, just not what I’m after right now but open to attending some day.
18. What game are you most excited to come out in the future?
I’ll have to plead the fifth on this occasion, right now there are no games coming out in the near future that have any real interest to me, the looter shooter I’ll give a miss on principle, perhaps using this as a chance to go back and pick up a few older titles I missed out on initially such as Spiderman on the Playstation 4. If we really go into the long game here then perhaps Dragon Age 4 although given the various statements from Bioware and the state of Anthem there’s no guarantee that game will ever see anything more than a trailer and even if the game does land in the next year or two, if it takes the role as a game in service title, I’ll probably end my affiliation with Inquisition. I would love to continue the story of the Inquisitor, the ending of the final DLC package that dropped certainly left open his or her story to continue on a new continent and area but right now with the push towards looter shooter worlds and loot boxes, I have great reservations this will be the title we all wish they could be.
19. What’s your best memory of a video game?
In the days of the XBox 360 and a former relationship I introduced my then partner to the world of Resident Evil 5, her first experience of this co-operative type of play. I had completed this on my own on a number of occasions and built up a formidable arsenal of guns and weaponry, it allowed me to ‘shoulder’ the weight of her inexperience until she became a proficient zombie killing machine in her own right. Whilst shedding a great deal of the horror of the earlier games in the series instead opting for a more action focused approach when playing with another person, especially a friend or partner there was a great sense of comradery and bonding when your backs were to the wall and you were fighting off the hoards approaching or the great villains in the game. Eliciting similar emotions and moments akin to war films such as Black Hawk Down when my back was to the wall and I was fumbling to reload my gun and my partner at the time had my back fighting off the enemies until I was ready to go, it felt like such a close and personal moment. When we first finished that game together as a fighting unit, we started all over again, I loved that game for the connection it brought us and the moments together.
20. What’s your worst memory of a video game?
Good contrasting question to the above and well, gave it some thought and honestly my only answer can be Mario Galaxy. I was seduced by the allure of Motion Controls, playing Wii Sports was such a genius move by Nintendo to shift the units to a demographic perhaps jaded with the status quo. The concept of replicating actual motions in my wrists with the screen worked in sport, but, honestly that was where it only worked and the attraction faded. Gradually perhaps, over time with an almost non existent library of games the Wii, a successful console was a dud, helped perhaps by backwards compatibility from the Gamecube in extending its lifespan as much as it did. The greatest annoyance was the forced, motion control use without being able to use traditional controllers, not for some hardware restriction, seemingly by choice as other titles were granted dispensation to allow traditional control practise. That annoyed me, and when the flagship Mario title launched, as fun as waving your arms about in mid air were, for a moment, you yearned to be able to sit down and just play it with a controller. Nintendo in their infinite wisdom never granted that option and it just became a game I wanted to enjoy but couldn’t for some ideological reason. That pissed me off, it did then, it still does today. For all the ills of modern gaming, studios will respond when there is a call to fix a broken mechanic, Nintendo never seem to shift, sometimes for the best, others, such as this just felt like a stubborn refusal to allow traditional control input to the user as and when they required.
21. Which video game character do you see yourself as, or if you had to be represented by a video game character, who would it be?
A great final question, I suppose in honesty a simple one to answer if you are a fan of any user created avatar be they in Role Playing Games or any sport inspired title, a wrestler, fighter or football star. In contrast identifying yourself in a fixed narrative character is a little trickier so instead I’ll go for someone who shares my predication towards walking and exploring, tends to keep himself to himself unless called upon to talk and in which case allows others to lead the conversation whilst he replies in measured and calm responses. He inspires friendship and loyalty from those around him, shows a faithful friendship towards his transport companion and has a respectful relationship towards his female confidant. I’m talking of course about Link, specifically adult or grown up Link in The Ocarina of Time. For a long time my favourite game and whose narrative I experienced in my heyday of gaming and formative years, having never played A Link To The Past, this was my introduction to this elven character and when you grew up and retrieved the Master Sword it became a character I could relate to, one who I hoped I could share even a measure of his heroism and fortitude in facing conflict head on. So yes, I hope if I could have the positive character traits and see myself as any fictional gaming character it would be Link.
As before and in other posts, if you feel inspired would love to hear your feedback or see your take on this, always a fun challenge to consider your answers especially those of an older generation who have a wealth of experiences to draw upon, and realise how narrow the field becomes. Happy Gaming!
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