Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Lee Sargent and the Guest Post of Doom

After last week's marathon session of posting, I was both honored and relieved to discover that long time reader and super blogger and artist Lee Sargent of Quit Your Day Job fame had a guest post up his sleeve for me.

In fact, I think this is the first guest post I've ever had. I've written a few, but I've never had one.

Lee wrote an eloquent entry about what he looks for in a game (which he knew would be right up my alley), and it is like a walk down memory lane, even though I didn't go down the exact same path he did as a child.

Lee, I am forever in your debt my friend, and I thought you'd appreciate the title. It was probably better than referring to you as my favorite Eric Bana character ever.

When thinking about my favourite games I'm usually driven by two factors that your general game reviewer probably disregards for completely appropriate reasons given their goals. But as I maintain with any of these types of ranking exercises it's so much better to be personally subjective and so the following two factors play a large part for me:

* Nostalgia
* Social networking

Nostalgia is of course an incredibly powerful thing, especially in a marketing/retail environment. Nostalgia is what makes you generally interested in an A-Team film, despite the fact that upon detached and objective revisits to the A-Team television show you find yourself wondering how you ever could have found the show engaging on any level. Go on, watch an episode of the A-Team and tell me that it's a perfect show with great production value and logical well thought out plot lines and it's not just the 'idea' of the show that you remember and love.

Whilst not exactly the same but similar can be said for video games. As a very young man playing the very first Leisure Suit Larry command driven adventure game it was exciting because I could (mostly) beat the questionnaire that attempted to weed out people under 18, the game responded to commands driving a linear story and the game was generally pretty funny. I do want to point out that despite the adult nature of the game there was very little 'sexy' about it. I say that to qualify the next statement and to alleviate the growing impression that I'm some kind of video game smut addict. I recently sought out a copy of the original CGA (kids, you're just going to have to Wikipedia that one) and not the remade cartoon styled point and click monstrosity.

After several rounds of slowing the computer down enough so I could actually get the game to run like it wasn't an episode of The Flash (awww Dawson's Dad was a superhero) I managed to get into the game and enjoy it for about a minute. The graphics aren't great, the gameplay is not good and the command line is cumbersome and more than often frustrating. Of course the nostalgia gene still maintains in my head that Leisure Suit Larry is an awesome game that I do want to play again.

To sum up nostalgia, often instead of saying oh yeah I love that game, one probably should should just say oh yeah I remember that game.

The second criteria, social networking, fortunately has a much more tangible reason and legitimate worth behind it when ranking video games. Now before Facebook and Twitter showed up, the term social networking had a different connotation to it. It referred to your circle of friends, your relationships and the bonds formed between these. It doesn't take a social media expert to work out the natural progression into the Web 2.0 world and the weight the social networking aspect of games may weigh them more heavily.

So before online gaming, XBox Live and Wii networks really took off the only social networking in conjunction with gaming was to physically have someone else there with you playing the game in two or more player modes. This brings me to one of my favourite games, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle arcade game. Is the game visually stunning? Well no not really, it looks like the cartoon series which is good but it's a side scroller at the end of the day and so fairly limited in the stun factor. The game play and storyline rank about as well as the graphics but the strongest point is that quite simply it was a big bag of fun that I shared with my friends. We would huddle around the machine and drop much coinage in there as we battled our way through Manhattan, eagerly discussed tactics and made predictions about what the next level would hold.

I have similar experiences with Sonic the Hedgehog, however not being a two player game we would take turns beating each level whilst the others would formulate strategies to get that blue hedgehog across the line.

Years later I would battle side by side with my wife as we fought our way through hordes of orcs and trolls whilst we struggled to build up experience points and learn new moves in the PS2 versions of The Lord of the Rings Two Towers and Return of the King (two of my favourite games on the PS2 by far). We would go on to become X-Men or Avengers and finally members of the Justice League, combining three things that I love; comic books, video games and my wife (who is an excellent gamer - yet rarely uses her powers).

But it is these games that really stand out to me and feature at the top of my own list of games, not because they necessarily are brilliantly written or constructed but because I could share the experience with others and I think it is these games that stand the test of time.

Remember Pong is still awesome when you are playing with a friend!


Danke Schoen, Mr. Sargent.


Dan said...

My friends and I would have massive civilization parties that would run throughout the entire night. We'd only be playing one game, but each person got to control their own city. It was a lot of fun, but in retrospect very very sad indeed.

Arjan said...

when it comes to nostalgia why not just say 'I loveD' that game. But you're right..looking back to lots of stuff makes you wonder how they got some stuff into production.

When it comes to gaming for me there's at least another aspect and that is addictiveness. Some games look like crap and there isn't any complicated storyline but it's just so addictive (and or simple) that you just want to keep playing.

Some correction to the German thank you, it must be --> 'danke schön'
otherwise it looks like you say 'thank shoe' (but than the Dutch word for shoe -> 'schoen'..it made me smile.

MC said...

Dan: I remember playing GTA III and Madden 05 all night with some of my friends on a few occasions.

Arjan: Thanks for the correction. You should hear me try to speak French for some big laughs.