We often remember how we first discovered the things we’re passionate about. It might be the book that got you to enjoy reading, the first camera you ever owned, or the movie that made you realize you wanted to be a film director. Though I remember may of those things, the ones that really stick out in my mind are the video games.
Not long ago, I realized my blog had been lacking in one of my favorite subjects – gaming. Sure, I talk about it here and there, but I’ve never really focused on it for a whole blog post (except perhaps Writing Lessons from Ace Attorney, but even that was more writing-focused than gaming-focused).
Growing up, gaming was never really a big deal in my family. I played a version of Pac-Man that plugged into the TV and enjoyed my fair share of computer games, but that was about it. Without these three games, I probably wouldn’t be the gamer I am today. Sure, I’d probably enjoy a few rounds of MarioKart or play the occasional game of bowling on Wii Sports, but nothing too intense. These games really changed my life for the better, and ever since I played them for the first time, they’ve opened the door to more geekery and gaming.
This was the first “real” video game I ever owned. I hadn’t even gotten it because I wanted it – my brother received a GameBoy Advance SP for his birthday one year, and I was upset because I didn’t get one. I ended up with an older version of the handheld console, the kind that didn’t have a backlight and needed AA batteries, and I also received a hand-me-down copy of Pokémon Sapphire. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but my friends at the time were eager to show me the ropes, and that was how I became obsessed with the world of Pokémon.
Pokémon Sapphire is what introduced me to gaming and to one of my favorite gaming franchises, so it’ll always hold a special place in my heart. Although my copy of the game has been lost to time, I still have fond memories of collecting Pokémon and battling against my friends through the various generations of the series. Not only that, however, but Pokémon Sapphire showed me that there was more to gaming than I thought – there were entire worlds contained inside those cartridges and discs.
Finally, Pokémon Sapphire is what introduced me to more strategy-based gameplay, however simple it was in that form. Even though I didn’t really understand game genres at the time, fascinated me then and still does today. There was just something about the simple strategy of Pokémon that I loved, and the series still means a lot to me today. When Pokemon AlphaSapphire was released a few years back, it was amazing to revisit the memories I’d made in the Hoenn Region.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
Growing up, I had a next-door neighbor that often talked about Zelda. Because I had a GameCube console at the time, he recommended The Wind Waker to me, and that was my introduction to the Zelda series.
The Wind Waker opened the door to a world of exploration. By most gaming standards today, The Wind Waker wouldn’t be considered large, but to me, The Great Sea was full of opportunities for discovery. Though many found the sailing to be tedious – I did too, at some points – I was excited at the prospect of visiting the different islands, filling in my sea chart, and searching for sunken treasure.
To this day, I still revisit The Wind Waker on occasion, whether it’s to sail The Great Sea, finish a sidequest, or just fight against Ganon in the most epic video game battle I’ve ever seen. Even though I’ve watched the ending dozens of times, it never fails to give me hope when the world seems like a dark place. That final strike, putting evil in its place, is such an incredible feeling that never gets old.
In addition, the exploration in The Wind Waker is still one of my favorite parts of the Zelda series. Playing Breath of the Wild now, I’m amazed at the vast world I’m able to explore, but for me, it all started with The Wind Waker. It quenched my thirst for adventure in a way that no other video game has, and it showed me that the world of video games is more than pixels on a screen.
Though I’ve played the original Portal, I never actually finished it. Also, I didn’t play it until after I finished its sequel. Sue me.
I learned about Portal 2 through GameInformer magazine way back when they did a feature article around the time the game was first announced. What intrigued me the most about the game to begin with was the idea of a sadistic, sarcastic AI antagonist, GLaDOS. Plus, just based on reading it, Portal 2 sounded like no game I’d ever played before. A few years later, I was given a PlayStation 3 and bought the game.
Aside from the witty dialogue and clever storytelling, what really made me love Portal 2 was the puzzles. I’d never really played a puzzle-driven game before, even though that element was often included in Zelda games. As I played through Portal 2, I got an incredible feeling of satisfaction after completing each test chamber. The game presented me with challenges, and I rose up to meet that challenge and overcome it.
I learned that I love games that force me to think. In Portal 2, I was presented with a problem: get to the other end of the test chamber. I had to find a way to solve that problem using what I was given, and the complexity of the puzzles grew. First it was the portals, then the Weighted Storage Cubes, then the different gels, and so on. It was Portal 2 that made me realize games were more than simple entertainment or a way to pass the time – they were mediums through which I could challenge my skills and become a better problem-solver.
There are dozens of other games that I’ve played and hold near and dear to my heart, but these three are really the ones that made the biggest impact on me. They will always hold a special place in my memory, and I’m grateful to them for introducing me to one of my favorite hobbies.