The Four Games that Define Me
Last week there was a major trending topic on Twitter called GameStruck4, where users would post the 4 games that defined them the most. I thought this was pretty cool, but I don’t really use Twitter, so I decided instead to blog about it here.
A few years ago, I compiled a list of the 30 games that were most valuable to me. It’s currently available on the About page, if you care to take a look. Naturally, I used this list as a starting point to figure out what these four should be but narrowing it down to just 4 games was quite difficult. This was of course the reason that the original list contained such a large number of games, instead of, say, being a top 5 or a top 10 list. In the end, though, I’m fairly happy with the four I selected. I think they are a good representation of what has lead me to make gaming a significant hobby of mine.
Super Mario Bros. 3
This is probably the game on the list that is most obvious and obligatory. This is really the game that started it all for me, as it cemented that gaming would be a lifelong interest of mine. I believe I started gaming on the old NES around the age of 4, and even as a young child, it had a big impact on me. I think this game resonated with me so much because the vast and inventive world of Super Mario Bros. 3 was very successful at stoking the fires of my young imagination. Crude as the game may seem today, it was incredibly immersive to me at the time. It offered an entire fantasy world to explore, filled with tons of creative levels and enemies and some amazing secrets. The ability to explore strange and interesting worlds is one of the key things that has attracted me to games ever since.
Final Fantasy VII
When Final Fantasy VII came out, it was a huge game that swept up a ton of people, myself included. This was the first RPG that I ever played, and it drove me to become interested in story-driven games. For me, Final Fantasy VII was a “right time” kind of situation, and I’ve written before about why I think that game resonated with an audience of a certain age. While my interest in gaming may have its roots in Mario, FFVII is a big factor in why I continued to stay interested in gaming as I got older.
While Super Mario Bros. 3 made me interested in immersion and exploration and Final Fantasy VII made me interested in story, Deus Ex managed to offer all of these things. If you’re not familiar with Deus Ex, your first impression might be that it is a straightforward first-person shooter of the type that was super common on the PC in the late 90s/early 00s. The reality is that Deus Ex is really more of an RPG, placing a heavy emphasis on story, non-linear exploration, dialogue with NPCs, and side quests. While action games of the time like Quake and Unreal were about moving through a level and shooting at everything that moves, Deus Ex took the RPG approach of allowing players to tackle objectives through means other than violence.
I loved exploring the world of Deus Ex, and the game became an obsession of mine for a good while. But on a more personal level, it led me to become interested in the field of nanotechnology (a primary topic of the game’s story), which then led me to interests in materials science, biotechnology, and eventually surface science, fields which have formed the foundation of my career. With that in mind, Deus Ex may be the game which has had the biggest impact on my life. The profound realization that a video game has had a such a major influence on me gives me goosebumps.
Also, the main menu music is pretty kickass.
Final Fantasy X
I had some reservations about putting this game on the list. For one, I was concerned in selecting two games from the same series. But also, I was concerned by giving such high merit to two games that aren’t even my favorite of the Final Fantasy series. But after thinking about the criteria of the list (the games that best define you), Final Fantasy X was a clear choice due to one specific event that it created in my life.
I have a sister that is over a decade younger than me, and because I moved away and went off to college when she was very young, I’ve often been afraid that we haven’t connected as well as siblings should. But one summer when I was home from school, I started to play Final Fantasy X (this was my second playthrough of the game). She happened to catch me playing the intro and became enamored with the story and characters. We ended up spending the next few weeks playing through the entire game together. Really, I was the one playing, while she watched on and talked about it with me. I don’t think she was ever really into story-driven games, but she got really into the world and characters of Final Fantasy X. It eventually became one of my best memories of spending time with her.
Final Fantasy X, as well as the rest of these games, led to an epiphany I had about gaming as I grew older. Gaming, like any hobby, isn’t purely just a form of idle recreation and escapism. Our hobbies, whether they be gaming, blogging, sports, music writing, whatever, are tools we use to explore ourselves as human beings. They aren’t just a means of staving off boredom in an age when humans have too much free time. They enlighten us about ourselves, help us forge new connections with others, and create new memories, both shared and deeply personal, that advance us as people.
There was a time I believed I would someday grow out of gaming. That hasn’t happened yet, but maybe it will eventually. For the most part, I don’t really regret the time I’ve spent on games, for the reasons I’ve shared above. I think back to playing Super Mario Bros. for the first time and how amazing it seemed, and then I think about what games are like today and how much they’ve grown and changed. It’s really been incredible to be able to watch this evolution. I hope everyone else can feel the same way I do.