An early post! Maybe I’ll post another one on Monday to stay with my schedule… in the meantime, I was inspired and had to get this down. I recently had the good fortune to attend the Video Games Live concert near me and close to the end I had a sort of epiphany. Let me explain…
I was sitting next to one of my friends and just as the orchestra was starting into a piece on World of Warcraft and he made some kind of comment about the game that I interpreted as kind of disparaging toward the game and anyone who played it. Later in the set, the orchestra played Aerith’s theme from Final Fantasy VII and another Final Fantasy piece and I found myself commenting on how Aerith’s theme has been done to death… and then I heard them play it.
I came to a realization at that point. I’m no longer going to encourage, entertain, commiserate, or even allow anyone around me to speak ill of anyone for their gaming preferences. If you want to play World of Warcraft, good on you, I hope you have a great time. If you’re really a huge fan of Final Fantasy VII and think Sephiroth is the coolest bad guy and so on, I’m happy you’ve found something you’re really into. I’m genuinely happy that there’s a franchise that you can dive into and truly feel connected and entertained.
I realized at that moment, listening to the amazing performance and feeling the notes of beautifully rendered music wash over me, that I’ve played these games and whereas they don’t really do it for me, they did reach me somehow and they were entertaining to me. When I saw the death of Arthas as the Lich King (they were playing footage on the screen behind the orchestra) and felt the power of the moment through the music, I felt pity for the guy (yeah, I know, he wasn’t really smart picking up that evil sword, but it was a pretty awesome sword). I knew him in Warcraft III and that connection was all I needed. When I heard Aerith’s theme done in person, I felt the emotions when I first witnessed her death and I realized that my scoffing at the performance initially was short sighted and foolish. Aerith was my friend for however long I knew her. The developers did an amazing thing (heartbreaking) killing her so early in the game and she is quite the tragic figure. I will never look at Warcraft or Final Fantasy VII quite the same way again.
I hope I can carry this “live and let live” attitude into other portions of my life. Like with television shows or books that people like to read but I find to be nothing but drivel… if someone enjoys that material then it has served its purpose and has entertained. I shall not continue to disparage things just because I’m squeamish or reluctant to take part in them.
I’ll say it again though… listening to that music, I remembered that I genuinely cared for the characters of Arthas and Aerith to some degree, even after all these years. I didn’t want anything bad to happen to them then and I still strangely have hopes for them today. I understand getting connected to a franchise, to a character, to a series of stories and I understand how emotionally powerful that can be. When a game reaches you and makes you gasp, cry out, tear up, laugh, scream in frustration, that’s the story, music, art, and design playing your heartstrings like a harp. I know that feeling and I can identify with anyone and everyone who has ever experienced such a thing, regardless of the medium. I invite everyone with similar experiences to look upon your fellow game players and book readers and show watchers and movie goers and to say, “I’ve been there. Tell me of your experiences and I’ll share mine.” We are a community of humans and, whereas we don’t always get along, our similarities far outweigh any differences.
Be good to each other and share your experiences. Telling stories about our friends (fictional or not) to people we don’t know is one way of making new and potentially lasting friends.
Until next time.
P.S. “Music exalts each joy, allays each grief, expels diseases, softens every pain, subdues the rage of poison, and the plague.” – John Armstrong, The Art of Preserving Health (1744, Book IV, Line 512).
A recent project of mine has been to list all of the games that I’ve played in my lifetime. No, not board games or card games, but computer and video games. When I started this project a few days ago, I began by listing the name of the game, the platform I played it on, and whether or not I finished the game or left it incomplete. Later I added the genre of the game in another column. Earlier today, I was asked if I had a count of how many of the games I had listed had actually been completed and also, what constituted a completed game? There are some games that just never have a solid ending (city-building games like SimCity or online games like World of Warcraft) and other games that have more fluid endings (like Civilization). When do I declare a game finished?
For the purposes of city-building games (SimCity, SimCity 2000, SimCity 3000, SimCity 4, Afterlife, Caesar, etc.) I declare the game to be “finished” when I have finally hit upon a self-sufficient city design and I’m happy with it. In the first three SimCity games I managed to achieve that. Self-sufficient is defined for my purposes as, well, I could technically walk away from the keyboard for a few minutes and not worry that the city will blow up in my absence. It’s got a positive revenue, I’ve built up my planned design, and there’s not much more improving I can do… yeah.
For the purposes of games like Civilization, Sins of a Solar Empire, Master of Orion, and similar strategy games with no tangible storyline, they are “finished” when I have completed a beginning to end playthrough once. That’s all it takes. When it comes to these games though, sometimes it takes several days. It could also be on the easiest difficulty, like in my case, I happen to enjoy playing Civilization IV on the easiest setting, but occasionally I crank up the difficulty a step or two. I never leave a game like this alone after beating it once.
For the purposes of online games (Dungeons & Dragons Online, Star Trek Online, Star Wars Galaxies, World of Warcraft, etc.) I say they are “finished” when I have taken at least one character to the maximum level available in the game. Therefore, Star Trek Online and Star Wars Galaxies are classified as finished whereas Dungeons & Dragons Online and World of Warcraft isn’t. Further, there’s nothing to say I can’t keep playing a game once I’ve classified it as “finished” on my list, it’s just a barometer for how far I’ve taken a particular game (especially MMOs). This is regardless of the storyline in the game.
Other games are definitely done if I feel I played the hell out of them like I did Super Smash Bros. Melee or Super Mario Kart. Or if I finished the storyline like in Final Fantasy VIII or IX (I remember finally finishing those in the same weekend after not playing them for 6-8 months or something like that… VIII on a Saturday and IX on a Sunday, bam, done). The Sims? Right, I labeled that one as finished because I got one Sim all the way up to the Chief of Police in my game once upon a time (way back in fall 2002) and since then that file has vanished into the ether between electrons. I do distinctly remember such a thing happening, which is why I classified it as “finished”.
Mind, this is my personal measurement of completion. I have a friend who believes that Diablo II: Lord of Destruction will not be truly beaten until he’s beaten it on the hardest difficulty setting. I called it a win when I got through Nightmare. Different strokes for different folks, I suppose.
Now, a fair portion of my list is classified as incomplete. This could refer to any number of reasons:
1) I didn’t like the game after trying it
2) I didn’t own the game and played it at a friends house
3) I no longer own the game
4) I can’t remember ever finishing it
5) Any permutation of the above
Oh, also, I’ve played some games on multiple platforms. Chrono Trigger hasn’t changed much (if at all) from its SNES roots to the Playstation port to the current DS version, so I marked that I’d finished the game (which I have, several times over) but that the platform is DS. Maybe later I’ll expand the platform box to allow for all the versions I’ve played of a single game, but I’ve only marked it once. For the record, I haven’t beaten Chrono Trigger on the DS yet, but I beat the Playstation version and I beat the SNES version on ZSNES (emulation) several times.
For Lunar, I played and beat it on SEGA CD at a friend’s house a long time ago, I got it for the Playstation and beat it (and subsequently lost my copy or loaned it to someone), and according to my GameSpot listing I have a copy of Lunar Legend somewhere (which I recall beating, but I can’t find it anywhere) and now I have the Lunar Harmony version for the PSP. The differences between Lunar: The Silver Star and Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete were incredible (harp to ocarina anyone?) so I counted them separately on my list. The differences between Lunar: SSSC and Lunar Legend were less so, but there was a drastic graphical change, so I marked that one too as a separate game. Lastly, there was also a huge change between the GBA Lunar Legend and the PSP Lunar: Silver Star Harmony, so that one was counted separately too. So… on my list of games played in my life, I’ve counted Chrono Trigger once (even though I’ve played it on four different platforms) and Lunar four times (because of the differences between the remakes). If any of that made any sense, I owe you a cookie or something.
I have this bad habit of playing a game almost all the way to the end, realizing that I missed something WAYYYYY back near the beginning, starting again and then getting a decent way in and stopping playing for about 6 months to a year. With Final Fantasy VIII, IX, XII, I eventually went back and beat them, but with games like Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, Legend of Dragoon, and Harbinger, I might never go back because they’re too old or something equally silly. I haven’t touched Legend of Dragoon in so long and I remember being so close to the ending, but because I don’t remember how to play, if I do pick it up again I’ll have to start a new game. Also, some games tempt me to pick them up again. I’ve been having this urge to play Chrono Cross again and, lately, Star Ocean: Till the End of Time.
I included some expansions as separate entries. In the case of Starcraft, Brood War was practically its own game. Likewise with the expansions to Wing Commander 2, and a few other games. Sometimes the contributions of an expansion weren’t ever significant enough to me, so I didn’t count it (Empire Earth, Age of Empires II, and a few others).
Oh, here’s my key for the genres of the games. This is mostly just for my own purposes, but I’d like to get the key put down somewhere.
AADV – Action Adventure (includes combination games that display elements of both Action and Adventure games) 22
ACT – Action (includes scrolling shooters, light gun games, third-person shooters and any sports games) (yes sports because I don’t really play any so they don’t get their own category) 49
ADV – Adventure (includes graphical adventures, text adventures, point-and-click games) 64
ARPG – Action Role-Playing Game (for hack-and-slash games) (any Diablo game or clone thereof and games similar to Marvel Ultimate Alliance) 28
EDU – Educational (mostly games I played as a kid) (Super Solvers Midnight Rescue! got a humorous response out of a friend last night) 6
FGT – Fighting (Mortal Kombat and similar games) 16
FPS – First-Person Shooter (Duh.) 19
FSIM – Flight Simulation (I played a lot of these growing up) 29
MMO – Massively Multiplayer Online (These too) 30
PLT – Platform (games where you jump from platform to platform) (I’m not especially good at these, but I haven’t quite learned my lessons yet) 20
PUZ – Puzzle (Yup.) 13
RACE – Racing (I’ve played a couple) 7
RPG – Role-Playing Game (My first real experience here can be summed up in one word: Starflight) 82
RTS – Real-Time Strategy (Remember when you didn’t know what this was? I do.) 30
SIM – Simulation (includes any city building simulation) 29
TBS – Turn-Based Strategy (this includes computer board games like Star Wars Monopoly) 47
TDS – Tower Defense Strategy (Addictive little games) 2
If there’s a combination of things, like in X-COM Apocalypse where you can pick real-time or turn-based, I’ve labeled it as TB/RTS or similarly for the other categories as needed to accurately define it for myself. For those, the breakdown goes like this: ACT/FPS 1, ACT/PLT 2, ACT/SIM 1, ADV/PLT 1, ADV/RPG 2, PLT/PUZ 2, PLT/SIM 1, PUZ/RPG 1, RTS/RPG 1, TB/RTS 3. 15
Mostly, this is to get things straight in my head. As of this writing, the list contains 508 separate entries detailing my experiences with PC (288), MAC (2), SEGA CD (2), Dreamcast (2), NES (8), SNES (7), ZSNES (22), GameCube (13), Wii (26), SEGA (4), SEGA Game Gear (2), Commodore 64 (1), Arcades (6), XBox (5), XBox 360 (22), Playstation (14), Playstation 2 (26), PSP (15), GameBoy Advance (17), DS (22), Atari 2600 (2) and the Nintendo 64 (2). This list includes 261 “finished” and 247 “incomplete” games. Mind, these aren’t hard and fast necessarily as I focus on my memories and remember which games were on one of the three desktops or three laptops I’ve owned in my life or if they were on the “not-long-for-our-home” Commodore 64. In fact, as I write this, I think I only ever played Might and Magic II on the C64. Guess I’ll change that later… PC -1, C64 +1.
I checked the math on each of my three metrics, they all add up to 508. Anyways, maybe sometime soon I’ll figure out a way to share this list. In the meantime, I need to get to bed.
Until next time, every game is an experience that you can count on!
P.S. Experience is not a matter of having actually swum the Hellespont, or danced with the dervishes, or slept in a doss-house. It is a matter of sensibility and intuition, of seeing and hearing the significant things, of paying attention at the right moments, of understanding and coordinating. Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him. – Aldous Huxley
P.P.S. Every experience is a paradox in that it means to be absolute, and yet is relative; in that it somehow always goes beyond itself and yet never escapes itself. – T.S. Eliot