Greetings, my Lusi-sprites. It appears that we have survived the prophesied Raptor Apocalypse of 05/21/2011 and can live to game another day. Huzzah! To celebrate the lack of death and destruction, I went to my game collection in search of a nerdy way to enjoy the rest of my Raptor-free weekend. As I scanned the shelves it occurred to me that my taste in games is quite defined at this point. If it is not a JRPG or some sort of quaint simulator (preferably involving potatoes) I have about, oh, zero interest in it. My taste in games should not be news to anyone who has followed this cesspool of a site for more than an hour. However, the reasons behind these preferences are currently unknown. Hopefully by sharing something of my gaming origins and influences, you all may be inspired to reflect upon your own. Whether you wish to share those reflections with the rest of this community is, of course, optional.
Let us set our Wayback Machine to 1995 or so and meet up with a much younger me. Awww, look how cute I was. At the time I was the proud owner of my very first console, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). I also owned Super Mario All-Stars and Super Mario World, as they came with the console. I had a copy of Mortal Kombat 3 because I thought that fighting games were “cool”. I had an aunt who also owned a SNES and who would allow me to borrow games from her, as I could not then afford to buy many games for myself. One of her games, and the one that really opened my eyes to how much I could enjoy gaming, was Illusion of Gaia. It made me fall in love with the RPG genre; from that point on I would choose new games to play based on whether or not that game was like Illusion of Gaia. At the time I did not quite understand that there were official gaming genres. To me, there were simply games like
Some of the things that I found so appealing about Illusion of Gaia and the RPG genre were the hero and other characters. They had a voice, which was a mind-blowing realization to someone accustomed to silent avatars like Mario. They had feelings and emotions which were expressed to me through their dialogue. Occasionally, the characters would even have internal monologues, allowing me even greater insight into their psyche. It became so easy to be emotionally involved and invested in what was happening around them because they seemed more real to me. –Not as real as the person sitting beside me, but as real, perhaps, as a character in a book or movie. I would complete other games just for the sake of completing a game, but with Gaia I pushed forward through the game because I wanted to see where Will and Kara’s journey would take them. I cared about what happened to them and all of the poor little NPCs around them.
The other aspect of Illusion of Gaia that I loved was the towns. One of my favourite parts of the game, and a part I always looked forward to during my many replays, was exploring the towns. I would visit every house, go down every side street, talk to every NPC, and peer in every pot or barrel. It was all so fascinating, thinking that some game developer somewhere created an entire town from his or her imagination. I would mentally insert myself into the town, decide which house I wanted to live in, which bed I would claim at the Inn, etc. This is something that I am only slightly embarrassed to admit that I still do today. I still love exploring towns and calling dibs on where I would want to live if I were a character in a video game.
Realistic towns and people seem like such a small and obvious thing to use now. Most games feature these elements today, regardless of genre. However, during the late 1990s and early 2000s this was not the case. My preference for games with a similar feeling to Illusion of Gaia led me to games like Chrono Trigger and the Final Fantasy series as a whole. I remember playing Sim City 3000 and treating it like a town in an RPG, and I remember being utterly bored by platform and fighting games.
So dear readers: whether they be confined to a few genres or more broad, what are your gaming tastes? Are you aware of the origin of your preferences? Did you have any special gaming influences when you were younger? Use the comments below to tell us!