In honor of the holiday (from which my stomach is still recovering), I thought I’d continue the theme of thankfulness that’s circling around and share the three games that have had the biggest impact on my life. It was tough to choose, but when it came down to it these were the games I simply couldn’t do without.
Even if Journey wasn’t on the list of games that have most impacted me, it would still be on my list of the most beautiful games I have ever played. Journey is an aesthetic experience, a delight for the eyes, a game that, perhaps more than any other, I just wanted to watch unfold before my eyes. But this is a game that is much more than its stunning visuals, more than its critical achievements (which are many), more than its status as an indie darling. This is a game that truly lives up to its title and teaches you that the journey truly is more important than the destination. It is an opportunity to inhabit, for the moment, a position of helplessness rather than strength, to explore rather than fight, and to grow rather than to level up. Experience points, equipment, NPCs – these things don’t matter here. What matters is the story you follow, the discoveries you make, the lessons you learn about your own insignificance, about the wonder of the world around you. Playing through Journey taught me to slow down and appreciate what I was seeing, to value silence, and, most importantly, to realize that video games can teach me about myself as much as they can teach me about playing games. It was the first game that brought me to tears, but I hope it won’t be the last.
(P.S. The soundtrack is simply incredible – check out the work of Austin Wintory if you haven’t already)
This one’s a little bit more of a standard choice – who hasn’t grown up playing some version of Pokémon, card or video game? All I have to say about my experience with Pokémon has probably already been said, but I can’t keep my love for this franchise contained. Pokémon gave the strategy skills that I use in every game I play to this day – it taught little 7,8,9 (etc.) year old me to calculate, analyze, take risks, and, for Red’s sake, memorize that type chart (In what world does Ice being super effective against Dragon make sense?)! But it also gave me some of the best in-game moments that I can remember–choosing a starter, watching them grow, working towards that eeveelution, beating that first gym leader, structuring and nurturing that perfect team, finally finally getting past the elite four. After every game, I really felt like I was leaving behind a family, saying goodbye to the pocket monsters I had grown responsible for.
Yes, I realize how sappy this makes me sound, but everyone I knew who grew up with Pokémon feels the same – it’s a game that teaches you the importance of strategy, yes, but it also teaches you about good and evil, friendship, and loyalty. And beating that one person (everyone has that one person) after an hour-long battle, with my Espeon’s health in the red…well, I don’t know if anything can be more satisfying. Pokémon certainly has aged well, too, making it a game that I don’t have to be nostalgic about, because it’s still here, growing up with me (I’ll be spending way too much time this break playing Omega Sapphire!). And this is all not to mention the ability to play as a female; Pokémon was one of the few games I played growing up where I saw myself reflected in the protagonist, and I can’t stress how thankful I am to have had that opportunity.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
I have to admit, it was difficult to decide between this and The Legend of Zelda: Windwaker, but ultimately Ocarina won out. Yes, this might be everyone’s and your uncle’s favorite game, but for quite a few amazingly good reasons. First off, this game introduced so much that changed the landscape of the industry and laid the groundwork for games to come – Z-targeting, context-sensitive buttons, the things it did with 3D – which isn’t surprising considering that it had Shigeru Miyamoto for a director, writer, producer, and designer. This game has become such a cultural legend that I’m often amazed at how left out you might feel if you hadn’t played it – would three triangles mean anything to you? What about crazy chickens? Destruction of pottery? Annoyingly persistent/irrelevant fairies? In other words, what have you been doing if you haven’t played Ocarina of Time?
It’s a title that has a lot to teach you about playing video games – many of the skills I use today I picked up from this (using the weapons you’ve just acquired, checking every nook and cranny, looking at a puzzle from every angle, collecting the useless items because it will be rewarding later on, etc.) – but it also has a lot to teach about life: respecting your elders, proving that children can contribute to society, not underestimating the princess (women in general in this game are pretty awesome, from Impa to Sheik to the Gerudo warriors), being patient (*cough*Navi*cough*), be good to the environment, treat others as you would want to be treated (because you might run into them seven years later and need a favor), being resourceful and attentive to your surroundings, applying previous skills to new situations, balance is necessary to health and to peace, and more. If I hadn’t played Ocarina, I wouldn’t be the gamer or the person I am today – but, more importantly, I wouldn’t know all those awesome tunes. Zelda’s Lullaby, am I right?
These are my top three, but there are so many more games that I’m thankful I’ve played – Braid, Myst, Mario Kart, and LittleBigPlanet, to name a few – and I want to hear from you, too! What games have made your life better? What games couldn’t you live without? Let us know in the comments (and maybe play them again while you’re recovering from your food coma)!