At age… I don’t even remember anymore, but the gaming system my dad gave me for a Christmas present is forever imprinted in my memories: Nintendo Entertainment System. The developers certainly nailed the name.
My favorite was Super Mario Bros, I mean, hands down. No need to explain that. A close second was DuckTales, where you played as Scrooge and bounced around on your cane while collecting diamonds to make a rich duck even richer. Good to teach the moral values to the kids early on.
Tossing ponies and barbies (and a bunch of boy toys like Ninja Turtle action figures… which are freaking dolls btw) in the corner for an interactive experience with a piece of tech was easy peasy lemon squeezy for me. I preferred being alone most of the time anyway because of all the drama between kids. I just hated it, why couldn’t we hang out with each other without awkward social rules like, no… you can’t play with us because then it would be an uneven number. I mean… what? Some sand box rules I will never understand. There were some even more ridiculous than that.
Nintendo changed the dynamics of my childhood (and PlayStation later on). Gaming became my escape ladder and made me an adventurer instead of a weird kid. I had desperately wanted to experience what the likes of Indiana Jones would in their lives and this was my chance. There were tons of games I played on the NES, the cartridges have survived the years, and when I shuffle them in my hands, I get flashbacks of all the adventures I got myself into, as if I was turning the pages of a picture album.
My first PC I received in junior high for school purposes, but soon enough I was playing Duke Nukem on my educational purposes only machinery. Lesson well learned: headshots for the win! And flash cash to the girls and they will flash you. Again, it was good to keep on learning those moral lessons. There was also this space ship flight simulator I forget the name of, but I had good times flying in insane speeds on the face of Earth, and pulling awesome stunts with the help of my joystick, all the while shooting down evil aliens. It was just freaking awesome, no other way to put it.
And then came PlayStation. A personal game changer for the second time in my life. I’m a graphics w***e, let’s get that out of the way right now. I understand that being into shiny stuff and having a gaming PC would be a no brainer, but I liked consoles for the ease of it. Mostly because I wasn’t that tech savvy. Which I regret, I wish had delved into computers a bit more than I did… these days I’m finding it hard to keep up with the leaps and bounds technology takes (I guess I just have to believe I’d be saying that one day).
Another magical Christmas in 1999 gifted me with Final Fantasy VIII. I have never been the same after playing this title. That’s when I took my adventuring to another level. Here was a game that combined an enthralling story rich with lore, complex characters and epic battles. Role-playing was right up my alley I discovered. There was so much to do in the game, I could progress the story or focus on leveling up and making my characters stronger (I like seeing numbers go up), complete side quests or play mini games.
Having a lot of control over my gaming experience is what turned me onto the Final Fantasy series (fanatic about it). The elements of a perfect storm were there with the timing of playing FF VIII. I was around the same age as the protagonists (all mercenary teenagers brought up in an elite battle academy) so the relatability was there. Their dreams and emotions were like that of an ordinary teenager, except I got to live an elevated story with danger woven all through out it. But I, Laura, was an active part of shaping the story and that’s what felt really good. To this day I revisit the game for the sake of nostalgia. Check it out, it has one of the best game cut scene openings:
It’s always been about escapism, then and now. And I still continue on that road with A Realm Reborn, an online role-playing game like World of Warcraft (essentially). Playing with real people online is a different beast entirely because of interpersonal relations between players. I might have hated the sand box in my childhood, but here I am back at it.
Usually I’m the healer in the team, but most times I also want to wreck enemies for a faster fight while keeping my team mates standing. I definitely take the battle aspect of my healing class to an extreme, which can cause raised eyebrows. That edge has caused team wide wipes on occasion (=we all dead).
The best feeling is when the team gets into some serious s*** by a horrible mistake and everyone excepts it to be a wipe, but we make it through, because I kept their asses alive through what would have been an annihilation. Yup. Yup yup. Virtual ego just outgrew another room.
On a good day I make friends while playing the game, share some good laughs while feeling accomplished after downing a super hard boss …and on other days I land in the middle of a troll fest while wanting to complete a dungeon for a piece of loot I need oh-so-bad, and these maxed out jackasses with their best in slot gear decide to make my life miserable. A******s. Online gaming will thicken your skin. And possibly induce unfiltered rage. Absolutely lovely times.
(Screenshot of my character in A Realm Reborn, wearing her healer gear)
The best laughs (and rage fits, yeah my diaper can shrink to being two sizes too small) I’ve had while teaming up with my husband. Whether it is (was) Army of Two, Borderlands, Halo, Call of Duty, any shooter really, we can make an effective team. I’m not as pro as him, so his patience has been tested while I charge into an ambush with a kamikaze attitude and have my virtual head blown into bits. I yell “Resurrect!” and hubby looks at me with murderous eyes: “How about you learn how to take cover and stay alive?”. Curse words omitted.
(I did something wrong?)
Repeat that a dozen times. I think it’s a riot, husband wishes he could strangle me the Homer Simpson way (I love you). He has pitched Hal- I mean Destiny to me, the latest online shooter with a role playing flavor developed by the same creators as Halo …but I gotta restrict my intake of the hardest virtual crack the internet can dish out or my real life will be over.
Learning tactics and strategy, figuring out mechanics of fights can take hours and even weeks, when the content is brand spanking new with no guides to lean on, but it’s all part of the process. The record player is indefinitely stuck on rinse and repeat, but the sense of accomplishment is comparable to winning a world class sports competition when a fight/boss finally goes down. It takes smarts, tenacity and most of all patience. Sometimes I got none of those.
World firsts in beating content between elite teams are a serious business, it’s brutal and cut throat. And it’s not just about bragging rights. The best players in the world are sponsored like athletes, and why wouldn’t they be? Games, or eSports, is a huge business. Pro-gamers can collect 6 figure sums from a single tournament. Not bad for a waste of time.
I’ve had the same screen name since 13 years of age alluding to the goddess of strategic warfare (play hard and smart!). It’s my armor and mask, when I log on and turn into a virtual bad ass in the wild west of imaginary worlds, and make no mistake:
I got game ;) See you out there! Love, Laurathena.