While you might not know it from going to the stores, it’s Thanksgiving. And that means it’s time to be thankful for the good things in life. Health, safety, employment and, of course, video games. Gaming is a big part of my life and if I’m honest with myself, they’ve had a part in shaping the type of person I am and has played a critical part in life. So here’s a list of video games I’m thankful for.
Frogger is a classic but for me it’s important because it is the first video game I remember playing. My uncle had an Atari and that was my introduction to video games. Mind, blown. I’m not a big Frogger fan, however. If given a choice there are hundreds of games I’d rather play than Frogger, but Frogger was good enough to keep me entertained at a very young age and for that I am thankful. What a journey it would be from there.
Outside of Super Mario Bros., Metal Gear was the first Nintendo game I completed. While my friends were lighting bushes on fire in Zelda, I was shooting bad guys with my machine gun and remote-controlled rockets. At the time, Metal Gear was basically GI Joe in video game for to me. I had big guns, bad guys, maps, tanks, robots…you name it, it’s in there. Not to mention Metal Gear isn’t easy (even now) so finishing it at all makes me proud.
Maybe it’s because Metal Gear was the first game of it’s type for me, but I’ve followed the franchise ever since and is easily my favorite non-arcade game. When Metal Gear Solid hit on the Playstation it was a return to a world I loved and from there it just got better. Over time the Metal Gear games have been more movie than game but I’m really okay with that. I’d love a Metal Gear movie. I love the world, the characters, the fantasy and the action. Metal Gear games are a safe bet even 25 years later and I take some joy knowing I was there from the beginning.
More specifically, Tekken 3 because it was a video game that my girlfriend (now wife) bonded over when we started dating. Yes, she’s that cool. She wasn’t a gamer at all prior to meeting me and frankly, I wouldn’t consider her a gamer today, but at the time she humored me by playing video games. She might have agreed to play at first to be nice but it didn’t take long before she was a straight up Tekken fan.
Not only did she get really good at the game (beating me often), so sunk her teeth into the store and characters. We all know that stories in fighting games are tertiary to everything else but she managed to find the joy in that. Tekken gave us common entertainment that we would seemingly play for hours on end, button mashing all the way. Tekken is responsible for my woman accepting, enjoying and becoming a gamer, and for that I am very thankful.
Warcraft was certainly the first ROTS of note in my gaming life but things didn’t really take off for me and my friends until Starcraft crashed onto the scene. I had just graduated high school and was working at a computer store, so I had access to not only software but hardware (and all at a discount). I built no less than four low-end computers together for the sole purpose of playing Starcraft at my house with friends. For the next couple of years, Friday night was LAN Party night at my house as my friends and I battled into the wee hours of the night over soda and pizza.
As sad as it probably is, I probably haven’t had that much playing games with my friends since that time, but that’s what happens when you grow up. School, life, kids…whatever, it all gets in the way but I’m thankful to have had those few years where nothing else mattered besides playing Starcraft and gaming at large.
DDR / Guitar Hero / Rock Band
I’m lumping all of these together because they are all music performance games. Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) pre-dates the others and was another game my wife and I enjoyed playing together. I think she saw it as a way to exercise while I just saw it as an excuse to play games with my girl. To be fair, DDR wasn’t unfun. I liked playing and we stomped the hell out of those PS2 dance pads but looking back on the game itself, it just doesn’t hold up.
Guitar Hero and Rock Band, however, they are still all-time favorites. Guitar Hero was the first to hit the sweet spot between music and video games, but Rock Band is what got everyone else involved. Guitar Hero left my wife no choice to watch me jump off the couch Van Halen-style while she sang along. Rock Band gave my wife’s knack for radio sing-a-long a purpose. Together we played the hell out of Rock Band, investing hundreds of dollars in DLC songs and accessories.
But I think more importantly, all of these games helped bring video games to where I felt they always needed to be – as a performance. Whether it was “dancing” or “playing guitar”, these games made you think about what you were doing in terms of entertaining others and not just yourself. Maybe it’s because I’m a shameless ham but that really appealed to me and helped scratch an itch that video games were previously unable to do.
When I worked at a radio station for a several years, I brought in my NES as a way to help boost morale around the office (they even gave me permission). By that point I had every NES game available to people were stopping by my office playing all sorts of games – Tecmo Bowl, Super Mario, Galaga, to name a few – but one that kept things rocking was Dr. Mario.
How can you go wrong with competitive Tetris? That’s what Dr. Mario was and thus you didn’t have to be a gamer to try it and have fun. As a result, Dr. Mario tournaments were a hot thing around the office and I believe very much boosted morale as I had hoped. A radio station is a fun environment in the first place but the Nintendo helped break down some clique barriers around the office. I think this was the first time that the generational power of video games really shined and it was quite the experience.
Oh, Minecraft. I don’t think I have invested more time in any game that Minecraft, if for no other reason in that Minecraft doesn’t have a real ending. Here’s another game that got my wife gaming again. I started playing Minecraft with some friends from work while my wife was investing most of her time in The Sims. One night my wife tried Minecraft to see what all the hubbub was about and I don’t think she’s picked up The Sims ever since.
Minecraft has become the one game we play these days, of course that’s probably due to a baby being thrown into the mix. Console game time became a thing of the past since a child only gives you chunks of time but that’s exactly why Minecraft fits in…you can play it in bursts while still feeling like you’re moving towards a greater goal. However, the greatest thing about Minecraft is (again) that it’s one my wife and I love playing together.
I, like you, have played hundreds of video games throughout my life. Some of them great, many of them forgettable. If I thought harder I could probably cite more games for which I am thankful but this list really highlights that what leaves the most profound mark in our memories – people. Friends, family, co-workers, whoever…the best moments in gaming are the ones you’ve shared with them. So yes, be thankful for video games but be more thankful for friends and family because without them your video games would mean nothing.