This post will talk about the games that stand out in my journey as a gamer.
I don’t think I’d be here if it wasn’t being able to play around Logo in the computer lab, after I completed the in-class assignment. I learned rudimentary coding skills trying to get the Turtle to bend to my will. This has inspired me to learn how to program, and how to program well, with good, clean code.
But my jam was Oregon Trail, which you knew was in the offing when the teacher’s aide wheeled in an Apple IIe into your fourth-grade classroom. More than that, it was one of the first games that showed the difference between narrative and story. The story, the westward expansion of the United States was the same, no matter the specific choices any player made, but the narrative was how the player elected to experience each playing. Even if the player made the same decisions at each juncture, the outcome of the game would be different given the random rolls for each decision. This kept the “replayability” of the game high, kids would want to play over and over and over and over again.
Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego was an educational game released by Brøderbund to teach children the basic use of an almanac, and creative attention to detail. Eventually, Carmen would become so popular that a live-action, children’s’ game show with a rocking them song (hit those bass notes).
Templed Hills Computer Camp
For two summers, I went to my church’s (United Church of Christ) “computer camp,” which was just an excuse to shove 12 nerds into a church summer camp, with the promise of tons of computer time. We learned about hacking, traded tips and techniques with fellow campers, and generally had a massive LAN party.
We made, what we thought, we going to be life-long friendships, but alas, from summer camps from time immemorial, contact was fleeting, if any, once you got home. But you were armed with the latest bootlegs, and cheat codes in spades.
One day, in middle school, something magical happened; I was at the County library, when I noticed two Apple IIe’s had moved into a prime location near the reference librarian’s desk. They were fully fitted out with color monitors, dual 5.25” and 3.5” disk drives, with one was kitted out with an ImageWriter dot matrix printer. Children, with their parents’ permission could reserve hour long blocks. One Saturday, as I was waiting for my time to indulge in my addiction to the Oregon Trail, I was enthralled at this game the boy ahead of me was playing…and he was exploring an open world, where he was free to go wherever he wanted, to interact with the game the way the way he wanted to. I was hooked and I hadn’t even played the game. I pulled up a chair and watched jaw agape. It was love at first sight!
Eventually I was able to beat the game and tried my hand at Ultima III: Exodus. While a technically proficient game, it didn’t have the soul its younger brother had. The very first video game I bought was Pitfall, after saving up $35 in Gold Circle stickers, but the second, and most meaningful purchase was plunking down $50 in cold, hard cash for Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny at the Westerville Computer Center. I could not wait to get home and put this bad boy to the test.
Bards Tale 2 – The Destiny Knight
The next game I recall buying was to purchase the follow-up to the wildly popular Bards Tale, The Destiny Knight. DK was a graphical RPG/dungeon crawl set in the land of Tangramayne. You had to go on a number of quests, grind combat to level up, and recover the seven pieces of the Destiny Wand. I’ll be honest here; the cover of the game makes it look as if the character is holding aloft a metal flute.
Eventually you triumph over seven, increasingly brutal dungeons, and have the Destiny Wand reassembled, and you head back to the Sage’s Hut, only to discover that the Sage all this time was Lagoth Zanta, and you have your final encounter with him.
Generally, as a rule, I don’t do PVP, my reflexes are truly that of a 45yo man, but I’ve still done my fair share of PVP, mostly because I have to advance a quest, or as part of a weapons bounty (*coff* looking right at you Hawkmoon *coff* *coff*). Although
Doom parties at Motorola
When I worked at Motorola, and number of us would stay late, fire up the Doom PVP module on one of the webservers, and have LAN parties to our heart’s content. Generally, we all sucked at the start, but before long, we were really quite good, like a good set of amateurs. I even learned how to camp on one high roof thing where I could snipe off a coworker that was unwise enough to enter the room.
Original Killzone AI opponents
I also started playing AI based opponents in the original Killzone’s PVP module, Battlefields, and more specifically, the game mode of Deathmatch against seven AI generated bots. After a couple nights cranking this out, I became quite good at it. Honestly, thinking that there was no one behind the bot, didn’t clench me up as when I’m in actual PVP.
I got many hours in on Battlefields, and I think if I would have stuck with it, I wouldn’t be so damn self-conscious about doing the right thing, right move, that I can’t really “get into” the game, and instead camp near one of the flags, and pick off anyone would come my way.
PvZ Garden Warfare
Plants versus Zombie, Garden Warfare, was a split screen two play cooperative mode.
You job was to build a garden, and then protect it against the zombies that want to munch on what you’ve planted. Eventually the Zombies will draw one, or both of you, to leave the garden, to wipe stragglers, this required good communication, and a willingness to haul your partner’s chestnuts out of the proverbial fire.
Play started to evolve, with one, or both, players selecting Sunflower for its healing powers. Eventually having two sunflowers was de rigeur.
I played PVZ GW for hours with my son, having a Tarpy Boyz gamming sesh.
The infamous Destiny Thorn grind, for one of, if not eh only team having a party chat to give directions, or just talk to each other. One of the most OP guns, especially in Crucible, in D1 was Thorn.
Getting Thorn required an exotic bounty, A Light in A Dark, to drop for you
The first step wasn’t too hard, you could just “we’ve woken the Hive” <Diknlebot “we’ve woken the Hive”> on heroic, drop all the Thrawls and Acolytes, paying careful attention to not off the Knight, wipe, rinse, repeat until you get 500 Hive kills.
The next step required you to earn 500 points in PVP mode. There were some conditions that made it hard, you got 5 points for a kill, and -3 for a wipe. This led to some very conservative play from those on the quest. I’m not good at PVP, but I wanted to gun, so I had to “git gud.”
Frankly I recall that I left the match when I get to the 500 points, and the Corrupted Thorn drops. I never. ever. want to do anything like that ever again.
I won’t lie, during this step major drinking got involved, and unsurprisingly, once I had a couple drinks in me, my inhibitions lessened, and frankly I made a lot of progress while slightly toasted.
The other condition was that only kills with Void damage (and no assists counted towards the bounty. So, I fired up my Voidwalked super, and had the tried but true loadout of Word of Crota (hand cannon), Swordbreaker (trusted shotty), and Truth, which we know had the awesome aggressive tracking. I got many a kill after firing off a Truth shot, and subsequently was killed before my kill was recognized, made the respawn video particularly salty.
I think what really helped me was I was doing my grind during an Iron Banner, so all the cool kids were over with Lord Saladin, and I got the JV team opponents.
I grinded this for couple nights (yes, I know, I’m slow), and was finally able to get the Corrupted Thorn, and with assist from my clanmates, was able to hang in the Photogth strike long enough to kill Xyor, the Unwed. After making short work of her.
I retired to The Speaker to claim my prize! Come to me, my precious!
What’s terribly ironic is that I never really used Thorn as it was intended as an OP PVP gun. I was just collecting before it went away or got nerfed into unplayable. And to say that I did ‘git good,’ with based on my blood, sweat, and tears.
Bad Juju’s exotic quest was called Toland’s Legacy, and it was a real bear to complete, as one the steps is completing 25 strikes. They really made you work for it and to want it. As I was running my primary as Pulse Rifle, I’ve switched to auto rifles now, mostly of the Legendary variety. this was a match made in heaven. Eventually after a couple days of racking up Strikes, you then had to endure getting 10,000 points in any Crucible, or Iron Lords was completed, you had to talk to Xûr and get a darkness infused weapon frame, to take into the Crucible, and get a variety of points based on your class. As I was maining a warlock, the points really started to flow in.
For Hannukah 2019, Dex was given a Switch, and was eventually was granted permission to play multi-player…he could only talk to someone he knew, a friend, or me. Shockingly we won our first game, setting the bar high for general population.
One of the creepiest things I’ve ever experienced is seeing my son, my own flesh and blood, hear him cry out “Heeeeey buddy” as he finds his next victim
But that’s not to say that the old man gets such a reprieve. Most often than not, Dex was carrying me, and telling me to hide in such-and-such place, so he could go on a vampire hunt unencumbered my his seemingly natural play style. Le sigh, le grand sigh.
Dex also is a good Sherpa, doing his level best to carry you as best he could, and still trying to explain the characters, and how to do certain things, controls, even though he was on a Switch, and limited viewing opportunities. But that being said, when he gets exceeding amp up, he goes a mile a minute, and just goes off to do his duty.
I’ve played a dozen matches with him, we’re up to 5 wins and 7 loses. I’m still unsure how to build anything in this game. But I’ve decided that I will go into my Creative mode and learn the game, especially the building tactics to hide from a sniper or someone in CQB with me.
But my heart, since the days of Final Fantasy on the Super NES, has always belonged to Square Enix. While compared to the games of today, the cartridge game for the Nintendo would be charmingly rustic, but it has hooked me to play, and beat every subsequent Final Fantasy. Up-to and having beaten Aerdyn in FFXV.
Her name was Aerith Gainsborogh.
Whenever Aerith is the subject of conversations, everyone comes back to, without fail, is those last few moments of Final Fantasy VII’s Disc 1. Today, in 2018, that she was murdered, in an act of almost meaningless viciousness, abruptly changing everything we knew about the game wouldn’t shock us, but in 1997, when FFVII was released, it was nothing less than a seminal moment of world-shaking audacity for storytelling in a videogame.
Like most in my generation of gamers, I remember exactly when and where I was when Sephiroth impaled her with that ridiculous Katana of his; I was grievously late for my morning classes in the early weeks of the spring semester of my junior year in college, but I knew I was close to finishing the first disc of the game and wanted to put it in the bag before heading out for the day. And then, that. It was a shock, I was sure it didn’t happen, or that it was a trick.
But no, as her body slowly slid off his sword, I realized this was how the story was unfolding, and I needed to rethink my entire approach to the game. As I walked to campus, I racked my brain trying to remember if anything like this had ever happened. That moment is now twenty-one years in the past, but if I can close my eyes, even as I write this, it comes flooding back; I am there.
Generally, I think FFX has been the most beautiful game in the franchise, with those magical blitzball stadiums. And FFXII has the best plot, and general open world feel that is so common in games of the Common Era.
Just recently, I came back to Final Fantasy XIV. I decided to start over, and I chose to play as a Conjurer, and eventually became a White Mage.
I’ve never played a healer before, my original FFXIF character is a black mage, so while I was very comfortable playing a DPS role, and found that once I hit level 50, playing healer wasn’t as simply spamming Cure 2 and Medica. I have to now pay attention to AOE heals, regens, and using the Lily job aide to get the fully restore one target member’s HP. This has caused me to tinker with my hot bars to have a dungeon specific hot bar setup and the regular hot bar (which consists of my offensive spells, as well as what I need for my Chocobo and teleports). I’ve found that r/FFXiv to be a great help where various WHM show their hotbar setups.
“Eyes up guardian.” Given the recent announcement from the US Space Force, it seems that my Exo Warlock is actually a military officer. Destiny is, at its heart, a loot grind. You have to play lots of post-game over material to grind out the loot you want and pray that RNGesus has your back on a particle drop. This was me, for my initial Gjallahorn. I got it the weekend before Xûr sold it again in his weekly visit. To be fair, I can’t remember seeing it drop, but it was from a hard Crota’s End raid. All I knew, was that I finally had the damn gun and could see if it was worth all the hype. Spoilers, Wolfpack Clusters makes it so. I ran Crota and Vault so much faster and better now that I had the rocket launch of the Gods.
But Destiny is more than that, it’s a community of players that have grown close in the clans (Bungie can you please change that name, it’s most unfortunate). I have made three real life friends from my clan, Claynor (who I got to meet on a business trip to NYC), as well as a former clan leader and his “faithful sidekick.” We’re on a continuous group chat, and we’re making plans to get together once this Covid thing is over.
But it’s not just about the connections you’ve made, it’s also what you leave behind. In 2015 a group of players banded together to make a video memorial to one of the members, TheSquashPHD, after he succumbed to cystic fibrosis. This set of all the onion chopping ninjas where I was sitting. If you haven’t seen it yet, in Youtube search for “Guardian Down,” it’s the first result in the searches, and it is most worth your time.
It’s Bungie gifting a recovering guardian a unique gun in all the game, Fate of All Fools, before unveiling it to the rest of us as the Jade Rabbit, which I still think is one of the best damn looking guns in all of D1, even though I have no use for Scout Rifles.