My name is Adam and I am a bad gamer. And I don’t mean in the “I’m really bad at playing games” way (although that is equally true) but more in the “I have taken the hobby of gaming and got confused along the way” way. If that is a way. I think it’s a way? But that seems a bit of a harsh generalisation to play even upon oneself without justifying it, so please allow me to explain the whole story.
It probably began back when I started reading video games magazines; an activity I have long since ceased but it was before we had the internet so it was the best I could do. Before I began taking on the opinions of others into my gaming purchases, all the games I bought followed a strict and unshakable 8-year-old child’s logic. If the nice man in the video games store recommended it to my mother, I would be given the game. If the box art had a recognisable franchise on it, I would be given the game. If the box art had a Pokémon on it, I would persuade my parents that the arrival of this adventure into my life would spur a productive and fruitful career as a gaming journalist ten years down the line and I would end up the with the shiny new game in my little hands.
Sure, this insular gaming experience wasn’t ideal but my playing style adapted. Stuck on the first level of Earthworm Jim or Gremlins, Adam? Just play that one level about forty times over, you’ll still have as much fun as anyone else! My life before strategy guides, those thick, candy-coloured tomes that offered me the answers to the most absorbing of pre-adolescent conundrums, was a bittersweet experience but at least I played all of the few games I had. Largely to the point of nearly destroying the cartridges, but I was content.
“Well that’s me stuck… back to the beginning of the game!”
That changed when I started reading gaming magazines. Yes, my knowledge of the wider world of gaming exploded overnight but with that knowledge came the expectations and opinions of others. It’s a systemic problem with all writers, we believe our opinion is so insightful, amazing and valid that the whole world should read and it agree with us. So it’s no surprise that most writers use that power to say things like “You must play this game” or “You are definitely going to like this” or “Any self respecting Nintendo fan should play this game!”
I was a self-respecting Nintendo fan… right? Well, I wanted to be one. Even though I was barely ten, the prospect of the promising Pikmin franchise being sequelized was surprisingly high on my list of ambitions. Everything I was read, practically told me I was obligated to experience these adventures, at least for my own self worth if not for Nintendo’s. And so began a lengthy habit of buying games that I knew I should be playing but felt very reluctant to do so. Like eating vegetables but with Zelda.
While it all seems silly now, ten-year-old Adam felt obligated to have these games. Didn’t he? I loved Nintendo and if I wasn’t playing these games then my adoration was simply illegitimate. I had no excuse not to love every second of every Mario and Zelda game, regardless of how bad I was at them. And while I’m glad that my that my intense susceptibility to peer pressure didn’t break the age of thirteen (judging by the last time I saw people I went to school with, it’s still affecting them as they approach their twenties) it did inspire some rather maddening behaviour in me. Take my playthrough of the original Pikmin. After enjoying the first two days of gameplay shortly after release, a terrifying Bulborb stomped past and I just sat in paralysed terror as he consumed my entire flowery army. The next time I picked up the game was seven years later, when I finally found my bravery and ability to have matched the game more fairly. A similar experience occurred with Luigi’s Mansion; I’ve just still to get back to that one…
While this situation was hardly at the point of affecting my everyday life, it did cause a certain amount of ire within myself. I’m one of those people that can give themselves grief over the smallest of infractions and sooner or later, the steadily growing pile of unplayed games became a ball of guilt that I sought to avoid, leading me to play games even less to stop thinking about it. And while I had my few comforts in the ocean of gaming (the Pokémons, the Smash Bros., the rare moments in Mario Kart when I didn’t want to hurl the controller at the screen), it didn’t change the fact that I had about seven unfinished Zelda games in my collection at one point. That number still stands worryingly high and yet my anticipation for games such Ocarina of Time 3D or Skyward Sword remains undiminished. While I may be beyond the days of buying games immediately upon their release and then ignoring them, my gaming backlog still stands as a major problem.
The gnashing predatorial jaws that scared me off for seven years… Run Pikmin!
In recent years, this has become less of an issue but I’ve still been known to fall for a bargain or two (or… well more than two). While the urge to buy games as soon as they’re released has subsided (or I just became a miser, unsure which), I was still prone to the dangers of amazing games at rather low prices. A conversation in my head would go something like “Oh look there, Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days for $8! What a bargain!” as my head conveniently forgot “Yes but Adam you’ve yet to finish the first two on PlayStation…” My hoarding sense became less about fulfilling my fanboy duties and more about getting a hold of experiences before they disappeared forever. It might sound like an impulse buy but it’s almost the opposite; it’s motivated by the fear of losing out and never being able to regain something unless you acquire it then. My intention to play it at that moment didn’t even come into the decision, it was more an investment for the future. Which probably explains why I have Doshin the Giant for $6.
The start of this year saw a turning point when I realised that even though I was more and more involved with video games through writing for Nintendojo, I wasn’t getting a chance to actually play them. While I was a gamer in name, was I really living up to it with my level of input? The same feelings of obligation that had scared me away from gaming all those years ago now welcomed me back as I felt truly engaged with games for the first time in years. Being part of such a enthusiastic and passionate team as the Nintendojo staff made games less of the isolating hobby that had filled up great chunks of my childhood and more of a social activity that brought me together with people of similar interests.
And while I haven’t bought any games this year so far (okay Pokémon Black but Pokémon never counts) I know that my rehabilitation back to a fully fledged Nintendophile is not yet complete. With a long summer ahead of me (the joys of unemployment), my aim is to clear through as much of my backlog as possible before the academic year begins in September. Hopefully within three months I’ll be as well versed in the realms of the Mushroom Kingdom, Hyrule and wherever Okami is set as the best of them. Can I do it? If I can, be sure to look out for a follow-up overflowing with my impressions on the pantheon of gaming stored underneath my bed. Game on.