Inspired by Meghan’s post, from Meghan Plays Games, I decided to create my own list of the five games which have been most impactful in my life. We happen to share a couple of the games, for similar reasons, but I hope I can offer a slightly different take on them. I’ve decided to ‘cheat’ a few times and use a game series, because I couldn’t narrow it down to just one game, and also because I think it’s interesting to look at how a series has impacted me throughout my life.
Pokémon Yellow was my first video game. I, for the most part, skipped Gen Two, only briefly borrowing my cousin’s copy of Crystal. But it fascinated me and would continue to haunt me until I eventually played HeartGold. Pokémon Ruby was my comeback game, and probably my favorite in the series. I have memories of bringing my Gameboy SP outside to play with my childhood best friend. Pokémon Diamond was a really interesting point in my life – I was almost a teenager and I wondered if I was getting too old to play. I’m glad I made the decision to get the game, as it was the beginning of me learning not to worry about what other people think of me – it took me a long time to embrace myself.
The rest of the series isn’t impactful in the same way, but they’ve continued to be a huge part of my life. I’ve bought at least one game from each generation, and will continue to buy the games as long as the series exists.
The Legend of Zelda
Honestly? I wouldn’t have this blog without the Zelda series. Although I didn’t actually play until I was 14, Ocarina of Time was the game that got me into gaming. I remember watching my neighbor play it when I was probably 6 or 7, and I was enchanted by the fantasy world. I had strong memories of the vibrant, lush green of Kokiri Village, and of the rainbow bridge to Hyrule Castle under Ganondorf’s control.
I got Breath of the Wild for my 22nd birthday, but didn’t play it until a few months later because it took me awhile to get my hands on a Switch. It did something for me I hadn’t even realized I needed. I had gone through a rough breakup the year before, and thought I had healed from it. I hadn’t realized I was just going through the day-to-day motions. Breath of the Wild taught me to enjoy things again. Much like Link at the game’s beginning, I woke up again.
While my quest to complete every Zelda game is not over (I’m getting there!), I’ve enjoyed each and every iteration, and I love all the history and lore.
Animal Crossing: Wild World was my introduction to the series. With Wild World, I learned that a game didn’t have to have an end objective. It was such an easygoing, relaxing game where I had lots of little virtual animal friends. There was nothing in the game you had to do, but there was value in everything. I personally have gotten really into hybrid flower breeding – especially with going for the notoriously difficult blue rose.
While Wild World came out while I was in middle school, New Leaf came out just after I graduated from high school. I remember the night the game came out, I downloaded it on my 3ds at midnight (which I regret doing, because now if I wanted to get any other 3ds games, I would need to buy a memory card). That summer was filled with Animal Crossing mornings, where I would get up and play the game the entire morning. There was so much more to do in New Leaf and I loved placing outdoor public works projects to make my town look perfect.
As you probably know if you pay any attention to the video game world, New Horizons came out almost a month ago. I had been looking forward to this game for so long, excited to play on my Switch, the system I knew Animal Crossing was perfect for. I started this blog shortly after last year’s E3, inspired mostly by the Animal Crossing and Breath of the Wild announcements. Soon after that I started an Animal Crossing Diaries series, which I wanted to carry over onto New Horizons – this series has been my main focus for the last month. The game has been almost everything I’ve wanted from an Animal Crossing game. But its release weekend is something I’ll always associate with one of the worst of my life.
The day after I got the game, my mom took our dog to the vet because he has been experiencing breathing problems for the previous few days. We found out he had lung cancer. This sweet little pup, who had been lively as ever only a few days before, could suddenly barely go out for a walk. His health rapidly deteriorated, and two days later, my mom made the decision to put him down. I thought we had several more years with this dog, and now he’s gone. The house was quiet. I began noticing all of the habits I developed because of him, like searching for him in all of his favorite sunny spots to take naps in, whenever I walked around the house.
For the first week, New Horizons was the only thing that made me smile. It kept me from completely shutting off. And while New Horizons has been impactful in many other ways (like being perfect for being shut in during coronavirus), I will always be grateful for this one thing that it did for me during an indescribably devastating time. Now I’m working on an in-game memorial for my dog. I’m not sure when it will be finished, but I’ll be sure to post about it when I am.
Night in the Woods
I think Night in the Woods is the first game I played that I recognized as an indie game. And it probably was my first indie game. Before I got really into gaming, I was just playing more popular series (Zelda, Pokémon), but as soon as I started doing a little research, I realized there was a whole indie gaming world out there. I believe Night in the Woods is also the first game I played that dealt explicitly with mental health, and that just blew my mind.
The main character, Mae had just dropped out of college, and I played the game while I was taking a semester off. It made me feel a lot less bad about taking time off for my mental health and to figure out what I was gonna do. I related to Mae in several ways (and didn’t relate to her in others), and it was a game that just felt so personal. Not just as in personal to me, but I could feel the creators’ touch in a way I hadn’t experienced in a video game. The game’s fictionalized Pennsylvania former mining town setting, along with the mental health and anti-capitalism themes all contributed to this feeling.
Once I was back in school, I had an assignment to bring in a poem to class, and I chose one from the game’s resident poet. I had seen poems in games before, but this one had life outside the game. Here’s a link to all her poems, if you’re interested. The one I’m referring to is titled, “There’s No Reception in Possom Springs.”
Celeste is another indie game that deals with mental health. This isn’t the kind of game I normally play. I shy away from masochore games that I know will frustrate me. The game never coddles you, but instead of feeling frustrated, I felt inspired to make it through each new challenge, knowing that each misstep was really just a learning moment.
I also learned the importance of a well-designed video game soundtrack. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate a good ost before (The Legend of Zelda’s music is one of the reasons I love the series so much), but I discovered how well a musical motif could relate to a game’s theme in a much deeper way than ‘wow, the music is pretty here.’ After hearing the track ‘Resurrections,’ I found myself looking up interviews with the game’s composer, Lena Raine, in which she deconstructs tracks. Celeste is a game that I’d recommend playing just for the soundtrack. And if it’s too difficult for you, there’s an assist mode that makes Celeste much more accessible.
This is kind of a tag post, but I did it without really being tagged, so I’ll just say everyone who reads this should feel free to participate!