My name is Ryebread (or Rye for short), and I love computer games. Or rather, I love what computer games can be. At their best, they move our spirits with powerful emotions: joy, sorrow, fear, rage… At their best, they can enfold our senses completely, drawing us through the flat monitor before us into a virtual world. Even simple things like forming lines with blocks or batting about a white dot have become the nostalgic memories we look back on so fondly. Our grandfathers had Tag and Blind Man’s Bluff, and our fathers had Uno and Monopoly. We have Mario and Half-Life.
Although I might be waxing poetic a bit too much, seeing as how a good part of my current gaming life is sneaking about, making clever traps, and cackling when a digital person turns into digital gooey bits. In fact, on reflection, a good part of my life is my current gaming life. I’m only 28 so I wasn’t there at the birth of games, both of the computer and the video variety. But I did grow up through its evolution.
I cut my teeth on educational software, where an upbeat Reader Rabbit tried to teach me words and numbers. I tentatively moved on to the less forgiving King’s Quest III. This was the one where you played a scrawny lad enslaved by a merciless wizard. Being 6 years old at the time, I perished repeatedly from stepping off cliffs, choking on poisoned porridge, standing still for long, and perhaps because I coughed on a rock. When I was a bit older, my dad bought a Nintendo and later a Sega Genesis, introducing me to more colorful console worlds to die and explode clumsily in. When more time passed, when my fingers were more deft and my reflexes more nimble, I returned to the PC and experienced darker games like Diablo and Counterstrike. It was there where I spent most of my gaming days, all the way up to today, where I now split my time between Fallout 3, Team Fortress 2, and a few less-graphic-intensive browser games.
Quite a life, and likely more indoors-oriented than my parents and personal friends would have preferred, but it was mine. Mind you, this is not a particularly unique story, especially not in this era of technology where computer usage is commonplace and consoles are household names. A decade or two ago, when parents needed to get diminutive hellions out of their hair without tossing them outside, they turned to the television, the electronic babysitter. Mickey Mouse and Big Bird were our nursemaids then. Now, the burden of freeing parental hands falls on Master Chief and Link.
On a similar note, remember that bit earlier where I was talking about grandfathers, fathers, and us? Electronic games have a long enough history that they could have been a part of our parents’ lives, and possibly our grandparents’ as well. Hypothetically, if some guy went back in time and altered my history such that I somehow now have a 5-year-old son, how would I be bonding with him? Not with sports, not with camping trips, and certainly not with television. No, I’d be teaching him lessons about life through the wisdom of a husky sandvich-eating Russian. For that young boy, Heavy Weapons Guy would figure greatly in his childhood memories.
Which brings me to my main point. Games are important, no matter how ludicrous the premise. Floating pink blobs, surly god-killers, spiky-haired silent pretty-boys; we can laugh at them all we like, but they are our links to worlds and concepts beyond our reach. As we guide them with controller and keyboard, they guide us with every step through their pixelated worlds. Literature and cinema have done this, and the interactivity of games has the potential to draw us in so much further. Some may dismiss games as being simply games, a miserable little pile of moving pictures that require and deserve no further thoughts, but it is not just the games that matter. It is the meanings we, as players and as fans and as creators, attach to the games that are important.
My name is Rye. These are my thoughts on games.