I’ve been playing video games since the “dawn of Pong,” as it were and I’ve forgotten more about this stuff than most people would ever care, or admit, to remember. I still to this day have to fight the strong urge to type LOAD “*”, 8, 1 before each and every gaming session. And if you don’t know what that command line is referring to then shame on you.
I like games, dammit, not systems or consoles. I am entirely agnostic when it comes to that sort of thing. Hell, I’ll play a game on beat-up toaster over if it will let me! I never grokked the whole fanboy thing and never ever plan to. How about we grow up, people, and stop virtually screaming at each other on message boards or on Twitter? It’s the games that matter at the end of the day. And while I certainly appreciate the grandiose charms of the upcoming Bioshock Infinite, I also can’t get enough of the easy-to-learn-but-difficult-to-master, Proun.
There’s also the time that a video game saved my life. Well, not really. But when Metal Gear Solid came out on the PS1 back in late October of 1998, my life was at more than your everyday, run-of-the-mill crossroads; it was a few steps away from an unmitigated crash-wreck disaster. It was the definition of the word: bleak. My father passed away earlier in that year and I had dug myself into several, deep holes spanning all aspects of my life: professionally, socially and financially. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I “hit bottom,” but I certainly scraped along that son of a bitch for a moment or two.
Knowing my situation all too well, a good friend of mine gave me an early Christmas present that year: a copy of Metal Gear Solid. We both had been (and continue to be) big, video game geeks and usually gave each other video games as Christmas gifts.
Now, I won’t sit here and say that this game saved my life because that would be silly, but it certainly made it a hundred times more bearable. Its slick cinematics (for the time), haunting score and immersive storyline had me hooked from the moment I hit the power button on my PlayStation. And, most importantly, it gave me something else to think about, gave me a purpose, during that grim time in my life. My mission in life simply became the infiltration of that frozen, Alaskan base and in turn, kicking the holy crap out of Liquid Snake and his terrorist cronies. You may ask what I did after I completed that demanding mission. Well, I went right back to the beginning and started it all over again, and I’ve only done that with two other games (Bioshock for the Xbox 360 and Raiders of the Lost Ark for the Atari 2600) in my life. To me, that is the penultimate sign of a truly excellent video game.
If I ever am lucky enough to meet Hideo Kojima, I would very much like to tell him my story, buy him a beer (just shaking his hand would suffice, I guess…) and thank him for creating a “simple” video game that had a profound impact on my life. I may not be sitting here typing this story if it wasn’t for that game…
…and that’s also a goddamn fact, Jack.