Monday, June 4, 2012

The Gamer's Identity

As the Electronic Entertainement Expo approaches, I am reminded just how much other mediums have contributed to making me a writer. Gaming is no exception.

Do you remember the first time you saved Zelda? The feeling of heroism that ensued was palpable. I had saved the princess from certain doom. Through forests, pits of lava and cloudy skies, I had triumphed over Evil. I was a six years old hero and damn, it felt good.

Twenty years later, I have a mental treasure box filled with an innumerable amount of powerful memories. Be it the wave of genuine grief that washed over me as I witnessed the mighty Tassadar sacrifice his life to destroy the Overmind, or the tears of laughter induced by GLaDOS’ relentless trolling, there is no question that gaming has imparted me with unforgettable moments of escapism.

 Do you remember those children books that asked you to choose the hero’s path? “Little Robin ventures through the chilling cave, hoping to find his friend before the night falls. He encounters an impasse, and must choose whether to go left or right. For left, go to page 5. For right, go to page 9.” I loved them. I was seduced by the power of choice. Without even knowing it, I had already sealed my fate as a future gamer.

For gaming took the immersion to the next level. It meshed the powerful narrative force of novels and the sensory experience of motion pictures to form a truly unique medium in which you were both spectator and actor.

Though in the early days the emphasis seemed to be on the technology and the gameplay, the narrative eventually became just as important. This all culminated in the mid to late 90s when the adventure and the characters were given such importance that some of my strongest gaming memories can be traced back to that era.

I remember feeling genuine affection for Epona each time I called her with my Ocarina. I can recall as if it happened yesterday the reverence I felt for Tyrael the first time he materialized before my eyes. Or the powerlessness that overtook me when I was ordered to abandon Sarah Kerrigan to the Zergs on Tarsonis. I was especially shocked to learn she was a Cylon all along. Man, those bastards are everywhere.

Then the Internet caught up with the medium and took gaming to yet another level: commercial MMORPGs were born. Gaming was no longer a solitary hobby meant to be experienced alone or in very small groups. In UO, DaoC or EQ (to name only a few), thousands of players could interact, forge alliances, even friendships. Or break the shit out of them. Whichever rocked your boat.

What other medium could have left such long lasting impressions, blessed me with vivid memories and encounters that in some cases even taught me important life lessons? For instance, what better teachers could there have been to demonstrate the importance of teamwork other than the Lemmings? And while some classic movies and novels have excelled at surprising me with various twists and shocks, none compare to that moment when I learned the truth of my past: I was Darth Revan, the most badass Sith Lord in the galaxy, and its fate was mine to choose. Those were the days people!

E3 is a celebration of what was, what is, and more importantly, what is to come. It’s a celebration of all that history, all those magical moments gamers hold dear. It’s the celebration of an art, an industry, a passion, and for some lucky bastards, a profession. E3 is a place where everyone adopts one single label so they may leave every other one behind, if only for a few days: the gamer’s identity.

Not even Tyrion could bitchsclap my love for gaming out of me, and that is saying something.

Long live gaming.

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