Crystalline castles

You’ll have to forgive me yesterday’s indulgent outburst; I was unusually moved by something that at least felt profound, and needed to express it. Fortunately, it won’t happen too often, as my shriveled and blackened little heart is nigh-impermeable. Yet somehow I felt a moment of surprising clarity, and if nothing else it made crystalline the reasons I’ve stuck with my job of writing about video games rather than moving along to something more respectable, despite some trying times. What keeps me here, I think, is not inertia or an inability to do anything else — at least, I’d like to think not — but rather the sense of camaraderie I experience from writing and discussing this clumsy, adolescent excuse for a medium. I enjoy describing a personal thought or experience only to discover I’ve evoked a common thread in the lives of people I’ve never met, however frivolous the mechanism of our connection; I’ve forged many close friendships over the years with people whose only intersection with my life was a shared opinion on Final Fantasy VII or a mutual affection for some random NES game.

There was no reason it had to be games I ended up dealing with, really. I could be writing this stuff about anything that interests me: music, film, books, religion, illustration, whatever. I suppose I’ve simply gravitated in this direction because the medium is so young; the discussions and criticisms of other, more established subjects are codified. Not so for gaming. I came into the world the same year that Atari brought Pong home, so I’ve literally grown up with the medium. When I started writing about it — the first time I looked back and really became conscious of gaming as something with a history — the Super NES was still the top-selling system, and “retro” basically consisted of Atari 2600, NES and old DOS games; formats which had been thriving just a year or two before.

I wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to think I’m in any way affecting the shape or direction of writing about video games, because obviously I’m not. But the format is still young enough that there’s no correct way to discuss it (as this Talking Time thread has touched on). So I can, at the very least, get away with doing what I like and hopefully still present ideas and experiences that cause other people to say, “You know, I can totally relate to that.”

Of course, I’m also free to write things that no sane human can relate to. Like the fact that of all things, the game I’m playing during this massive release season is…Mega Man Battle Network 3. Honestly, don’t ask why; I have no idea. Maybe there really is something wrong with me.

4 thoughts on “Crystalline castles

  1. Hell, MMBN3 is the last good game in the series. If it were 4 you were playing–THEN there would be something wrong with you.

  2. You just stated *precisely* why I visit Talking Time compulsively and continue writing about games, despite my life not revolving around them like it once did. The combination of shared experience and topically interesting writing is a powerful draw.

    There are people here similar to me (I think!). And it’s very nice.

  3. It’s posts like you wrote the other day, Parish, and your work on Retronauts that remind me of the difference between videogame ‘reviews’ and ‘criticism.’ By giving your own ideas and opinions on a subject with wit, knowledge, and true love for the medium you open up the discussion about them beyond ‘good game’ vs. ‘bad game.’ For instance, I’ve really hated Chrono Cross all these years, but listening to the recent Retronauts, I’ve come to understand and accept it better. I might even play it now.
    p.s. For some reason your idea of FFIV as FFIII fanfiction has always stuck with me.

  4. That was a great post; this one is also good. Keep setting the tone for video game discussion; I don’t think I’ll be able to stand it if real criticism goes out of video game journalism and everything becomes superficial previews and reviews that really just amount to consumer reports.

    I think the first time I was aware of video games as a medium with a history was when Mario blew the warp whistle in Super Mario Bros. 3 and it played the same tune as the whistle in The Legend of Zelda. That really blew my mind at the time. Granted, I was eight.

    I have to be honest and say that I was just a little disappointed this post wasn’t about a bear in a wizard’s hat, but okay.

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