5 Games That Left An Impression
The greatest thing about games for me is not merely the notion of escapism. Yet more specifically, I love the life changing and emotional cathartic quality of games. You know, that feeling you get when a game has left an impression upon you, or your outlook on life in some way. In other words, games as mechanisms that can influence your perception in many ways. Of course, this doesn’t mean a life altering event that changed you entirely as a person. However, I’m more interested in how a game affected you and how it affected your perception of the world around you in any number of ways. I’m talking about games that essentially cause the smallest of emotional responses and made you think about things more intensely than any other game. So here it goes, in no particular order, a list of games that have left a great impression on me as a gamer.
Despite its many bugs and flaws, which nearly every Bethesda game has, Fallout 3 offered a counterpoint to the many moral systems which have now become commonplace in mainstream game design. You just have to take a look at the Mass Effect series, Infamous 2 and a number of other game series which pride themselves on their moral choice systems to understand the broader picture. They are definitely different, but what I enjoyed about Fallout 3 was the moral ambiguity of the game. Especially, your interaction with characters and although there was a moral system it didn’t feel tightly centred within the construction of the narrative. In Fallout 3, you could achieve the status of an evil badass, but the path you followed to that status was not entirely one driven by pure evil, or made out to be pure evil. There was no strict line between good and evil. It was an ambiguous grey area. It is that ambiguity of your actions that made me think of real life circumstances, perhaps not as extreme as in Fallout. Yet nonetheless our own actions are truly in a grey area, and the perceptions around us fill in the categories of good or evil. One man’s ‘evil’ is another man’s ‘good’. In Fallout 3, I didn’t feel as if I was being forced into any type of preordained fate. I felt a sense of free will. Or perhaps the game was hinting at the illusion of free will.
Half-Life 2 Episode Two:
The ending of this game has made many fans rage, and the lack of closure to the series overall. We now await the finale of the series, which is a gut wrenching experience that in all truth is because Gabe Newell lacks the basic knowledge to count to three. Even so, the impact of the ending of Episode Two has left a marked impact on me as a person. Many games have pulled off this type of emotional blackmail. Most notably Final Fantasy VII with a death sequence that set the tone for future JRPGs. The difference with Episode Two was that said character had been there since the start of Half-Life 2 as a main character whom you, as Gordon Freeman, engaged with in conversation and had a familial bond with. The feeling of loss experienced in the finale of Episode Two was unlike anything else I’ve felt in a game. I truly felt the loss as if it was a ‘real’ person. Besides the technical feats Valve has achieved with the Half-Life series, the human element and the character development border on being some of the greatest works of art in recent time. This, once again, proves the ‘games as art’ debate to be more valid than lacking evidence in its favour.
Yes, this game had a cast full of Disney characters. But it was also one of the last JRPGs to be released under the moniker of Squaresoft before it became Square Enix. This game did two things for me simultaneously. It married JRPG mechanics with the many different worlds within the Disney universe. It was also quite challenging. I spent many hours on this game. This was my childhood and my high school years wrapped in one game, and it was choc-full of Disney and Final Fantasy characters. It was schizophrenic in a way. Disney was never so mature, and it was a memorable experience. This game made me look back at my childhood experience of Disney, which was a major component of my childhood, with new eyes as the characters and worlds I perceived as wonderful, were revealed to have mature and darker elements.
Bioshock was Ken Levine’s greatest work at that point in his career. After working on System Shock 2, Bioshock took the mantle of ‘influential shooter’. The game had a dystopian world ravaged by one man’s insanity and with influences from the likes of Ayn Rand and George Orwell, this game proved that a humanities or liberal arts degree can come in handy when creating game worlds. The game dealt with moral issues, the effects of objectivism and the pursuit of one man’s ideal of utopia. Bioshock tackled human issues in a way which wasn’t common among first person shooters at that stage in time. It made you care on so many levels with a tale of mystery, intrigue and self doubt. Bioshock helped form my taste in games, and also has one of the greatest stories. This game left a great impression upon me. Also, Big Daddys are awesome.
Halo: Combat Evolved:
People will be swearing in the comments for this article because I picked a Halo game. Sorry, Halo was one of the games I played that I remember back with fondness and was one of those pivotal moments of my gaming career. It introduced me to many aspects of the console FPS scene, but also combined elements of survival horror in its second act with first person shooter mechanics in a vastly different way than previous FPS games. Master Chief was awesome and I was both impressed by his determination, and as vehicle for the player to be an amazing super soldier in battle with the Covenant. I was going to put down Halo 4 here, but Halo: Combat Evolved was the original starting point of it all, so it deserved a mention.
These are the games which have left the greatest impression and have affected my tastes as a gamer. As you can see they are as diverse as many other people would expect. I love different types of games and they are not all critically acclaimed as others. Games are not about other people’s critical view or preference for them. They are about how they affected you as an individual. The games in this list have had such a great effect on my own sense of what I love about gaming. I am so very thankful for them.