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Me & My Other Interests: Video Games

Last time I did one of these posts, I discussed all things to do with music and shed some light on things I love and how my taste in music manifested itself and has grown over the years. I thought my next post in this series should cover another great love of mine: video games. Gaming has been a central aspect to my life since a very young age. Having two parents who were keen gamers on old consoles (circa Atari and Megadrive in particular) its kind of no surprise I grew up to love them too.

My first memories of any sort of video games was the SNES and the arrival of the Playstation. I had my uncle's old Super Nintendo and my dad's old Sega Megadrive hooked up to my TV in my room at my gran's house. I can always remember playing The Lion King on the Megadrive and Donkey Kong and Street Fighter II on the SNES. Those were my first real instances of gaming that sparked an interest for me. I was always a creative kid - whether it was sitting painting or drawing, making videos with my camcorder and barbie dolls (move over Spielberg), or making up some new sports game outside which I subjected my grandma to, I was always doing something. Video games were interesting to me because they challenged you in a way that was different to all other things I liked to do. They were tough. They were frustrating. They were something that had the ability to calm and relax whilst also creating such a level of suspense and intrigue and from my first go, I was hooked.

My first game that I really loved was Broken Sword. I remember my dad letting me play this one (because he "checked" all of them first - read: played) and I've played it multiple times since. It even helped me write a couple of university assignments because it sparked my interest in the Aztecs (if I could have sourced it in my bibliography, I would have). The Sims was also something that stole my young life away and the day I got my own PC and then the expansion packs every time they came out was absolutely swell times for a young Amyleigh. But then the Playstation came out and I can remember how excited I got to go to my aunt and uncle's on the weekends. My uncle used to let me play Crash Bandicoot for hours and he had all the cheat codes scribbled down on a piece of paper so I could do any level, it was what dreams were made of. Then my dad got one and that meant life had stepped up a notch on the awesome scale because there was a Playstation. In my house.

Theme Park, Theme Hospital, Tomb Raider, and Theme Park World definitely stole most of my free time as a young kid. Suddenly games had stepped up a notch in their quality and even at my age, I knew things were getting better. I can vividly remember my dad playing a game called Final Fantasy VII and I used to watch him play it for hours. The story was fascinating. There were so many characters and monsters and weapons and amazing scenes during the battles - I knew I needed to play it. After what was probably a lot of pleading, my dad let me start playing it and he was my wing man for when the boss battles got a little too hard. Still to this day, playing through that game can bring back memories of sitting on my parents bed playing through the same scenes and still to this day, it is my absolute favourite game. I will also always revisit the Silent Hill and Resident Evil series' whenever I have that ol' faithful console plugged in. Those games were the stuff of nightmares and I swear no modern jump scare, horror genre games have a patch on them.

Then came the other consoles. I had the Game Boys and Game Boy Advance, I had the clip on light so I could play Pokémon Red in the car at night when we used to drive to pick up my mama from work (kids these days do not know the struggle of screens without backlighting), but then the Dreamcast and the Nintendo 64 came into my life. The Dreamcast will forever be one of, if not my most favourite, console ever. Controversial you say? Yeah I know, no one in their right mind would say the Dreamcast was *that* good, but the Dreamcast introduced me to Shenmue. Shenmue I and II are two games that will always be in my top favourites. They were the first RPG's I played that truly felt like you were playing through a movie and obviously I wasn't the only person to think this - when they released Shenmue II on Xbox, the game came with a DVD feature length film edition of the playable game - those guys knew what was up. Those games are responsible for that bold statement and I can't bloody wait for Shenmue III to finally happen.

My Nintendo 64 was something special too - I still have my special edition Pikachu version with the light up cheeks to let you know it's turned on. What a present that was. Pokémon Snap! and Banjo & Kazooie were my favourites on there, but I also spent many hours on Super Mario 64, Legend of Zelda - Ocarina of Time, and a dirt bike racing game that I can never remember the name of. Then the next big thing in my life was the PS2. Having played through FFVII, FFVIII, and FFIX, I suddenly had a shiny new console with a shiny new Final Fantasy to play. FFX stole my heart. I am currently playing through it for the 8th time now that it is a remastered HD game for the PS4, but this game blew every game out of the water. Suddenly I had my beloved Final Fantasy but with amazing graphics and movie-worthy cut scenes - it was heaven. I thought things couldn't get any better, but then along came Kingdom Hearts and I totally lost my shit. Disney? And Final Fantasy? In one game? As clear as day I can still remember sitting in my dad's swanky swivel/recliner/ultimate bachelor gaming chair with my feet up on the foot stool as the opening cut scene started on this game and I fell in love there and then.

Then the original Xbox came along and I played everything from Driver-style car chase/gangster games to Dead or Alive Beach Volleyball (I fully realise this game was intended for perverts now, but for a 13 year old girl, dressing up your own character in cute bikinis and making sure she got a tan was pretty great okay?). But it wasn't until the Xbox 360 came into my life that I properly fell in love with a few new games again. The Xbox 360 saw Bioware come into my life. The Dragon Age and Mass Effect series have stolen so so so many hours of my life and I'm not the least bit mad. They're games that I still routinely play through whenever I have the chance because I love them *that* much. Mass Effect 2 in particular is just one of my all-time favourites and I just can't contain my excitement for the new Mass Effect: Andromeda to finally drop. Another game I particularly enjoyed on this console was BioShock Infinite. This game just felt so nice to play despite the storyline of it. Is it possible for such a bizarre game to make you feel nostalgic? Because that is the effect it has on me. The Fable games were also winners for me, as were the Assassin Creeds.

Some of my favourites over the years include (in no particular order): Final Fantasy VII, Banjo-Kazooie, Broken Sword 1 & 2, Syberia, Grandia, Vagrant Story, Myst, Riven, American McGee's Alice, Lifesigns: Surgical Unit, Hotel Dusk: Room 215, Rule of Rose, Black & White II, Skies of Arcadia, Guild Wars, Final Fantasy IX, Road Rash, Rayman, Battletoads, Diablo III, BioShock Infinite, Harvest Moon, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy, Jet Set Radio, Final Fantasy VIII, Dragon Age, Mass Effect 2, Shenmue I & II, Dissida, Professor Layton, Okami, Lost Odyssey, Stunt Race FX, Tony Hawk's Underground 2, Kingdom Hearts I & II, SSX Tricky, Crazy Taxi, Animal Crossing, The Last Story, Driver, Persona 4, Dragon Age II, Fable I, II & III, Pokémon Snap!, The Wolf Among Us, Final Fantasy X, Silent Hill 2 & 3, Silent Hill: The Room, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles, Phantasy Star Online, Resident Evil 2 & 4, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Crash Team Racing, Valkyrie Profile, Cooking Mama, Borderlands, and so many more.

So what about now though? Well, now its PS4 domain in my household and the likes of Fallout 4, Dragon Age Inquisition, and King's Quest (shut up, it's actually a hilariously great game) have graced my playtime. The Wolf Among Us is another one worth a mention because that was just great for me. The graphic novel series it is based on, Fables, is my most favourite graphic novel series so having the opportunity to play and interact with some of my favourite characters well, there was just nothing to not love. But currently, as I haven't got a lot of free time, I'm slowly ploughing through a replay of Dragon Age Inquisition and my first trip through FFX in it's HD form. For me, gaming is such a fantastic escape. I can spend hours relaxing and exploring areas and storylines that even movies fail to tap into most of the time. I can educate myself, I can stretch my imagination, I can laugh, cry, lose my temper, and genuinely feel sorrowful all due to the brilliant array of stories and plotlines games have to offer. Sure, I'm a sucker for a really detailed RPG, but I will also play a range of other games... I just tend to like a good love story alongside my mythical creatures, magicka, and guns, that's all.

- A.
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