We all know that games can be a major time suck where you can easily spend 50+ hours completing a campaign without even realizing it. But some games require more of us, tug at our heartstrings, get in our heads to linger there for hours, days, weeks, maybe even years after the last battle is won and the credits roll. Chances are if you’ve been gaming for more than a few years, you’ve played a game like this.
This to me is one of those special things about gaming that not only sets it apart from many other hobbies, but also causes it to be scrutinized and misunderstood by those who aren’t a part of the gaming culture. Whenever I try to explain this emotional attachment to fake characters and video game OSTs, it’s always a conversation that makes me feel a little stupid, like I should be embarrassed. I’ve recently realized that these experiences are something to be cherished rather than hidden.
One of the first instances I felt this emotional attachment was when I played NHL ’94 with my dad on our Sega Genesis. Those are some of the best memories I have as a child bonding with my father. I’ve heard that you never know what your child will remember of you, it could be the smallest instance that seemed insignificant. To many, the time spent moving pixelated Red Wings and Blackhawks across a screen with a D-pad would seem unimportant, but there was just something in my brain attached that experience with my father to a feeling of pride when I beat him, happiness at spending time with him, and nostalgia years later when I found our old system and game buried in my parent’s basement.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve added more emotion-triggering games to my collection. To this day, the title screen and box art of Earthbound gives me goose bumps. The entire soundtrack to Final Fantasy IX, especially Melodies of Life, sometimes even has the power to move me to tears. And when I see Mario team up with Bowser and Geno in Super Mario RPG, I give a little smirk. I’ve since realized that these games are closely tied to not just well developed characters and story, but to moments in my life that are significant to me. The memories and thoughts of those games allow me to travel back in time to a simpler, more innocent time. It’s the same reason why people hold certain songs or movies in high regard - they remind them of a first date or dance or achievement.
So the next time you pop in your favorite cartridge just to hear the opening theme, or you go to a local used game store to peruse old PS1 artwork, do it with pride! There are people just like you out there who hold certain games in high emotional regard. For me, it’s a calling to a simpler time in my life and it’s the reason why I’ll cherish my Sega Genesis and copy of NHL ’94 forever.