As I see it, gaming as we know it has gone through several eras, or phases if you will. While you can measure gaming by it’s console generation (with PS4/X1/WiiU being the eighth generation), it doesn’t really encapsulate the zeitgeist of the gaming scene. In an hour of boredom I thought out a different way to break down the history of gaming.
I want to focus on the currently emerging era; Identity.
The previous eras I won’t go into too much detail for right now… For the most part they are pretty self-explanatory.
- Phase 0: Discovery. The proof of concept period. (Phase 0 because it’s really proto-gaming)
- Phase 1: Spectacle. Arcades, high scores, and enjoying the whiz-bang of realized concepts.
- Phase 2: Cornerstone. Challenges, narrative, and experiences unrestrained from quarter-gobbling motives.
- Phase 3: Community. Online, social, and direct competition. The experience is focused on interactions with other players now.
- Phase 4: Identity. Questioning who you are, your view of the world, your place in it, and your role as a player.
“No Nintendo console is allowed in my house. They don’t know what they’re doing with that thing.”
Late last year that was the thought my wife had when I was getting intrigued by Nintendo’s latest console. I couldn’t really argue her point. Nintendo didn’t seem like it knew what to do with the GamePad or how to organize an online infrastructure still. Third parties are scared to invest in Wii U support with the disparity between it and the PS4/X1. Yet, Wind Waker HD had a limited edition bundle and with Super Mario 3D World on the way it had finally started to become something I was interested in. Everyone knows Nintendo’s strength is in it’s first party titles and they were starting to seriously roll them out. Shiny games were enticing me. Fast forward to Sunday night as she and I were driving home from Toys R Us with this in the back seat.
The Legend of Zelda. It’s a franchise that has been around for a lifetime and is one of the primary reasons to purchase a Nintendo console for most. I’ve played quite a bit of the franchise including the original release on NES at some point. I was a kid then so don’t remember too much. Just exploring dungeons, a huge overworld map that was confusing at times. Lots of secrets and frustratingly hard enemy encounters at times. I know I played through the first dungeon at least because I remember fighting a dragon and getting a piece of the Triforce. At the time I don’t think I could have appreciated it for what it was. Looking back 27 years after it released in NA though I can confidently say this is one of the best games I’ve played this year. You can keep your 1080p‘s, they have nothing on Hyrule in it’s original form.
Currently I’m nearing the end of Final Fantasy 4, a game originally released in the US in 1991 as Final Fantasy 2 on SNES. When I was a kid I played it a bit later, I think in late ’92. I owned a Konami title called Gradius 3 that I loved and traded a friend for FF2. I was like 8 years old and had no experience with the fantasy genre outside of LoZ: Link to the Past and had no idea what an RPG was. So booting it up I saw a few saves with a roster of characters. Later I’d know them as monks, paladins, and wizards. One of which was the original moon wizard.
Gaming is an odd duck sometimes. You see a game being played and think that it’d be a boring ride. Why bother spending hours playing some derivative throwback when there are tons of new games you haven’t experienced anything like them before? In this case, why play Mutant Mudds over Towerfall: Ascension or Final Fantasy 14? Somehow that “12-bit” platformer built to utilize the 3D effect of the 3DS just went from zero interest to all trophies earned inside of five sittings for me, and I’m not even sure if I enjoyed it?
Currently bouncing between a series of RPGs… Mass Effect, Persona 4 Golden, and Final Fantasy 4. Even aside from the mechanical differences between WRPGs and JRPGs there is a huge rift I’m realizing. Almost all JRPGs focus on the hero as their coming of age tale. Usually from 16-21 as the main protagonist you’re discovering the world and a huge focus point is learning your place in the world. While I love JRPGs – Entertaining me for the last two decades of my life, some more variety would be nice.
Final Fantasy has been a staple for me through my life, so I decided to start by just looking at that series. Let’s look at the data from Final Fantasy 2 through the latest, Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy 13. I’ve ignored FF1 due to the player-defined nature of the characters, and for FF3 I’m using the more recent 3D recreation where the protagonists are given predetermined identities.
Going off the beaten path and abandoning games discussion for a moment, just wanted to post a chapter of some fiction I wrote on a joint project with a friend. I enjoyed writing it and felt like sharing it here. Only real missing information established in the first chapter is the boy, Drake, has been assumed dead after going missing years ago. Drake’s older sister Lerei was the point of view character in the first chapter that ended with her venturing off. The setting is a world where magic no longer exists, and exploring the reasons why it was purged as things start to change again.
“It used to seem so much darker…” he thought to himself. Small balls of faint glowing machinery lit the tunnels sporadically. Two years ago when he arrived, it seemed like swimming in the night sky on a moonless night. Curiosity got the best of him, as it always did. After climbing into the well knowing there was no way back he just kept going deeper and deeper into the darkness. Two years a lot of time to adapt though. It’s also a lot of time to change. While his tumultuous nature was something he had no intention of curbing… There was much to do and focus is required to see it through. So he was returning by the path he grew to know so well with two pails in hand.
If you identify yourself as a gamer of sorts, chances are there is something that you really can pinpoint to where it took off for you. Maybe a time period, a long-lasting franchise, or maybe a one specific game. The key thing is there was a turning point where it went from “this is kind of cool” to you thinking about the game after you were done playing it. Maybe a bit of daydreaming at work about getting back home to make the weekend raid, or passing the time in class doodling Crono, Robo, Frog, and Lucca? Did you start to worry about your villagers wondering where you have gone? Games became more than just a way to kill time. They became a hobby that you actively sought out and planned for.