One Small Step
My main mode of entertainment when I was younger was word based. Books, comics, philosophical rhetoric, eavesdropping, these were my methods of glimpsing life as it could be. I would sit and read or listen to a story, imagining the movement of the characters in my head, their thoughts were my thoughts, their heroic actions were my heroic actions, their failure was my failure, and when I had the chance to be alone (which was often) I played out these fantasies on paper as best I could.
Then came thanksgiving 2001, a holiday that will forever live in infamy (in my mind anyway). It seems as though fate had a plan for me this weekend as I crept away from the growing pandemonium that is my families post dinner time conversation (and post lions game/way too much beer) and crept down the stairs to the dark, quiet basement. In the corner a faint light glimmered through the shadows, as I drew closer, the words "Halo: Combat Evolved" engulfed me in their glory, I picked up the controller that sat on the coffee table (yea, it was one of the fat boys, such a terrible design Microsoft, tsk, tsk), hit the start button, and began a journey that turned into an obsession,that turned into a title, that turned into a way of life.
Only books have ever captured my imagination the way video games do today. There just isn't another form of expression that engulfs you so thoroughly in the experience of human imagination like video games. That's why March 16th, 2012 was such an important date for gamers. This past Friday, the Smithsonian opened their "The Art of Video Games" exhibit, solidifying video game development as a true art form in the minds of many, something that we gamers have held as law for many a year.
I won't detail out the whole exhibit, as a blog entry wouldn't even begin to do it justice, but I can tell you the games they have on interactive display that mark certain turning points in design.
What a universal juggernaut did that little yellow cracked circle become. Anyone can scoff at video games as a waste of valuable time, but even the largest detractors have spent quarters at a pizza joint, jamming on a red joystick, trying to avoid those pesky ghosts, reveling in the glorious moments when you get to play the hunter, gobbling up your would be conquerors.
Super Mario Bros.
Super Mario Bros. represents the same type of influence that the Beatles had on rock and roll, and the music fans mind for that matter. You may not be able to jump on board with being a Mario fan, but you cannot look of the body of work that the game has garnered without bowing down in respect and awe.
The Secret of Monkey Island
George Lucas' foray into the video game world is a milestone in story telling. The graphics were bright, not exceptionally groundbreaking, but when coupled with the mystery that permeated every action, the visuals became part of the addiction. Never have I sat down to an old game and been completely hooked after only a couple minutes like I was with Monkey Island...damn you George Lucas and your addictive fiction.
A personal favorite of mine, Myst was a game driven completely my beautiful imagery. Each and every point of the game was gorgeous 3d imagery where you had to choose which direction to take the story. There wasn't a large amount of animation, just breathtaking, sweeping vistas and haunting, dark landscapes that entered you into a world you had only ever dreamed of.
Flower is an amazing, and relatively simple game idea that was released on the PS3 a couple years ago. Basically, you take your PS3 controller, which is motion sensitive, and guide a flower petal through a bleak landscape, collecting more flower petals as you go. As your cacophony of flowery goodness spreads across the world, the colors become more saturated and the environment begins to wake up. Such an immersive, and frankly, addictive experience.
For more info on the Smithsonian exhibit, check out their site.