This was going to be a bit of an amble about how various games have marked key points in my life...a bit of nostalgia brought about by playing the Final Fantasy VII Remake (a mere 21 years after playing the original), however as part of the research for that I came across something really quite fascinating.
Guild Wars is still running, and I've managed to recover my account. In the space of a year I put (according to the /age command) 1,355 hours of play into the game across several characters (though mainly my monk, necromancer and elementalist). I was 29 (the year 2005), I'd had a bit of a rough year, and needed something to take my mind off life. Come my 30th birthday I decided to sort myself out and pretty much shelved the game
Anyone fancy a get-together and a run at "The Villainy of Galrath" for old times sake? I literally have no memory about how to play, but it can't be that hard, surely? I remember a bonder monk being super-powerful if you did everything exactly the right way, and that looks like the build I had on my character when I stopped playing.
To get access I needed to re-activate my ArenaNet account, then download the client (which didn't take long...hasn't broadband changed!) and then remember a characters name. It runs on the modern-day equivalent of a calculator (I have it running on integrated graphics on my laptop).
Anyhow, back to the subject. The year is 1998, and I've just moved into my hovel in Lorne Street (opposite the dealers). I'd put nearly all my money into a deposit on the flat, and really didn't have much to do. I was a member of 3 or 4 roleplay groups across the week, I was (obviously) going to Valbonnes and the old TUC at the weekend, and during the week I was playing Playstation games on a 14" portable CRT (not that I knew what a CRT was back then)...sitting on an Argos beanbag in the middle of the living room surrounded by cups and plates. I can only remember 2 of those games now, looking back.
- Metal Gear Solid - a game I polished off in a weekend
- Final Fantasy 7 - a game I played through 3 times, each play-through taking over a hundred hours.
I'd never been hooked by a game that much previously. Prior to the Playstation I had been a child of the Sega...I had a Master System (saved up for via a paper-round, birthday present money and the like) and a Mega-Drive (which I sold the Master System and every game I had to get). Fare like Sonic the Hedgehog, R-Type, Road Rash, Outrun, and California Games were my go-tos...lots of hours, but not really any story or plot. One game on the MegaDrive I played a lot was Herzog Zwei, effectively the precursor to Dune and Command & Conquer (and I'm still waiting on the Sega Ages Switch release for it!).
The remake of FFVII hit some real nostalgia notes. If you've never played the original, there are a number of famous scenes (views of Midgar, jumping off the train, monsters, fights etc), and they are all handled really well in what is frankly a beautiful game. I've watched the CG films for Final Fantasy (Spirits within and Advent Children), and the game is up there with them. The occasionally use FMV cut-scenes, but really the only way you can tell is by equipment changes in your party...the transitions are flawless. It took me ~30 hours to get through the Remake (part 1 of x...probably 4 I reckon), and it's a great homage. It's a different game, certainly, but it's FFVII through and through. Having the characters talk made a big difference, and the story has been fleshed out...especially some of the lesser characters such as members of the eco-terrorist organisation Avalanche.
So it got me thinking, what other games have defined periods of my life?
- Pre-uni - Master System and Megadrive - Sonic the Hedgehog, Herzog Zwei
- University - MegaDrive - MicroMachines, NHL Ice Hockey (both got a lot of multiplayer action in halls)
- Reading (Lorne Street) - Playstation - Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy VII
- Reading (Highmead) - PC - Unreal Tournament, Counter Strike
- Reading (Glenrosa) - PC - Final Fantasy X, Guild Wars, Counter Strike (I don't remember owning a PS2, but I do remember playing FFX, so must have had one!)
- Reading (Burghfield) - PC, Wii and Xbox 360 - Fable 2, Torchlight 2, Supreme Commander 2, Bomberman (pre-board games sessions)
- Reading (Woodley) - PS4 and Switch - Final Fantasy XV, Last Guardian, Final Fantasy VII, Slay the Spire
- Stag-Do - Switch - Mario Kart (seriously, a lot of Mario Kart)
My PC phase was very much focused on when I was living in shared houses, with easy gaming partners on tap (I still remember the trip-hazards of Highmead, and the regular enjoyment of panic upgrades just before a 'Con). Apart from Counterstrike and UT there is very little "real" 3D gaming in there (and of those 2 games, if you removed DE_DUST and DECK I'd probably struggle to remember any maps at all). I've always gravitated back to consoles, and I still think sofa + controller is the defacto way to play a game to enjoy it. I've accepted that my right-thumb will never let me play FPS games on a console, but I trend to play slower-paced games now. I've tried stuff like Apex Legends, and I simply don't have the fast-twitch responses needed, and modern games times-to-kill are much shorter than the good old days.