Monday, October 5, 2015

Nerd Hour: 10 Video Games That Changed My Life

Let's face it. I'm a big nerd and I love geeking out. For many years and to this day, I'm a big fan and appreciator of digital entertainment in the form of video games. So, I thought, why not write up a blog post on this? Now, chuckle as you may, I'm sure many of you will identify with the emotional content and life experience surrounding the way we spent time having fun as kids.

So, without further ado, here are...!

PS. The life lessons are at the end of the post. Feel free to skip on if its too nerdy for ya ;)

10 Video Games That Changed My Life

1. Aldo
Aldo was this ridiculous Super Mario type game which was actually ridiculously addictive. No sound. No real ending. Just changes in background and levels that were the same which got increasingly harder until you finally died with the game ending. It was the closest thing to Nintendo I could get my hands on waaaaay back in the day which meant Aldo was my first at home video game experience.

Captain Comic was definitely a level up from Aldo. However, it was such a hard game! It was truly linear and you could only beat it by going through the world in a step by step fashion. Without doing it in exactly such a way, you wouldn't have the inventory, tools, and weapons required to beat the game and would die very quickly. It took me ages to beat this game. And, a few years back, I tried to play this game again. Suffice to say, it was just as hard as it was when I was a kid.

Commander Keen was the hero alias for kid genius Billy Blaze. He was thought by some to be the grandson of the hero in Castle Wolfenstein. Whatever the case, this kiddo wearing a purple shirt, blue jeans, and a Green Bay Packers football helmet goes on the save the galaxy a number of times over. I was such a nerd I ended up finding the secret island with the Vorticon Alphabet.

4. Warcraft 2
For many, WC2 doesn't need any introduction. I found my first RTS experience here with Warcraft 2 and played this for hours during my early teen years. I even went onto a local college campus for a LAN battle before I could drive, just to get a good feel for what real multiplayer RTS was all about. There were many great memories with this game, especially with the crafting of my own missions in the map editor.

5. Starcraft (original)
SC is another game that doesn't really need any introduction. It was a game play that was still good over 10 years later. Some even argue the original game play remains superior to StarCraft 2. Regardless of how it all pans out, I remember many great hours of Starcraft both in high school and in college. No wait... I even played this with modified maps on Battle Net during the months when I met my wife. Yeah... good times.

6. Rainbow Six (and series)
Rainbow Six was one of the first 1st Person Shooter games which involved a fair amount of realism by which players couldn't run around and Rambo the levels. Doing so would mean immediate failure. I loved this game because of the tactical planning required during the campaign. Online play was a lot of fun as well as it was so easy to dominate with grenades and having a keen sense of surroundings. Either people never played paintball before or just appeared to tunnel vision when playing multiplayer. For me, it only meant an easy win with the heartbeat sensor. Years later, I would go on to play many of the Rainbow Six games. Even just as recently, it actually remains a favorite game between my wife and I. Just remember to pie your corners ;)

7. Counter Strike
Counter Strike was my game of choice between my senior year of high school and college. I got way too good at this game to which I was even invited out to a west coast LAN tournament. Of course, I was too young to go and wouldn't have been allowed to. It was also one of the first games to teach me a lesson. It pays to win because the more you win, the more money you get and the more weapons you could buy. So, just keep winning and you won't ever lose!

8. Halo
Halo and the Halo series basically changed 1st person games forever. For me, it turned into a guys night activity into a true interest in digging deeper into the stories of game play. I feel, especially with Halo 4, that the franchise did an excellent job of creating a deeper story while leaving plenty of gaps to fill for future games. After all, Halo Reach came about just because of one sentence in the opening scene of the first Halo game.

9. Rome: Total War
Alright, we're about to get hardcore. Rome: Total War was my first experience with the Total War series. It was also an excellent play as it dealt with historical battles of the ancient times along with the history, geography, and even some cultural contexts. Believe it or not, I actually learned a lot about history by playing this game. I got so into the game play that I started digging into the code and text files to see what I could do to optimize the play for myself. This included customized characters and army units which, personally, felt more accurate what we know of history.

10. Chrono Trigger
Finally, Chrono Trigger. This game is a game I played to death. I got every ending and every sequence and every level up I could. All my characters became truly maxed out to which I still need to dig back to see how many hours of game play this actually took. What was really fun about this game beyond the conceptual genius of it all was the story about a young group of people trying to save the world as they know it. Later, I would tell my wife about one of the healing spells called "Aura Whirl." It became a thing in our early marriage times; I told her that I'm the tank, you're my healer. I need you to stay strong.
The spell is basically a duo combo where the tank character is charged up by the healer and then everyone in the group gets healed. She thought it was romantic when I showed it to her =)

And, apparently, there's a lot to be said about guys asking girls to play games with... I'll agree!

Honorable Mentions include:
-Empire: Total War
-Earthbound (SNES)
-Final Fantasy(s) - 2, 3[6], 7
-Mario 64
-Original Mario
-Super Mario 3 
-Duck Hunt (never shoot your buddy, he'll only laugh at you for trying)
-Zelda (some puzzles in life are meant to be solved by the book)

And, a final uncategorizable honor to:
-The Lego Games including that of Star Wars, Pirates, Lord of the Rings, Marvel Superheroes, and Jurassic Park.... for the simple reason that my wife and I have played way too many hours of these together to even begin to discuss the significance. Suffice to say, if one player wins, we both win.

The Life Lessons I Learned:
  • Life is ultimately like an RPG. So, it is your choice to make your life the best character you can. You can be your own hero, your ultimate fantasy if you make that choice to grind XP.
  • Duck Hunt taught me to never shoot at your buddy. He's there to help you and he'll only end up laughing at you for trying.
  • Zelda taught me that to solve certain puzzles in life, you simply NEED the book.
  • Super Mario 3 taught me that sometimes, sitting back and playing a musical instrument is the best strategy.
  • 1st Person games taught me to keep my head on a swivel and pie my corners.
  • RTS taught me that the devil is in the details; strategy is great, but to get to strategy, you need tactics.
  • Finally, the retro games taught me that it doesn't have to be the most complex game to be the best. Personally, I miss the old stuff... there was so much intellect behind it. The game was driven by the play, not the graphics.


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