There’s one thing to be said for moving home; you uncover the sins of your gaming past… as well as why you play them in the first place.
It’s a bit of a stressful time. I finally have new (appropriately modified) accommodation!
Moving home isn’t the easiest of things. I mean sure, I can’t wait to get the hell out of dodge here. It’s cold, it’s damp and every year like clockwork there’s an invasion of lovely giant house spiders, which is never good when you have some anxiety issues and wake up to find one nestled on your chin looking down at you all like, “Ohai, this may not be the time but do you have a moment to talk about that fuzzy duster thing and how it keeps sweeping away our cobwebs? Also, if you know any cute male spiders I’m TOTALLY available right now!” Some would totally go all squishy on the spiders, but I’m one of those pathetic people who was raised on Charlotte’s Web and the rhymes extolling the virtues of spiders as a species. I mean, it’s kinda true, they do eat the nasty bugs. Just… preferably not doing so on my face would be nice!
Anyway, I’m rambling. Long story short; they’re the problem of whomever moves in next. I’m free! WOO!
Packing up my consoles and my games is a ritual I was quite looking forward to. Each game I own is a memory; an adventure I had, a feeling I felt, victory and defeat all wrapped up in a plastic case and a shiny disc. You’d think that having such an outlook on video games that I’d have a fondness for each and every one that I own. But I found myself in some cases looking at the box of a game and thinking, “Why did I ever buy this?”
You can deduce that I’m a collector and a bit of a gaming hoarder when I tell you that even though my XBox 360 died nigh-on two years ago, I somehow still own a wide selection of XBox 360 games. Some of them are good – Bayonetta, although I now have that on my Wii U in glorious 60FPS so, you know, it’s good because it was my first time with Bayonetta. Some of them were a bit meh – I’ve a chequered history with Gears of War, but I do still own the trilogy for some bizarre reason.
And then there’s the crap.
The first one I giggled at was Vampire Rain. A sort of horror-stealth game, it was heavy on the cliché and light on quality. I think I one remarked that it’s amazing that nothing has yet beaten the Vampire: The Masquerade franchise, despite the notion that everyone and their mother tried at some point to ride the Twilight tsunami inland so far that it settled in little more than ruined streets. You’d think that SOMEONE would have, you know, gotten it right. But I can’t think of any good vampire games of late. I’m still somewhat bitter that Nosgoth wasn’t a proper continuation of the frankly brilliant Legacy of Kain series. But I suppose it’s difficult to top the Soul Reaver trilogy. Anyway, Vampire Rain. It wasn’t very good, it wasn’t very well-made and most people will have forgotten about it. But hey, there’s a copy of it in a box now, ready to go away and be ignored once more until the time my siblings have to clear things over my (quite literally) dead body.
I also found a copy of Golden Axe: Beast Rider. Most people would point to the recent Sonic games, or Aliens: Colonial Marines or any number of games as evidence that quality control at Sega is often quite suspect. Personally, I knew as far back as Sonic Heroes that Sega were far too eagerly exploiting their property rather than nurturing it, but Beast Rider is for me one of those unforgivable crimes against video game history. You take a well-known and much-loved series and try to shoehorn it into a genre that is usually already dominated by one or two big names. In this case, Golden Axe tried – and ultimately failed – to muscle in on the God of War attention and just fell apart in the process. Say what you will about Castlevania: Lords of Shadow (and I have!), it’s at least well constructed – even if the game itself is so by-numbers that it spectacularly fails to be exciting. Golden Axe: Beast Rider wasn’t well made. And it certainly wasn’t going to last even one round against the God of War franchise. Terrible games are hard to forgive. Bringing down the classic Golden Axe brand with it? Well, that’s just plain RUDE!
Then to add insult to injury, I dug out Shadow the Hedgehog. Just no, alright? It’s truly abominable. It’s a game we must never speak of. I will be placing it inside a lead box to ensure that its toxic evils never seep out into the world.
And the list goes on too.
Someone may comment about why I didn’t get rid of these games at the time. Which is a valid question, with an equally valid answer; most UK shops operate on quality trading, and especially my local store is very shy in taking anything that gets below a 50% Metacritic score. It’s not perhaps the most vogue of methods in gauging the saleability of a video game, but it does give shops a reasonable idea of whether or not they’re likely to receive an influx of copies of a new game. And adjust trade prices accordingly, if they even choose to take them at all. And I have an issue just sticking games into a bin; recycling, it’s important. So instead they gathered dust at the back of a cupboard, only to recently take their first gasp of fresh air in years.
I suppose that’s sometimes how people like me end up with selections of utter garbage. I have many flawed but interesting games too; The X-Files: Resist Or Serve, for example. It was a reasonably decent attempt at a survival horror, actually, and it’s a pity it didn’t get built upon. Oh well. Also, Deadly Premonition. The XBox 360 version. I don’t know if they ever actually fixed the terrible PS3 port, and it’d be a shame if your first bite of the game was that broken release. Because there’s plenty of validity.
But there were a couple of shining gems that I can only be nice about.
Digging out Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem has one more rekindled my desire to see a proper HD Remake on the Wii U. Frankly, it’d be a crime against humanity if Nintendo didn’t get their backsides into gear and do exactly this. The only criticism of the original was that compared to another horror game on the Gamecube – Resident Evil (the remake) – it lacked the same visual punch. It more than made up for it in content, and story, and characters and by just being awesome. But now might be the time to give the game the visuals that it always deserved, but never had.
And Haunting Ground. I can’t tell you how much I love Haunting Ground, and whilst Capcom are busy milking the proverbial udders from Resident Evil right now, it’s neglecting some of its finest horror content. Haunting Ground deserves a re-issue. If not an HD release in its own right. It’s a rock-solid piece of work that I still think knocks the spots off most horror games released even now. True horror is doing something terrible that you immediately regret. The conclusion of the Daniella fight is a masterclass in genuine psychological horror. There is no way you can’t feel utterly guilty for what happens. It’s shocking, it’s upsetting and it really twists the knife – we’re so used to pantomime villains that feeling empathy for a villain is a gloriously transgressive twist all on its own…
All told, I managed to fill four boxes with my games. And these go way back too; I have QuackShot (Sega Mega Drive), Goof Troop (SNES), Dynamite Headdy (Mega Drive), some Master System and NES games, a few Game Gear titles… and no, not all of them are good memories.
But most of them are.
And that’s why I play video games. I’m freaking disabled, and in fairness, there’s no real mystery left in the world today. You can’t just drop everything and go running through an undiscovered wilderness, leaping over trees and being chased by wolves. You can’t go toe-to-toe with a wrestler in a jaguar mask in real life, well – not without risking injury (and my spine is already quite damaged so nope.gif). Or brave a land forgotten by time, to free yourself from an ancient curse. You can’t be chased by zombies, or fly through the air on go-karts, or be entrusted to “save the Princess”. In video games, we can do this and so much more. It’s about imagination. And for some, liberation from a human shell that sometimes fails to co-operate with you.
Sometimes dreams turn into nightmares. It happens. And we’re all going to own a dud or two along the way. But it’s at least nice to revisit the memories we’ve made. The games are works of fiction, but how we relate and engage with them is anything but. We build ourselves new memories, powerful memories that linger long after the consoles have stopped working and the games are scuffed, scratched and a bit dusty. Sometimes, it’s nice to be reminded how much games mean to you. And the fun you’ve had along the way.
Even if the game is a bit of a failure, it’s little more than a cracked paving slab on the road to better things. And so I will pack them away. And smile. Because sometimes it’s fun to even remember how awful something was. And wonder why you spent money on it. It may not have been everything you wanted or expected, but y’know… that’s life for you. No guarantees.
Just dust yourself down and try, try, try again.