I’m about to board (another) flight to Philadelphia, this time for a wedding. I’m excited to hang out with friends that I haven’t seen in while as I sit down to write the final post in this month’s series. I’ve come to realize that, good or bad, some of the best memories of my life are from playing video games. And most of those memories had less to do with the game I was playing, and more to do with the people I was playing with.
Sometimes, it was about the journey. The game itself didn’t matter so much, it was just the fact that we had a common goal, and we were in the foxhole together.
It was about going back and forth between laughing and yelling at each other while playing Super Mario 3-D World with my wife:
It was about one of my buddies from college who wasn’t really into video games all that much, but who still agreed to play Tales of Symphonia with me and stick with it until the end, a game that easily took us over 70 hours to complete:
It was about playing Zelda with various roommates throughout the years. Some who joined in eagerly, some who I dragged kicking and screaming, and some who just wanted to watch the adventure unfold:
Other times, it was about escape. It was just about just goofing off with friends, and maybe engaging in some low-stakes competition. It was about whiling away the summers playing Monkey Ball, which sometimes looked like this:
And eventually this… a single level, sixty seconds long, which we played again and again for months until we finally beat it:
It was about playing Mario Party. It was sitting on a dirty couch in a smokey frat house sophomore year staring at flickering screen, laughing and talking until it was time for Black Hole Boogie and things got serious:The room seemed to get darker, and everything faded into the background as you focused on one, single thing: tapping “A”. Tapping “A” as fast as you possibly could. Then, after winning, taking a self-righteous victory swig of the Busch Light you’d left on the coffee table, only to spit it out because one of your idiot friends ashed his cigarette in the can thinking it was empty because you were living in a house full of animals.
Also it was about Hot Rope Jump:
But most of the time it wasn’t about the journey or the escape… but the competition.
The purity of competition when the stakes are high. And this took many forms, too numerous to mention. It started with Tetris and Pac Man, then later games like NBA Jam, Madden, Mortal Kombat, Mario Kart, Goldeneye, Command and Conquer, Age of Empires, Team Fortress, Halo, Mario Baseball, Wii Sports… the list goes on.
But for me, the pinnacle of competition had to be playing Super Smash Bros:
This wasn’t a game for me – it was a practice. I have a nemesis when it comes to this game, and I’ve literally been playing against this guy for 20 years. He always plays as Donkey Kong, and I remember being in middle school, knowing that I was going to spend the night at his house that weekend, and coming home from school and playing against 3 Level 9 Donkey Kong CPU characters at once to prepare for the day of reckoning.
It’s crazy to think how much time I spent playing all these games, especially since these days it’s tough to find any time at all. Maybe that’s a good thing – I can’t say for sure that some (or all) of my hours spent gaming wasn’t just a complete waste of time. I mean especially when I played the same games with the same people for hours on end, there had to be some diminishing returns on that.
That being said, I was a shy kid growing up. Video games were common ground. They were an excuse to get together, sometimes to talk about anything and everything, other times to talk about nothing, but regardless of what we did that time spent together was important to me. And the reality is that the people I played these games with are still some of my closest friends to this day.
This series started as a sort of love letter to video games, and I can’t do that properly without acknowledging the people I was gaming with. I’m very grateful to have spent hours of my life playing with you, with no goal in mind other than to just hang out.
Thanks for the memories – now pass the controller.