Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Retro Gamer Memories #6 - Video Games + Child's Overactive Imagination = Epic Storytelling

When we last left off with Retro Gamer Memories, I spoke about how influential the Atari 2600 was in my growth as a gamer. (Link to that blog post here). How could something so simple in terms of design, have such an impact on me? And how would that change when my family decided to pick up a Nintendo Entertainment System?

Well, it definitely changed in more ways than one. But let me sidetrack a little bit, if you'd let me.
Yup that was me years ago

Originally, I had planned to write this newest post about the upgrade to the NES after our Atari 2600 met its demise. But something interesting happened that rekindled a slew of retro gamer memories of a time long since past. This past weekend, I was over at my folks place with the wife just to have dinner and as usual, bring up some childhood memories. The topic of video games came up, as it usually does, after we were discussing updates on my middle grade book. (If you don't know already, I've written a middle grade book targeting young gamers that my agent and I are just getting ready to put out on submission. You can check out what it's about at the link above for COPERNICUS NERDICUS - MG..or you can just click the link few words back)

The first thing was that apparently video games had taught me to read. My dad mentioned that I would sit and read each instruction booklet over and over before I even played the game. Odd, because I don't remember ever reading an instruction booklet, but hey at least they worked for something. Not only that, but I was forced to read when I played by myself. Most games I played always had some sort of text , and if no one was around, well, I had to figure it out. But, I'll get into how I feel about video games as a learning device in a future post. What I really wanted to talk about, was how video games kept my mind active and helped surge my creativity.

When I was a child, I had no problem entertaining myself. I wasn't one of those kids that needed constant attention. Throw me in a room by myself, with just a couple of action figures and I was set for hours. That was probably one of the reasons my parents bought me so many action figures. It shut me up and kept me busy. Too bad I opened up all the boxes on those figures, because man I would have been rich with the amount of old school TMNT figures I had.

Never did own the Technodrome

But back to video games. I'm about to admit something here that I don't believe I've ever told anyone. If you're a fellow retro gamer, and you're reading this, you may remember that most games back then were pretty short and were usually beat in a couple of hours. This is of course, if you discount RPG's. However I created the perfect solution for myself, when I wasn't able to pick up a new game. I would throw in a game I've beaten hundreds of times before, and I would make up an entirely new story.

Now some of you may not know what the heck I'm talking about. I used to think it was strange, but much like the stories I created when I played with action figures, I developed ones within the video game world too. I would create new quests, that didn't exist in the game, but in my head. You probably think I'm nuts, but as a kid with an extremely overactive imagination, this was the perfect way to kill time and get my creative juices flowing.

I remember playing Zelda for NES and developing a story line of my own within the game. I wasn't just saving Princess Zelda anymore, and defeating Gannon. No, there was a lot more going on in Hyrule for me. I would imagine that the original cave with the old man (it's dangerous to go alone), was my home and the surrounding area my own personal territory. I would imagine Link as a hunter, killing Octoroks and bringing back food for my "father". Gradually I'd spread out territory, and discover treasures in the dungeons. It would be my own version of exploration in an untamed Hyrule. I'd still go through the game normally, but I developed more of a story line myself. The goblins that gave me rupees, were actually shunned from their tribes. I made it a point to save each fairy from their lake traps, believing that Gannon had imprisoned each one. The list goes on.

Couldn't do any better than a wooden sword, old man?

I did the same with dozens of other games. It didn't matter what type of game it was either. I could do it with shooters, action games, or RPGs (although RPG's kept me busy long enough) Off the top of my head, I remember doing it for Dynowarz, TMNT, Double Dragon, and ESPECIALLY Crystalis. Although the story line for Crystalis was already amazing, I took it an extra step further. I'll even admit, this lasted well into my SNES days. Link to the Past experienced the same treatment that the original Zelda did. Maybe I was a little bit crazy, but you know what, I've always considered myself to be a storyteller. Hence the reason I'm a writer now.

If there is one game I'm looking FWD
to reviewing, it's this one
Regrettably, I don't find myself doing this anymore. With games now, they're more like movies and the stories are so involved that I wouldn't need to. But I know one thing is for sure. If I had a game like Skyrim when I was in my early gaming years, I wouldn't be able to stop playing. Perhaps that's why I enjoy games like Minecraft so much now (or any sandbox game for that matter). It allows me to tap into the depths of my imagination and bring out whole new worlds, never really intended by the game designer.

Endless Storytelling possibilities
Or maybe, I'm just nuts. You can be the judge.

If you happen to be one of those odd balls, and created your own stories within the game world, I'd love to hear them! Feel free to post about them below. And I promise, I won't call you nuts.

Rest assured, my next post will be about some of my earliest NES memories, but I just had to get this off my chest. Until next time. Keep on gaming.



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