30 Days of Gratitude – Day #13, The Small Joys of Video Games


Continuing with my 30 Days of Gratitude, I am thankful for the little things that make me love video games.

Day #13 – Gamers Gonna Game, Game, Game

I have been playing computer games since before 99% of the people reading this were even born – to the point where when Nintendo launched the GameBoy in 1989 (yeah … 25 years ago!), I was enough of a gamer that my parents bought it for me to carry on airplanes on my frequent business trips.

The great thing about games is they are an interactive form of escapism, rather than the passive forms such as movies or TV. Like reading a book requires your mind to fill in the visual blanks, in games you control the action and cause the narrative to unfold.

My personal favorite games are in the RPG (role-playing game) and FPS (first-person shooter) genres, though I am pretty open to most things. Most recently I have been replaying a game called ‘Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast’ on the Mac, which is one of my favorites and gives you the great feeling of wielding a lightsaber and Force powers against the remnants of the Empire in the years following Return of the Jedi. I have also been playing two tablet ports of classic games – ‘Icewind Dale’, a combat-centric RPG on my Android tablet, and perhaps the greatest RPG ever ‘Baldur’s Gate 2’ on my iPad. Great deep complex stories and characters.

A good game needs many things working in its favor, most importantly quality gameplay and some type of ‘hook’ to keep you engaged. Games that engage you on multiple levels will be your favorites. But once you get all of that, you will find that games giving you ‘something extra’ will remain memorable for years. For me those things mostly come in two flavors: music and ‘unexpected extras’.

Unexpected Extras

Several years ago a CEO of a big game company said it was very hard to justify content that nearly ever player who made it to that point in the game wouldn’t experience. Voice acting is expensive, graphics assets are expensive, and so on. What this means in practice is that all of those little ‘Easter Eggs’ stopped showing up in games. No longer were there random dead-end paths, go-nowhere quests, fun things to overhear, and so on.

But there are still plenty of great moments in games, here are a couple:
– In Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, if you have Mission Vao and Bastilla in your party on Tatooine, and are headed out towards the desert, Mission will start bugging Bastilla about using the Force to get at others, play small tricks and so on. Bastilla says that I Jedi would never stoop to such things, but Mission persists until Bastilla shuts her down and Mission lets go with a final snipe. Moments later Mission trips and falls, Bastilla says that she should be more careful and Mission is left saying ‘hey …’! Classic moment!
– In Baldur’s Gate 2, there is a staggering amount of incidental dialogue – between members of your party (similar to above, things change depending on who is with you and where), between random characters, and between your protagonist and creatures you meet throughout. You can also ‘romance’ members of your party, which often turn into huge and sprawling quests unto themselves!
– Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines, you can switch on the radio in a number of places (and in some shops it is always on in the background). Aside from music, there is a talk show ‘The Deb of Night’ with call-ins, commercials and more!
– Throughout Jedi Knight II – especially wandering through the Cairn base or the Doomgiver ship, there are Stormtroopers having random conversations about experiences, weapon accuracy, and so on. As I have played this game dozens of times I have heard them all before, but it is fun to stop outside a door to listen before igniting the lightsaber and charging in!
– And finally, you know you are a hardcore gamer when you know this scene from Divine Divinity:

Existential skeletons? Who knew …

=Great Music

I love great music, and we know that movies can have great soundtracks … so why not games? Just as film has John Williams and Hans Zimmer and Danny Elfman, gaming has composers such as Jeremy Soule (Neverwinter Nights, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, etc) and Alexander Brandon (Deus Ex) and Matt Uelman (Diablo II) and Inon Zur (Fallout 3) and Nobuo Uematsu (Final Fantasy I – VII) and more.

I love all of those guys, but wanted to share my top game music choices … which I narrowed to only seven entries. 🙂

Divine Divinity – by composer Kirill Pokrofsky

Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines – from “The Last Round”, this is ‘Lecher Bitch’ by the Genitorturers –

Gothic 2 – by composer Kai Rosenkranz

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic – by composer Jeremy Soule

Blade of Darkness – by composer Oscar Aurajo

Baldur’s Gate 2 – by composer Michael Hoenig

Arcanum – by composer Ben Hogue

How do you feel about video games?

13 thoughts on “30 Days of Gratitude – Day #13, The Small Joys of Video Games

  1. I played the original Talengard on the Commodore 64, not much story but lots of fun. Played a lot of the ones you talk about, but primarily a RPG gamer, loved the Baldur Gate series, but I preferred Temple of Elemental Evil over Baldur’s Gate, even though BG had more depth and liked the NeverWinter Nights best of all the RPG games I have played.

    Playing Divine Divinity based on your previous ravings about how great it was (must agree with you) and just went through the cut scene you showed, I chuckled when I saw it.

    Video games can be a nice escape from the daily grind, but sometimes I might spend a little too much time playing and not doing other things I should be doing ;-). Actually I am finding that I am liking the some of the old classics compared to say a Skyrim or any of the online MMO’s.

    • LOVE ToEE … but then again, Troika is my absolute fave – Arcanum, ToEE and Vampire: Bloodlines are all in my ‘top 25 games’, all ‘flawed masterpieces’, and all have incredible replayability. Have you played Arcanum? Totally unique steampunk setting.

      NWN is funny for me – while I played Wizardry I on my Apple ][+ way back in the stone ages, I really didn’t play RPGs after ~1985 for many years. I was totally into shooters, then heard about Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic coming out … so I asked and was told that NWN would be a great game to play to get ready – and I fell in love! I love NWN2 as well.

      Also, have you checked out the GoG.com sale?

      • I started Arcanum a couple of times, but for some reason it just never held my attention??? It might now, another one to look at. Yeah, GOG.com has gotten some of my money ;-), where I got Divine Divinity and TOEE for the Mac.

      • There is a great GoG sale right now … but I have so much there that I haven’t gotten anything new 🙂

        Arcanum is very different in terms of pacing and atmosphere … not for everyone, for sure!

        I just started a replay of Neverwinter Nights … going with the Sorcerer again. (pretty much either that or Paladin)

  2. I will play video games occasionally but tend to like old school games like tetris more than anything else. Robyn is a huge gamer and loves to play, although since Ashton was born he doesn’t have much time to play anymore, but we have all the consoles at our house. I think video games can be a great escape, much like reading is for me and I encourage Robyn to take time for himself to play. I have read a lot of articles that say it helps with hand/eye coordination and problem solving skills too, which is always a plus (but everything in moderation!!) Happy Friday and have a great weekend!

    • Yeah, I had years with very little game time – and no regrets. I also had years with too much gaming, again no regrets. Now it is pretty limited, but an occasional fun distraction. Glad you guys can find some occasional time – never easy balancing everything!

  3. I also love video games, particularly RPG. Skyrim is my favorite right now. I’m on my third play-through, and it’s really interesting to see how different it can be each time. If I can ever pry myself away, I want to try some of the Assassin’s Creed games, because I feel like they’d be similarly engaging.

    • That is one of my favorite things about RPGs – replayability. I will often play games as a male and female in separate runs, because it is great in games like Baldurs Gate and Vampire: Bloodlines to see how things change based on gender.

  4. I’ve never really played video games aside from a bit of Super Mario and Duck Hunter when nintendo first came out. But I am totally addicted to games like Sudoku and Bookworm on my phone (and I used to love Tetris and Bejeweled). Do you ever play any games like that? I also totally love Sudoku and other puzzle books, and of course puzzle puzzles, as you do too I know.

    • I will play some ‘hidden object’ adventures and tower defense and racing games … and occasional stuff like Bejeweled or Sudoku or Bookworm … but not much.

      Just looked on my phone, and I have:
      – Civilization Revolution 2 (strategy game)
      – Bioshock (shooter)
      – The Quest (old school style RPG)
      – Fieldrunners 2 (tower defense)
      – Plants vs Zombies 2 (tower defense)
      – Puzzle Quest 2 (match-3 RPG)
      – Asphalt 8 (racing)
      – Modern Combat 5 (shooter)
      – Azkend 2 HD (tile matching)

      So … not as many casual games as I would have thought. 🙂

  5. Pingback: 30 Days of Gratitude Revisited | Running Around the Bend

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