Many video games tell a story. But the stories we tell about games are often very, very different.
The tales you tell and retell down the years (and decades) are more often than not those from around the game. Who you were, where you were, what you were doing and who you were doing it with.
This piece originally appeared 3/22/16.
Here are some of my favourites.
I broke two joysticks playing this game. Snapped them clean off the base. That’s how many joystick breaks it takes for me to learn a lesson. The lesson being don’t calm down, because fuck this game, just go and buy a Thrustmaster.
Sony’s PS2 Eyetoy came with this karate minigame where you actually had to punch at stuff in real life. So I was playing this game with some friends once and one of them got ambitious and tried to kick. We were drunk as hell, so of course he fell backwards and disappeared off the screen. He kept on falling and smashed his ass clean through the wall. It left a massive, perfectly ass-shaped hole.
The place we were living in was a rental, so we had to hide this at the next inspection by putting a poster over it. Problem was, the hole was so big that drafts blew through it, and when the real estate agent was walking through the living room the poster started flapping. It was some Shawshank Redemption shit.
Oh, you think this is a singleplayer game? Nope. First time I played/finished Wind Waker—which incidentally was the first time I ever actually played through a Zelda game—it was a co-operative experience, as me and two friends played the whole thing as a team, swapping controllers upon death and collaboratively banging heads to get past puzzles and dungeons.
By the time we got to the end, it fell to me to make the cutting blow. After it was made, the three of us just kind of collapsed on the couch and sat unmoving for what felt like an eternity. After a while I looked around and noticed that all three of us had gotten a little misty.
I’ve never had more fun with a Zelda game in my life, and I think part of that is because I’ve had to play every other Zelda game by myself.
I once spent a year working in the UK, and during some downtime I had my group house to myself for a week. I was broke and alone, so I spent the entire week playing Gran Turismo. And I mean the entire time; even the most ridiculous hours-long endurance events were fair game, to the point where by the end of the week—after hundreds of hours of driving—my left thumb was calloused and bleeding all over the controller, a level of physical damage I’d never done before in video games or managed since.
I suck at fighting games. Always have. But one windy morning at a local arcade, in around 1993-94, me and a friend walked in with a bag full of 20c pieces (SFII was 60c a turn in Australia in its prime), picked a character at random and just went at it. We took turns, swapping at the end of every round, and time seemed to just stand still. For one shining, miraculous day, we were world-beaters. Every manic button mash somehow ended in victory, every 50/50 collision fell in our favour. By the time Bison had been defeated, we’d probably spent around $10. But there we were. Victorious.
Having used...E. Honda.
At one point in time, I was what my parents would have classified a bright and aspiring young university student, with good grades and a decent work ethic. Then I started playing Animal Crossing on the GameCube. You can draw a line from where my grades went from A-B to C-D, and it coincides perfectly with me getting hooked on this game. One ex-housemate remembers saying goodbye to me on his way to work as I sat slouched on the couch wearing pyjamas and cradling a pint of tomato juice. He got home that afternoon to find the only thing that had changed was that the glass was empty.
Another co-op story! Truly, it’s the best way to play a video game.
I played through the original Halo’s campaign with a friend, and it was a struggle, because we both sucked at shooters on a control pad and the Flood are the worst.
But persevere we did, and we eventually made it to the frantic closing section. Despite having to repeat almost every other sequence in the game because we couldn’t stop our sorry butts from dying, we somehow bumped and stumbled our way through the final Warthog drive, making the jump clear with...00:01 left on the clock.
You know how you see professional athletes lose their shit after hitting a buzzer-beater or scoring a winning goal? The leaping, hugging and screaming coming from our living room that day is as close as I’ve ever gotten to that sensation.
What about you guys? Any memories of childhood friends/enemies? Dorm room shit fights? Special evenings with a special someone?