The story of how I left and got back into video games.
It was the winter break of 2009. I had just finished my first semester of college, when I realized that video games and I were drifting apart, and that it would probably be best if we went our separate ways.
Our relationship had started out great, like it always does. Ages 7 to 16 were a frenzied heyday of gaming for me. I spent many hot Arizona summer days inside playing the big platformers like Spyro, Crash, and Mario on the Playstation and N64. I made long car trips to grandparents more tolerable with Pokemon and Zelda on the Gameboy Color. I broadened my horizons to RPGs and Metroid with the Gamecube and Gameboy Advance, and I loved each new experience. With a move to Florida and later a move to Michigan, video games helped keep me grounded and helped keep me connected with my siblings.
With my entrance into high school and the advent of the Wii, however, things started to taper off. I still enjoyed most of the franchises I had loved as a kid, but new things started pulling me in other directions. As the years went on, my desire for deeper meaning in my media increased, and it seemed like video games were only getting more and more shallow. I found that novels, movies and visual art could explore ideas of personal identity and growing up, things very much on my mind, while video games were “growing up” by just getting more realistic in their violence, which by that point was getting distasteful to me. And while I enjoyed having the simple fun that was prevalent on the Wii, I found myself drawn to games less and less frequently. I had become forgetful, then negligent. By the time I had moved out of state for college, leaving games behind felt like a natural step by the end of 2009.
From 2009 to 2015 I did other things with my life. I earned a bachelor’s degree, I lived in a foreign country for a couple of years, I got married, and I started preparing for a master’s degree program. During that time I had infrequent run-ins with games. I completed Super Mario Galaxy 2 and the Portal games, I started but never finished Skyward Sword, and I learned to stay clear away from Metroid: Other M. I had a friend who had yearly Mario Kart and Smash Bros tournaments that I quite loved, and that essentially summed up my gaming habits. And that was okay. I had thought myself a more casual gaming person. In some of these moments I felt like getting a Wii U, but it never became more than a passing thought.
Then in late 2015, out of curiosity, I borrowed my wife’s old 3DS with her copies of Animal Crossing: New Leaf and Pokemon X. I quickly fell back in love with these franchises, and though they weren’t perfect games, they kept me happily amused in my spare time during that year. I added Pokemon Alpha Sapphire and Pokemon Moon to the mix in 2016. I loved the 3D effect in these games (more of that in another ramble), and I felt like the little device was just perfect for my in-and-out style of play with all the traveling and commuting my wife and I do.
At around the same time, some of my other friends started talking to me about indie games and recommended some to me. Eventually I got a Steam account on my laptop and dove in. Stardew Valley had all the gameplay I had loved with the Harvest Moon games, but with so much more depth to the characters and mechanics. Hyper Light Drifter had its stunning visuals, engaging combat, and mysterious story. I realized that indie games were my scene. I loved all the new ideas and new directions. I loved the new worlds and new stories. It was like indie games were made just for me, who loved the old but wanted something new.
And then the Nintendo Switch came along.
The 3DS got me playing video games again, and the indie scene got me to see games as a medium just as valid as any film or novel. But the Switch got me into being a gamer again. I got it in July of last year, and it has in a way marked my official return to gaming, what I’m calling my renaissance.
Coming back into all this as an adult, I’ve started to notice the design behind all of my favorite games, and it became really fun to analyze and pick apart what made these games so fun. I found YouTubers like Mark Brown who helped me realize that I wanted to join in on this conversation about game design.
And so now, with my master’s degree finished and a new career underway, I’m undertaking this renaissance with this blog to discuss design, review some games, and really anything else I can find to talk about. Games will never have the same priority they once had when I was a kid, but this medium is so unique in its interactivity that I feel they are important experiences to talk about.
Feel free to share your experience growing up with games in the comments. Has anyone else gotten back into games like I have, and if so, what convinced you to do it? I’m curious to hear other peoples’ stories.