Video Games

by wil — Mar 21, 2011

I was thinking about video games recently and I thought it would be fun to start by taking a look back at my personal video game history.

The Early Years

In the late-70s or early-80s, my family got an Atari console and my brothers and I played awesome games like Pong, Adventure, and Pitfall.

Adventure (if you never played Adventure, you’re the orange square and that green thing that looks like a cute seahorse is actually a terrifying dragon):


Around this same time we would beg quarters from my parents and play classic arcade games like Galaga, Pac-Man, Asteroids, Centipede, Defender, Donkey Kong, Frogger, Pole Position, Star Wars, etc.

Star Wars:

My First PC

In the late-80s I got an IBM PS/2 PC and played games like Space Quest and Bard’s Tale.

Space Quest:

Bard’s Tale:

My First “Modern” PC

In 1996, I got my first computer with a hard-drive, cd drive, and internet connection, and played games like MechWarrior 2, Baldur’s Gate, Myst, and Civilization II.

MechWarrior 2:

Baldur’s Gate:


Civilization II (my favorite turn-based strategy game of all time, I still play it occasionally):

The New Millennium

In the past decade, I’ve played several fantastic role-playing games — Fallout 3, Fallout: New Vegas, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, The Witcher, Dragon Age: Origins, and (currently) Dragon Age II — with a brief foray into MMORPGs with Dark Age of Camelot.

Fallout 3:

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

The Witcher

Dragon Age: Origins (the “spiritual successor” to Baldur’s Gate):

I tend toward immersive role-playing games (RPG) with a good storyline, and given a choice, I prefer open worlds where you can explore every nook and cranny (e.g., Fallout, Elder Scrolls) to the more limited/controlled worlds of Dragon Age, Witcher, et al. A good, modern RPG feels like a cross between the old Choose Your Own Adventure books and a movie (I particularly enjoy the movieish camera angles, cuts, and focus/depth of field techniques seen in many modern RPGs [especially notable in the Dragon Age series]).

So if you take my premise that a modern RPG is a cross between a book and a movie, and then look at the numbers — according to a 2008 Pew study, “some 53% of American adults age 18 and older play video games*” — why are video game reviews/discussions so often limited to hardcore gaming/techy sites? Why do bloggers that freely discuss movies and books so rarely discuss video games? I’m guessing the answer is multifaceted: I think there’s still a sense that video games are meant for (and played by) teenage boys (and older dudes that still live at home in their parents’ basement) — so if you play video games, yet you’re not a teenage boy or grown man-child, you might not want to associate yourself with the aforementioned groups. Also, many video games aren’t much more than simple time-wasters or basically-plotless shooters, so what’s to discuss? Plus, many video games fit into the sword-and-sorcery and/or sci-fi genres, which, let’s face it, don’t get much respect in the literary/film world either.

So, yeah, some video games are not worth discussing and there’s still a bit of a stigma attached to gaming, but the good ones are so good. We should be discussing them.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic. Do you play? What do you play? Are you hesitant to discuss video games with others? Do you think I’m a nerd and want to give me a wedgie?

* Compare this to the 2007 NEA survey, which states that “only 47% of adults read a work of literature (defined as a novel, short story, play or poem) within the past year.”

3 responses to “Video Games”

  1. Stargazer says:

    Looking at those screenshots I really start to feel old, as I only recognize the early ones as I did play them too.

    If I compare the past times regarding computer games, I really miss those days as developers really did put a lot effort in details instead of just skinning a game engine core. As the graphic wasn’t impressive at all, the game had to be.

  2. wil says:

    Hey Stargazer, thanks for stopping by. I think truly great RPG games are rare because they require so much: a strong plot; an interesting, cohesive world; great characters; great gameplay, etc. It’s tough to get all of those right in a single game.

    Regarding graphics, I actually prefer Civ II with its ’90s-era graphics to the later versions of the game. So yeah…better graphics do not necessarily equal a better game.

  3. Stargazer says:

    Design was always a good way to hide missing features