The Monday ‘Joe: A Few of Our Favorite Things

The Monday 'Joe

Mondays are usually slow for news as people start to stir for the coming week. Therefore, every Monday, we will address one topic to start the week and get discussion flowing. It stimulates the week like a cup of coffee, hence the title.

After spending a few weeks taking a cautionary eye on the state of the industry, this week’s question brings us back to thinking about games as gamers. A whole generation has been defined by the existence of video games in the past few decades, and we here at Gaming Bus are part of that generation. In light of the advances in technology—but more importantly, the memories and experiences—we have this week’s question:

What are your three most favorite things about video games?

Mohammed Al Saadoon: I’ve thought long and hard about this, but I couldn’t really get an answer.

I mean, I play a lot of RPGs, so I like interactive storytelling, right? Well, I also like games with either no story or a flimsy one that serves as an excuse for the action like World of Tanks, Team Fortress 2 (though this eventually developed a complex back story), and pretty much every platformer and sports game ever made.

Do I like video game music? Well, yeah. Metroid Prime and Metal Gear Solid have some of the best music I’ve ever heard, but that’s not really a prerequisite for a great game in any way.

What about the gameplay? Much more interactive than movies, right? Well, I’m a huge fan of point-and-click adventure games as well as some visual novels, neither of which offer much in the way of interactivity.

So in the end, I have no fucking clue what I like about video games. I play them because they’re fun and I’m a lazy ass who wants to do amazing things while kicking back and relaxing in my bedroom like some sort of crazed hermit or monk. In the the end, though, does it really matter why we like video games as long as we enjoy playing them?

Joshua Moore: One of the areas of greatest change in video games would be soundtracks. Some games have always had good soundtracks; classical Mega Man games come to mind. But with the advancement in technology, full-scale orchestral soundtracks became possible. Video game soundtracks are one of my most favorite things because they’re inspired by something and have great sound and direction because of it. It’s only been in recent years that they’ve been recognized as actual works of art, despite the fact that some composers did a fantastic job of getting the best out of chiptunes in decades past. Some of my favorite soundtracks come from Zelda, Metroid, Final Fantasy, Guilty Gear, and BlazBlue.

Another of my favorite things about video games is that they provide a challenge. Now, games in recent years are far easier than their older counterparts. When I was a kid, games had to be difficult because they didn’t have a whole lot of content. In order to keep someone occupied with a game for a long time, it either had to have specialized things that unlock when you beat the game; or they had to make the game very difficult to beat, thereby lengthening the time a gamer spent on that one game. In today’s day and age, a developer can crap out a sixty-hour game, and it’s allowed to be easy to beat simply because they want people to enjoy those sixty hours. Occasionally, we see throwbacks to NES-era games, and I really enjoy those—but what really gets me going is a new-style game with some difficulty to it. It’s the reason I play games like Shin Megami Tensei and its various offshoots: they’re not easy and therefore provide the challenge that I seek.

Finally, the last thing I enjoy about video games would be the interactivity. While some games such as Xenosaga feel like a movie with a game added to it, video games on the whole tend to be much more interactive than movies or TV shows. Even in the visual novel genre, you’re actively making decisions that ultimately decide the ending you receive. Video games make you think, whether they be visual novels or puzzle games, and I really believe that was an important part of my childhood. I’d wager that raising a child by providing them with games for entertainment is much, much better than letting them veg-out on cartoons all day.

Nathan Wood: Right now, my most favorite thing about gaming is the social aspect of it. If you had asked me this a month or so ago, this wouldn’t have been on the list at all. However, after recently opening up and being welcomed into an online community with members that genuinely like each other, I’m no longer sure how I’ve lasted so long without this. One of my most memorable moments have come with friends enjoying the game with me. The ability to enjoy a similar hobby with somebody from the other side of the world is still mind-boggling to me to this day.

I enjoy a good story in any medium, but this is especially true of those in games as of late. As developers continue to advance in this department and create more believable worlds, characters, and interactions between them, I can only see the quality improving as time goes on. Interactivity is something gaming has in its back pocket, and utilizing this to its full potential can bring a sense of immersion and connectivity between character and player that films simply can’t replicate.

Lastly, the ability to simply do things that aren’t possible in the real world was one of the biggest draws into the world of gaming when I was child, and it still is. To be able to play a badass space marine or a skilled ancient assassin, a war hero or a newly developed superhero with the simple change of a disc, was tantalizing for a younger version of me. Although that sense of wonder is slowly disappearing as I grow older, games that are truly great and offer an opportunity for me to experience something I’ve always imagined doing still fills me full of stupefaction and astonishment.

Aileen Coe: One thing I enjoy about video games is the music. The right music can enhance the mood of a scene and generally makes navigating the game’s world more enjoyable. A good portion of my music collection consists of video game soundtracks. Highlights include both Chrono games, especially Cross; Ys, where Felghana‘s my personal favorite; Final Fantasy (ditto VI‘s), and anything by Yoko Shinomura.

Another aspect I enjoy would be escapism. I play games as a way to decompress from various life stresses, and being able to immerse myself in another world for a time helps towards that end. Pulling off feats that wouldn’t be possible in real life contributes to that as well because performing them leads to a sense of accomplishment that one would be hard-pressed to find elsewhere.

Story would be a third aspect. I know some peope might react by saying, “Read a book if you want story,” and while that point has its merits, video games can provide a different way of telling stories through their interactivity. Story-heavy games like Trails in the Sky lets you actively explore the world and learn about the lore by walking around talking to people and helping them with requests. Games like 999, Cing’s games, and the Ace Attorney series incorporated the DS’s dual screens effectively into the gameplay, and they played a role in the big twist in 999. Visual novels are essentially like interactive books with images and sound, as well as the ability to influence the direction in which the plot goes with choices.

Mel Ngai: It’s hard to narrow down just three specific things I really enjoy about video games, but I did think of them.

For one, I have a strong fondness for local multiplayer. I remember one Christmas morning as a little kid when, after many tries and lost lives, my brother and I saw Robotnik’s giant robot fall to pieces and cheered as the ending of Sonic 2 played out on our TV screen. The strength of that memory has stayed with me ever since, and it’s the reason I keep searching for ways to enjoy a game with someone even if all I’m doing is watching the other person play.

Second, though related to the first, I remember seeing the words Fire Emblem associated with a certain redhead with a fire sword in one particular mascot fighter. Out of sheer curiosity, I looked up what they were and found not only answers, but also a game series I grew to enjoy and a handful of friends with whom I still communicate to this day. I would never have met some of the people I know today if it weren’t for video games—though things like the Internet certainly help in regards to easing long-distance communication.

And third, whenever I feel particularly down, I remember all the variations I’ve seen of the save-the-world plot in numerous video games and how they’ve been indirectly telling me I can keep going. Whether I’m a small blue hedgehog facing huge robots, a pink happy face with stubby hands and feet against a penguin with a hammer, the general of an army about to engage a much larger force, or the leader of a party of adventurers facing an eldritch abomination called the Profound Darkness, I can keep going no matter what shape I’m in or how tough the obstacles are ahead. Put more simply, video games are a source of inspiration for me, whether that be on a creative front or as just a reprieve from whatever has me down.

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About M. Ngai