210: Memory Lane

Memory Lane

The winking-pixel simplicity of the first Street Fighter and Final Fantasy games may seem primitive compared to the elaborate production values and blockbuster status of recent installments in the series. But as Leigh Alexander recalls it, a healthy dose of imagination was all it took to fill in the gaps.

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I was not there at the start of the 8-bit era but as a child I played the original sonic and super Mario land for the game boy classic. However the first game I can remember shaping my childhood in anyway was the Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time (arguably the greatest game of all time.) Many a playground lunch time was spent recreating the earlier levels on nothing but an grey concrete and a plain green field (although this was useful for the hyrule fields sections)

But because there was not just one of us playing (which would be lonely) we had to invent new characters, new puzzles and new items so no one was left out.

Although I think it's only fair to mention the game that shaped my childhood escapades the most; Pokemon Red. I can't think of any other game better designed to capture a child's imagination. A world where ten year old's can go on adventures as long as they're aided by an amazing monster. I can still recall designed gyms, dungeons with my friends and since anyone could be a "trainer" no-one felt left out. Either now so many years latter we found ourselves for no reason making new "mon", essentially just inanimate objects we drew eyes on and added funny descriptions for them.

I was an N64 kid. I remember when I was twelve I tried to create my own zelda game. I drew up some dungeon maps and some weapons. I would have been pretty awesome but then I grew up and learned better.

this article has me confused...
in the beginning, i thought the author was trying to point out the positive aspects that gaming had on a child's imagination, and it seemed like she was going to angle towards the dumbing down and lack of ingenuity in todays gamers,
but then she turns around and switches her entire point of the article (or rather what i thought the article was going to be about) and joins the numerous journalists in their ever lasting quest to prove that video gaming is inspiring violence among kids.
The idea of the article seemed jumbled and confusing to me..

on the point of the actual article
i agree with jinoru, drawing out Legend of Zelda dungeons, new weapons and monsters filled my days.
it didnt really work with mario, which kid once to run around pretending to be a jolly fat old italian plumber :P

I can now imagine loads of kids going around playing on their older sibling's consoles and pretending to be Marcus Fenix and Dom Santiago fighting the Locust hordes.

The imaginary play would be the same, the games behind them would be different.

The floor is lava! You're not allowed to touch the floor or you'll die!

We also recreated rampart using building blocks. You get a certain amount to build your castle with, and the littlest blocks were then thrown in an attempt to knock down each other's constructions.

Good times. Love the article

Ah I remember many far off sunny lunchtimes with all of us pretending to be different game characters (mostly Nintendo's to be honest) and imagining up huge stories and adventures, I always got to be Link by being the only one with blond hair, hehe I remember we'd hum the you got the item sound doo-doo-da-da whenever I found a stick or some acorns, then I'd go off to overthrow Turok and his zombie army (I think we got that idea from confused playing of the first resident evil.)

Interesting to see video games proposed as vehicles for imagination. Everything I've read or seen suggests that kids have much less imagination now because everything is supplied to them with the story already made (and often in viewable (which is to say, passive) form). Maybe the 8 bit generation was the last to need to use imagination with games.

We "grew up with" games in the 50s and 60s, but they were paper games, Diplomacy and Stalingrad and Afrika Korps and Gettysburg and Acquire, and a little later, Dungeons and Dragons. Our toys were paper boats and planes, plastic soldiers and cars, dolls, and so on, not electronic stuff with stories built in. Imagination was definitely not optional.

Film and Television certainly didn't stifle the active imagination of kids who would have otherwise read comic books, or even plain ol' texts. I and my friends had just as much fun acting as Strider's Hiryu and/or Ninja Gaiden's Ryu as we did Ghostbusters or Ninja Turtles, which are visually much more fully realized. I don't imagine more vivid graphics and tighter narratives making a difference. Children's imaginations are impressively boundless. Did anyone see the kid who built himself a bunch of Master Chief guns to go with his costume? Fantastic.

muse-13-bliss:
this article has me confused...
in the beginning, i thought the author was trying to point out the positive aspects that gaming had on a child's imagination, and it seemed like she was going to angle towards the dumbing down and lack of ingenuity in todays gamers,
but then she turns around and switches her entire point of the article (or rather what i thought the article was going to be about) and joins the numerous journalists in their ever lasting quest to prove that video gaming is inspiring violence among kids.
The idea of the article seemed jumbled and confusing to me..

I found that as well, but not the same reasons. I found that the article was talking about how much videogames have influenced children's imaginations in the past compared to the gamers of today, and then she goes off saying that games of today are actually just as influential. Apart from that, I found the article good to read.

As for my opinion on this, the first ever console I had was an original Playstation. I got it in 2000 and I think I still have it today, I just don't play it. But it was after playing that that I got hooked on games. I would think up games (most- alright, all of them were copies of Crash Bandicoot 1, 2 and 3 with made up characters) and would run about, making sounds and actions. I think it was a bit of a sad thing for a 12 year old to do, looking back upon it now.

Anyway, the significance of me saying that is because I came from a later generation, and I can say this. Videogames do have an effect on the imagination, but it's not the videogames of today that have changed how much they effect the imagination, it's the audience they're aiming those games at. A lot of the audience of videogames during the 8-bit era were kids. Kids are a target market who would be influenced more deeply by flashing lights and weird sounds than other age groups. That's why they had such a big influence on the imagination back then. If you look at games nowadays in comparison, most of them are aimed at the young teen/ adult audience who are:

1. A more serious audience.
2. An audience who's imagination is less influenced by videogames.

The result being that they would have less influence on the imagination. Also, bear in mind that they're aiming at teens instead of children, so games would be less influential on children anyway. The only games that are influencing children and always have been influencing children, are the ones aimed at children, such as Ratchet & Clank, as you said. They're not changing how they inspire the imagination, they are just selling them nowadays to a different audience, who in turn have their imagination influenced differently.

...This article's made me sad.

I'm not even in this demographic. I started playing on the N64, and I was already relatively old. But I know exactly what you mean on this article, article author: I remember trying to turn the weird shaky things on the screen of an (emulated) Earthbound into what a real combat would look like, and to this day I try to imagine what the jumble of ASCII characters of NetHack would look like to my @ sign, especially after a particularly interesting death. (Also, I mentioned NetHack for the second time today - I might win something.)

I think modern day games don't allow that much freedom. Oh, sure, later the kid will go out and pretend to be Master Chief or whoever just like we would pretend to be, um, Contra guy. That's playing and pretending, and I doubt something could ever kill it, especially by accident. But the imagination that happens when you're playing - especially if what you're playing isn't awfully descriptive about what's actually happening - that bit is more and more pushed aside in favour of shiny graphics.

You know, maybe this thing to have better games with great stories and well-rounded characters wasn't so good an idea to begin with. The little jumbles of pixels with nonsense names of yore might have much more charm than we took them for. And the story we imagined for them was much better because it was a different story for everyone.

...Won't anyone think of the children?

Interesting read. I, however, found an angle that you didn't really approach in this article; perhaps because it wasn't your aim.

Just what about modern games makes them lack that sort of charm that causes children to look at them and decide "Hrm. I will make imaginary adventures based on character X."? Even in games that would seem more childish this sort of magical charm is gone. Psychonauts, for example, I would consider a bit of a childish game. While it's a beautifully made game, and has all sorts of good fun, it doesn't have that spark.

In fact, the only games that leave me with that sense of charm are Pikmin and Katamari Damacy. Which leads me to believe that what initiates these imagination trips are more the lack of developed characters and setting than the strength thereof. I mean, in Pikmin, for example, all you know is that you're a Spaceman whose ship crashed. In Katamari Damacy, all you know is that you need to roll up balls to make stars cause your pa accidentally ate the galaxy.

It's odd, isn't it?

I honestly think the divide between gameplay and storytelling is still wide enough that kids have gaps to fill in if they so choose while playing. And there must be some Charm to Master Chief, because just now it wasn't too tough to find a youtube video of a kid dressed as him for Halloween. And if you really think about it, the Halo story isn't too far off from the days of old. You're a super soldier who has to win the war! We talk about progress, but how much has really changed? We have mature titles, but do we even expect kids to get all whimsical and creative about Max Payne?
One problem we have is that there's nothing for us to go off of besides our personal memories, which of course we'll say was a better experience than what these kids have to work with. You know... the same things adults said of us playing them newfangled video games. When this generation of kids is older and watching their kids play HoloTekken, they'll look back fondly on the charm of 2D screens and the limitations they offered, and all the imagination they used to fill in the gaps. The more interesting question to me is what'll stop kids from doing that all together? I don't think it's happened yet.

p.s. I'm willing to wager that us talking about games aimed at our age is doing no favors, either.

Flying-Emu:
Interesting read. I, however, found an angle that you didn't really approach in this article; perhaps because it wasn't your aim.

Just what about modern games makes them lack that sort of charm that causes children to look at them and decide "Hrm. I will make imaginary adventures based on character X."? Even in games that would seem more childish this sort of magical charm is gone. Psychonauts, for example, I would consider a bit of a childish game. While it's a beautifully made game, and has all sorts of good fun, it doesn't have that spark.

In fact, the only games that leave me with that sense of charm are Pikmin and Katamari Damacy. Which leads me to believe that what initiates these imagination trips are more the lack of developed characters and setting than the strength thereof. I mean, in Pikmin, for example, all you know is that you're a Spaceman whose ship crashed. In Katamari Damacy, all you know is that you need to roll up balls to make stars cause your pa accidentally ate the galaxy.

It's odd, isn't it?

Those games have just enough character development to make you think about the characters. Once you star thinking about them, you become attached to them. You have no idea what Olimar is thinking, but you can fill in the blanks because his goals are your goals; if you succeed, he succeeds. It's the same as having a relatable character in a piece of literature, but what causes relatability is different.

This is also why you become disapointed when you ose at Tetris, because you have become attached to the game. Sure, you can always start a new game, but you put work into moving the blocks around, so you care for them.

Fugue:
The floor is lava! You're not allowed to touch the floor or you'll die!

I remember doing this. Standing on the floor was often a good way of showing just how awesome you were.

 

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