Gaming Memories: How They Saved My Life

An old friend of mine wrote a blog post recently entitled “The Importance of Escapism”, and in it he describes how gaming has helped him overcome the tragedy of his grandfather’s passing. He goes on to say that escaping to a virtual world is a form of therapy for the human psyche, much like movies, books, and TV shows. This to me is one half of the power of gaming, the other being memories.

Much as Youtube user TVandLust commented in his video “Context Matters: Evolution: The World of Sacred Device”, video games are relevant in our minds due to the environment in which they are played. And I don’t mean the physical location, more like the time in our lives and the events that surrounded them. For the gentleman above, the game Evolution is not in itself all that notable, but the fact that it helped him through a turbulent time in his teenage years makes it all the more special. I have a similar experience with several games of my own.

Final Fantasy X

This game is one of my favorites. Not just because the amazing gameplay or the gripping story, but because of the time when I played it. During 2002 & part of 2003, I was a recent newlywed facing marital troubles. My then wife and I were constantly fighting, we were living in her hometown in central Georgia that I despised, away from all friends and family, and I never felt more alone. Couple this with the fact that we lost our first child about 6 months into her pregnancy, I was probably in the worst mental shape I had ever been. This perpetual depression that I suffered from (2000-2004), finally lifted once I started dating my current girlfriend. But there was one thing in my life that did offer some respite: video games. During this time, I played Final Fantasy X. I immersed myself in the world of Spira, and as much as Tidus annoyed me, I shared in his plight of being thrusted into a foreign land against his will. And throughout the game he feels powerless: unable to go home, to save Yuna, or to defeat Sin. And that was exactly how I felt during those times: powerless and miserable. So Final Fantasy X, despite it being a blueprint for the fuckery that was to come (Exhibit A and B), it was and still is one of the most cherished games in my collection. Another reason why I preordered the PS3 remake on Amazon the instant it was available.

Final Fantasy XI

Fast forward to the later half of 2003, I was separated, had moved back to Houston to live with my parents again, and still despising my existence. Video games to the rescue again. This time it was Final Fantasy XI. At the time, I was stealing from working for Gamestop The Evil Empire, and all my coworkers and friends were playing this game to death. When we weren’t playing the game, we were at work talking about the game, or looking up strategies online and in the guide. Our coterie lived in Vana’Diel, we were the avatars we played as. For me, this carried well into the PS2 release of early 2004 up until that September when I started dating my girlfriend of now 8 years. While I could no longer devote the 60-70 hours/week to that game, it had served its purpose. The game was a bridge from the previous chapter of my life full of woes to the current one filled with happiness. Thus is why I still play the game (albeit much more casually) to this day.

Conclusion

My favorite movie quote is from The Punisher: “Good memories can save your life”. This has become my personal mantra, as I believe our memories are what make us what we are. If good and bad memories are pans of a scale, and all I had were the painful memories of my past outweighing the good, I honestly think I would’ve taken my own life by now. The good memories have saved my life, and gaming makes up a vast portion of them.

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I’m back

So i’ve been a bit neglectful of my blog lately, and I apologize for such behavior. Quite frankly I simply ran out of things to say. But now I’m back with a new domain and a lot on my mind, so stay tuned.

Oh yeah, and I’m posting this from my iPhone. Go me.

Lost Odyssey

Yesterday I picked up Lost Odyssey…. and I must say the circles around my eyes have started to grow. I could barely finish my workout this morning. I think we have a masterpiece on our hands, ladies and gentlemen.

Ok, if you’re wondering what the hell I’m talking about, here’s the details: Lost Odyssey is an traditional RPG for the Xbox 360 from Mistwalker. What is significant about Mistwalker is it is headed by none other than Final Fantasy creator/Square-Enix-slave Hironobu Sakaguchi. Also among his legion is Nobuo Uematsu, the original composer for Final Fantasy. So, with these two on board, one would expect a game that could stand toe to toe with the Final Fantasy series. Well, earlier last year, the world was hopeful with the debut of Blue Dragon. I remember I bought it the day it came out: $60 game and $20 guide. I even reserved it at Gamestop too, something I hardly ever do. I don’t think I could describe the sheer disappointment I felt within the first five minutes of playing. I felt like this was a Fischer-Price RPG. Five characters, the archenemy is a pansy old man named Nene (yes, which sounds like nay-nay), and the characters looked straight out of a Dragonball Z episode (of course, this is because the main artist was Akira Toriyama, but still). I mean hell, the main character looked like Gohan, or whatever his name is. Needless to say, I’m sure the execs at Square-Enix were laughing their asses off when they saw this game, saying “This is why we fired him”, and I was incredibly disappointed in one of my favorite storytellers of all time. So I started reading up on Lost Odyssey, story sounded interesting. So I reserved and paid it off again. And I prayed that I wouldn’t be disappointed….

…And I wasn’t. If you are an fan of Final Fantasy, you will love this game. If you are a fan of RPG’s, you will love this game. If you like stories that are moving and leave you begging for more, you will love this game. If you thought Final Fantasy XII was a disappointment in the story department, you will love this game. This game in my opinion, is what Final Fantasy XII should have been. If you’ve been living under a rock in Africa for the past few years, here’s the short edition: Lost Odyssey tells the story of a man named Kaim Argonar, who has lived for 1,000 years and has lost all his memories. He slowly begins to remember as the game progresses, and gets caught up in a political struggle in a world blessed (and scarred) by magic-powered technology.

Needless to say, it’s a pretty epic story. The battle system is pretty much traditional turn-based, not overly innovative, but who gives a shit? If you love Final Fantasy like I love Final Fantasy, you’re not overly crazed by new battle systems, it’s the story that gets you. And Lost Odyssey delivers on story, maybe even a little too much sometimes. Basically, there are parts of the game where Kaim will regain his memory in the form of dreams, which are about a 5-10 minute text read (yes I said read, hard to believe in this day and age of gaming). If you can tolerate the annoyance of having to read a chapter of text at a time, you’ll find these stories tugging at your heartstrings, as they are beautifully crafted. But aside from these drawn out reading sequences(and they are a bit frequent), this game will blow your mind. If you enjoy classic RPG style gaming, with modern technological advancements in graphics, you will love this game.