Harry Wolff

You can't escape my laugh.

Video Games

There was a time in my life when I was constantly playing video games. It started when I was near six years old and introduced to my first video game, 'Bubble-Bobble'. It was a simple Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) game, with simple mechanics and addictive gameplay. You lived your life as a little square monster who projected bubbles at enemies, trapping them inside the bubbles, which then allowed you to jump on top of the bubbled monster to bounce them off the screen and conquer the level.

From there my gaming career took off. I have fond memories playing the original Mario Bros. games on NES. I'd play with my brothers, us taking turns when our character died. Being the eldest I'd occasionally skip the turns of my brothers when the excitement got too great to share.

There's memories of playing the original F-Zero game on SNES, with gameplay that was incredibly fun but with mechanics that weren't completely intuitive. The physics engine seemed to shift at will, increasing intensity while in a turn and then become cock-eyed while on a straight-away. This resulted in races where more time was spent in the racetrack's gutter than completing a lap. Nonetheless the game was sound and I spent many days with friends conquering different levels.

When the Nintendo 64 came out my excitement for video games was at its apex. With my birthday approaching and the N64's launch coming I didn't have a second thought when I made the N64 my birthday present that year, pushing my mother to allow me to get the console the day it was released - school be damned. The funny thing about when we went to pick-up the console on launch day (I had of course already reserved it) was when we came out of our local KB Toys store a parade had appeared out of nowhere on the street, blocking us in and preventing my mother from getting home to take care of my brothers. To say she was dis-pleased would be an understatement. All I could do at that point was hide my bursting joy at having my prized toy in my arms.

The years of the N64 were most formative for me. I have very great memories of playing and conquering Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3. For about a month straight my friends would come over to my house after school and we'd play for no less than two hours a day. We even took pictures of ourselves posing in front of our high scores. Sure we were geeks, but we were highly skilled Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3 geeks.

Super Mario World 64 came out. A single-player platformer, epic for its time, that set my friends and I racing to see who could conquer the next world first. Each morning at school we'd compare notes and brag about who was closer to winning. When one of us became the first to conquer the game I lost most of my interest in playing. Playing for fun is ok, but winning is far better - especially when it comes to video games.

Around this time I took up gaming on the computer. My introduction to the world of PC gaming was Blizzard's original Starcraft, a game I first saw at a friend's house whose rules and graphics left me completely dumbfounded. I couldn't understand how anyone could remember what everything did and how they could all work together to conquer the opponent. Besides its rules the pace at which Starcraft was played started at quick and accelerated to instantaneous. For a month after my first encounter with Starcraft I stayed away, scared by its depth and complexity. After a month my curiosity got the better of me and I entered into the world of Starcraft and PC gaming.

However console gaming was always where my heart belonged. I was a Nintendo kid through-and-through. I dabbled with Dreamcast during high school, coercing my brother he wanted it as his birthday present. Playing Sonic was a completely different experience than what I had been used to. While I had grown used to seeing Mario yelp and do back-flips, Sonic put his head down and ran. That little hedgehog ran so fast it made my eyes start to go cross-eyed.

Near the end of the Nintendo 64's life I could see my interest in video games start to wane. Sure, I was excited about the upcoming Nintendo console - the Wii - but my excitement wasn't anywhere near as great as it had been with the N64. Dutifully I followed all the pre-release news, gathering the pockets of news as they were released. When the console finally came out I entered into the buying fray, fighting to own one of the consoles that were in such short supply.

I played the Wii for a good year and a half. I brought it with me as I entered college and used it as an easy way to make friends. I remember the fears that a Wii-controllers could slip out of your hand and fly into your TV. I constantly reminded my friends to make sure the wrist strap was on and secure - I didn't want my TV to be broken by a stray Wii-controller.

Come sophomore year of college my interest in video games took a noticeably sharp decline. There were no games coming out on the Wii console that grabbed my interest. I was bored with video games and I was ok with it.

For three years I remained bored with video games. Occasionally I dabbled with emulators and played some of my old favorite games like Zelda: A Link to the Past or Mario RPG. Ultimately those efforts to reignite my interest failed.

The first sign of renewed interest in video games was after I purchased the first iPad. Although my original intention was to surf the internet from my couch, at the urging of a friend I purchased Angry Birds for the iPad and remembered all the old reasons why I loved video games.

I love video games for their ingenious albeit simple gameplay. Lush graphics and complicated controls leave me cold but when I'm put in front of a game that has a simple objective and easy to understand controls I find myself completely hooked. Angry Birds is simple to play and understand, however the skill required to conquer each stage is variable and hugely engaging such that I find myself helpless to stay away.

I am now in the era of iPhone gaming. A phone has replaced my favorite consoles of yesterday. The graphics aren't as good nor the controller as easy to hold, but the games themselves are so simple and addictive that they hook themselves directly into my gaming persona, pulling it out of its reclusive state to enjoy video games just as it remembered.

Were I to tell my five-year-old self that in twenty years I'd be hooked playing games on my phone he'd scoff. Images of grayscale Snake would flash in front of his eyes as he returned himself to capturing enemies in bubbles. I'd sit there watching him play, comparing the NES game to my iPhone games. I'd smile and realize that the two aren't very different at all. The only thing that had changed was me.