Old Ghosts, New Revelations
I believe that there is a well known consensus concerning the topic of perception: one’s perception of life’s events change as they progress in maturity. Very few adults complain about contracting cooties, a virulent plague that ravaged their childhood. Personally speaking, I can fully advocate for experience changing my perception of life. Turmoil, heartbreak, love, and other strong emotions serve to mold us into moral, independent adults that we all strive to be. Oddly, this idea about perception can easily translate into the realm of gaming: one’s thoughts and feelings about a certain game played during their childhood can gain an infinite amount of depth as the person matures.
This childhood game can vary wildly, depending on the individual’s age. For some, this game might be Super Mario Bros 3 on the NES or Goldeneye on the Nintendo 64. For those of the newer generation, the game might be Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. I personally fall in between these two time periods, with my first major gaming experience coming in 2005.
One night, my father came home quite later than usual.
“What happened?” I asked. “Were you mugged?”
“No,” he replied with a grin on his face. “Even better.”
What could be better than seeing my father robbed? Why, the unveiling of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic!
Mind you, reader, I did not share the same unbridled enthusiasm that I now possess. At the age of 7, all I understood were the very basics of life. Sleep good. Food good. School bad. Girls...starting to become good. This mentality sadly transitioned over to Knights of the Old Republic, and I only understood the bare essentials of the game’s plot: Empire bad. Republic good. Carth whiney as hell. Bastilla gorgeous as hell. Game amazing.
True, I was as clueless as Zaalbar at a barber shop when it came to understanding video games as intricate as KOTOR (acronyms are for winners). It’s a miracle that I was even able to get off of the damn training shuttle in the first place, much less make it to Taris’ Undercity.
My undoing was ultimately the combat system. I was unfamiliar with the whole turn-based/real- time hybrid, and succumbed to the Undercity Rakghouls more times than I could count on my pre-pubescent fingers. Seeing no other alternative, I tearfully gave the game back to my father, who returned it to GameStop. Determined to one day finish the game, I bided my time and made the decision to tackle it when I was older. At the age of fifteen, I repurchased the game during a Steam sale and, by God, it was well worth the wait.
You see, I might’ve liked the game as a child, but I came to love it as I matured. Never as a young boy would I notice the nuances of the game. I noticed that Carth was annoying, but I never noticed his admirable loyalty to justice. I noticed that Bastilla Shan was a hottie (as hot as polygons from 2003 could be), but I never noticed how beautifully her character was balanced. Dig beneath the surface of the game, and you’ll find an expertly crafted story filled with not only anguish and betrayal, but also hope and inspiration. I’m not sure if seven year old me could’ve handled it, but fifteen year old me had a blast.
The main point I’m trying to hammer home here is one of entitlement. You as a gamer owe it to yourself to revisit games from your childhood. By doing this, you can catch so many nuances that you may have missed earlier on. You may even progress through a part of the game that was once obscured by your- for a lack of a better term - short-sightedness. After I revisited KOTOR, I was able to breeze past the Rakghouls, unlocking parts of the game that were worth the eight year wait. I was able to meet outstanding characters, such as the witty, trigger-happy HK-47, or the senile but wise Jolee Bindo (I must admit, I was taken aback when I learned that a mother dared to name her male child Jolee. Life at the Jedi Enclave must not have been a favorable experience for Mr. Bindo). These experiences were only made possible by revisiting the game when I was competent enough to know what I was actually doing.
So, go ahead, reader. I urge you to re-download that old PC game that troubled your childhood, or replay that one level that had your number. I can almost guarantee that, with your developed perception of life’s details, you can gain a whole new understanding of your childhood games, and extract a new, rich meaning beyond your wildest dreams.