Happy New Year, LusiChampagne! As people use this time to both reflect and look forward, I start to think about how so many things rely on timing. Everything from my closest friendships to my career trajectory are based on funny timings that happen in life. This got me thinking about games – as often happens – and I begin to wonder if my favourite games would even be my favourite games if I had played them in different times and contexts.
Everybody knows that I have a giant hard-on for Flower. However, I played that game under pretty much perfect conditions. I knew practically nothing about the game, I was with my friend in the large apartment he was renting at the time, and I was playing on his 52 inch TV with an impressive sound system. I am also fairly certain that I did not own my own PS3 at the time. I had made an account and downloaded the game onto his console, so there was also the factor of being attached to my first PlayStation 3 purchase.
Obviously the content of the game played the largest factor in my love for Flower, but I do wonder if I would be less enthusiastic if I had discovered the title under different circumstances.
There is also the Uncharted series. I was at a friend’s house and he suggested I play the first game – it was the only one out at the time – and he is the type of strange guy who was alright with it when I continued to spend seven hours completing the entire game in one sitting. I had no intention of buying the game, and I am not sure that a short trial in another context would have convinced me like that spontaneous playthrough did.
The third example in this vein is a more popular title to be counted among a gamer’s favourites: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. The timing was also fortuitous in my experience with this game, although in a different way. The good timing was more related to the time in my life in which it was released. Up until that point, I had not really played many adventure games. I do not believe I had even tried Pokémon Blue yet. The closest experience I had was with Super Mario 64. My favourite part of that game was discovering new locations in Peach’s castle and not really the levels themselves. I would even start driving off course in Mario Kart 64 in an effort to try and explore a new world.
Obviously I had a thirst for exploration and adventure that had yet to be properly quenched. Ocarina of Time filled that role perfectly. The fact that the game was built around and encouraged exploration blew my mind. I could not believe that there was an entire Lost Woods in the corner of the humble village where the story began. My imagination filled to the brim with mystery and possibility for this world, even before I discovered Hyrule Field.
But what if I had played the Super Nintendo Zelda games? What if I came to the series even later? Would my appreciation still run as deep? Or was it just the perfect timing?
There are counter-examples, however. Take Ocarina of Time‘s twisted twin, Majora’s Mask. I ruined that game for myself. I loved Ocarina so much that I made sure to read every article and view every screenshot in anticipation of the sequel’s release. This was the time when good internet was a scarce resource and I remember being at an office for Bring Your Kid To Work Day and spending all eight hours watching clips for the game. This over-saturation combined with the game’s unexpected and slightly uncomfortable mechanics made my experience pretty lukewarm. The timing was not great in relation to Ocarina‘s release and the fact that I was a pre-teen with all the time in the world to spoil the game for myself.
Yet as time passed and I returned to the game, I now feel pretty strongly that it is my favourite Zelda game. It includes themes and mechanics that I am not sure Nintendo has the guts to ever display again. It is now a game that has fought against context and timing to work its way into my heart.
And there are my other favourite games that I cannot discern any good or bad context surrounding them. The first Mass Effect, Final Fantasy IX, Shadow of the Colossus, they all seem to place high on my favourites list without any stars alligning.
It just makes me wonder if there are any other games I would like more or less depending on if conditions were even slightly different. It is a bit of a futile exercise, but do you LusiYears ever participate in it? Which of your favourite games do you think have good timing to thank?