Throughout my life, whenever I spend a good deal of time on one particular task or in one particular place, I began to notice that the memory of that place or activity would fill up with the feelings and the mood I carried with me at the time. If my mood was happy, stressed, bereaved, or just excited I noticed that any memory of the things I did then, even when wholly unrelated, would be colored by those moods. Sometimes the memory and the mood were entirely related, but often it was curiously circumstantial. Songs I happened to be listening to, maybe a particular smell, and, where the relevancy to this readership begins, videogames I was playing at the time could all be linked regardless to their relevance to my state of mind. When I think back on the games I think of as my personal favorites, I noticed that they all seemed to have been released in about a short time of five or six years. It might make sense that games in that period were of better quality, or just that they catered more to my tastes. But I began to notice that some other people’s favorite games of all time seem to be clustered into a similar time frame, but not necessarily within the same date range. Now, it is a common critique that the current state of the industry is troubled, to put it simply. And while I see no cause to disagree with that sentiment, I also believe that the more favorable times in this industry are not so much about a particular age of gaming as it is about a particular age of the players.
There was a perfect time in my life, one that I assume exists similarly in other gamer’s lives, where I had the exact right amount of free time and disposable income to enjoy games and buy new ones. I had enough money where I could get the games I really wanted, but not all of them so that the games I did own were precious, and I had enough free time where I could dedicate at least some time every day to the games I loved. I only cared about the games I owned and the games I had yet to own, and was not worried about industry scandal or deprecated business practices. This time came for me from about age twelve to eighteen, while I was still in grade school and had expansive summers to do with as I pleased. Games that came from this time period, ones that I played or were released from 2000 to 2006, all conjure deep nostalgic and pleasing memories. Just hearing the opening to Ocarina of Time is enough to give me childhood memories of Christmas.
A key ingredient to maintaining this period in my life was also how much I truly knew about games and the industry. Gaming for me never became something beyond being an interactive toy until later in life. And at that time I grew hungrier and hungrier for anything related to gaming. The early gaming news sites were where I spent most of my time on the internet, such as it was. Before then I only spent time with games others bought and only knew as much about a game as I was capable of playing on my own. At that time games held a lot of mystery to me, but I did not possess the ability to learn much more about them. Then, as I acquired that ability, I entered a place where games held a wonderful balance of intrigue and answers. Where the memories of older games, from the NES and part of the SNES eras, hold generally warm feelings of childhood, the memories of games from this later time are more closely tied to the passion and appreciation of games in themselves.
It might be little wonder to some who know me, but Sega’s Skies of Arcadia Legends falls firmly within this personal greatest age of gaming. And while that game is important to me for all the things it did, I think it is also immensely important for all the things it set in motion for me as a gamer. After that, and other great RPGs of its time, I began holding everything to standards I only later realized could never be met. Consequently, games that came after only bring up feelings of shallowness or of being an imitation. And it was not until I accepted that new games would never, truly that they could never, emulate my experiences with games from that time in my life, and then I began to feel just a bit more positive about gaming. I do not doubt that the games put out by major development studios has changed in kind and quality over the years or that this change might have some impact on how I feel about the newer games being released. However, do not feel that my increased interest in the gaming industry has overly jaded my views on games, at least not more so than it has enriched my experiences with them. And yet I hesitate to exclude the possibility that, during a certain time in my life, games were better suited to me and I to them. That this compatibility of my time, money, and interest lined up better at one point than it presently does, and that this ideal alignment might not be entirely exclusive to me, are both ideas I find hard to shake. It is a fairly nebulous feeling for me, which might explain the less structured nature of this week’s column, as it remains a topic I continue to learn and discover new things about.
Well, this was a weird one, readers. I had this idea bubbling away in my noggin for a while now and had been struggling with finding an appropriate way to express it. Maybe that comes off in the writing, but I hope you get the gist of it. More importantly, is this something you can relate to? More than just having enough spare time, do you also feel that games you would rate as your highest tend to all fall within a certain time period? And does that time period in your life say anything about why that might be the case? Does anyone even know what I am talking about? Help me to help you help myself in the comments!