This month’s Round Table is on the topic of the common themes in our favourite games, or least favourite games. Here are my rather tangential musings on the subject.
Which are my favourite games? It’s a question I struggle with at the best of times, since I have played and enjoyed a great many different videogames, and singling out favourites can be a struggle. But what complicates this matter even further is the uncertainty inherent in asking the question: if I look into my memories and find that, say, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past was my favourite game, because of the tremendous fun that I had playing it, what happens when I go and try and play it and find I don’t like it anymore?
And this is exactly what happened last year when I downloaded a SNES emulator and tried to go back to this game – same game, but not as much fun to play as the first time. In fact, I gave up quite quickly and lost interest.
Was it because I had played before and hence there was nothing to be curious about? No. In fact, I couldn’t remember much about the game, and wandered around lost and confused to underline this fact.
Had the technology for games simply moved on too far? Well, yes and no. Clearly that was a factor as I would be much more likely to go and play (say) Wind Waker a second time with some expectation of enjoyment. But on the other hand, I spend a tremendous amount of time playing old Taito arcade games and the like and the step down in graphics quality has simply not been a barrier to enjoyment in those cases.
The problem seems to be that I was wearing rose tinted gamer goggles when I looked back at my play experiences of A Link to the Past. What I remembered was not the game, as such, but rather my experiences of playing the game, which were enormously enjoyable, but in part because I was playing the game with a good friend, at a time when we could just indulge in playing videogames for hours at a time.
Would it be reasonable to say it was a favourite game, based solely upon my memories? Perhaps. But when I think of other favourite games – NiGHTS: Into Dreams, or Impossible Mission, say – I have always been able to go back to the game and enjoy it again, as much as I ever did. One might say that these games were robust enough for me to return to over and over again.
But does that make them my favourite games? Should your assessment of your favourite games be based upon your memories of the experience of playing the game for the first time, in the context of the technology around at the time; or should it be based upon your ability to return to the game? And if so, does this mean that games which lend themselves to replay have an edge over other games in making it to the hallowed status of “favourite”?
These are not questions with definite answers, and I honestly don’t know how I will ever settle this matter in my own head. What is clearer, however, is that I now find I’m reluctant to single out A Link to the Past as a favourite game simply because when I went back to try it again, the nature of the game as it actually was could not match up to my rose tinted memories of its play.