Video games have the potential to leave a huge impact on us at significant stages of our lives. Everyone remembers their first console and their first game, and no one forgets those powerful moments, whether it’s rushing home to play co-op with the friends you literally said goodbye to twenty minutes ago or being brought to tears by the poignant story of narrative-driven single-player game.
In the latest Grand Thrash Auto, Jeremy Hunt (not the Tory), one of the creative minds behind experimental noise rock outfit QOHELETH, explores some of those impactful games. From games released more than two decades ago to series that are still going strong now, Hunt here looks at these games chronologically from the time he played them, reminiscing on silly games played on an old computer through to the games he now plays in stolen time found around his time as a husband, father, label co-founder, post-graduate student and one-quarter of VHHP.
I decided to tackle my five favorite video games in chronological order, so starting with Commander Keen, just the thought of it brings back waves of nostalgia from childhood and my early teen years. It was a sidescroller from iD, who would later go on to release Wolfenstein, DOOM, and Quake. But this gem was cut from the Super Mario Bros. cloth, featuring a kid who built his own rocketship, crash landed on Mars, and had to use his trusty blaster and pogo stick to defeat the Vorticons (the Martian enemies) and get back home. It was silly and a ton of fun. The entire series consumed a ton of my time, playing on our old i386 PC back in the day.
Star Wars: Dark Forces
Once the whole 3D/first-person shooter genre was introduced, I was hooked. I remember playing a demo of Wolfenstein 3D and thinking, well this changes everything… but when LucasArts released Dark Forces and my Star Wars-loving self realised that I could get that first-person experience WHILE shooting stormtroopers?? It was all over. Similar to Commander Keen (and the other games in my list), I’m a sucker for series that develop world-building storytelling and Dark Forces did this well with its sequel and at least a couple of expansions as well. And here’s a little trivia for those who follow the Mandalorian series, the idea of the Dark Troopers from season 2 was originally introduced in the first Dark Forces game.
Of the games on this list, the Halo series is probably the one I’ve spent the most time playing over the years. For my money, its consistent success as a pure first-person shooter is unmatched by any other game. The pacing is perfect, the weapons are creative and fun and yes, I love my sci-fi lore, which Halo has in spades. Some of my favourite memories from young adulthood revolve around jumping into co-op matches with some of my buddies and just spending hours blasting other folks away in online firefights. We’d laugh at the stupidest things, come up with dumb insults for the teenagers who were schooling us, and then come right back the next night and do it all again. The name of my solo project, Ain’t Pancakes, is basically an inside joke reference to that time in my life.
Who doesn’t love wiping out zombies? Dead Rising basically drops you into a modern-day Dawn Of The Dead setting and lets you go crazy dispatching zombie hordes with increasingly crazy and weird weapons and tools. The story itself isn’t terribly original, at least if you’ve watched any number of zombie movies in your life, but being put right in the middle of the action is a ton of fun. The movements of the zombies themselves work perfectly, as they’re slow enough to simply avoid if you’re careful, but one wrong move and a swarm can overtake and overwhelm you before you know it. Of the games on this list, this is the series I’ve spent the least amount of time with, but just talking about the first game and remembering the fun I had with it has me thinking about picking up the series again soon.
If Halo was the series that best represented my young adult years, then Fallout is the series that is perfect for my current life situation: married, five kids, work, post-grad studies, etc. I don’t have hours at a time to dive into tons of online shootouts, but a single-player campaign that I can explore at my own pace is a ton of fun. As I’ve mentioned already, I’m a sucker for lore and world-building, and the Fallout series has that in spades. It’s built for exploration, curiosity, and mystery. Combine that with my love of the post-apocalyptic setting and I’m sold. The visuals across the games in series that I’ve played (3, 4, New Vegas, and 76) are engrossing and captivating. The flexibility in building out and developing your character makes the personalisation feel compelling and weighted with repercussions. How you conduct yourself matters at key intervals and it shifts the game from “just” a game into a larger experience. I love it!
Intro: George Parr