The 5 games that made me who I am

It’s my birthday today, and what better way to celebrate it than to list the games that made me who I am today?

1. Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss (1992, PC)

A friend dropped by me one day and asked if I had played Ultima Underworld. I scratched my Sega-infested, 16-year-old head in bewilderment. “Ultima Underworld? Is that a Nintendo game? I don’t think I’ve seen it in any Sega lineups or upcoming releases.” My friend patted my shoulder, kissed my forehead, and left me a copy of the original game. At least that’s how I choose to remember it. The reality was slightly different. He scoffed at my ignorance, dug through his backpack, pulled out a pirated version of the game, and threw the discs in my face. Nevertheless, Ultima Underworld thwarted my understanding of the medium. This game single-handedly blew wide open the doors of conventional gaming and forced me to reconsider the time I invested on Sonic attempting to collect all possible rings and jewels. Those of you who have played it, I salute you and share your inevitable pride of having done so. Those of you who haven’t may probably never do as modern games have taken the genre to a whole new level of accessibility that renders legendary offerings as Ultima Underworld archaic and akin to a Pantheon: grand, deserving of reverence, but overshadowed by modern history.

2. Final Fantasy 7 (1997, PS)

You’d struggle to find a list of influential games that does not include FF7 in its ranks. It’s an androgenous, boy-meets-girl soap opera that may have ruined RPGs as a genre but ended up standing out more than Cloud’s Bastard Sword at a daycare center; at least that’s what the 17-year-old in me remembers. If I were to base this listing on memory alone, I’d call FF7 one of the best games ever but it really probably isn’t. I just fell in love with Aerith and played the game for her. She was the party healer. She was an altruist. She was also brutally murdered halfway through the game. It was the first time I had ever cried because of an in-game event.

3. Deus Ex (2000, PC)

It was 2000, the Y2K fiasco was finally over, I was just starting university, and like most freshmen I can recall, I was seeking a higher understanding of what life is. I dug myself in volumes and rested in the comforting sanctity of education and the attempted insight into my existence, oblivious to how little I actually knew. When I first saw the box art of this game, I picked it up, turned it over, and took note of the accolades and game-of-the-year awards. I turned it over again and stared at the then-unknown-to-me JC Denton, walked over to the cashier, and committed one of my best video game investments ever. There is no proper way for me to describe the impact this game had on me; I was absolutely awestruck with its masterful writing and storytelling. It had me doubting the world and its denizens and open to all sorts of conspiracies. When I first discovered how my choices affected the narrative of the game, I froze in place as my mind attempted to wrap itself around it. I mattered as a gamer. I was no longer a puppet that just follows cues. I was JC Denton. That Deus Ex title? That was me, the gamer, the god outside of the machine. The soundtrack is still one that you would hear blaring through my speakers, with “Unatco” being a defining one for me. I silently swore to never play anything of a less caliber for as long as I live. Ah, the folly and naivety of youth.

4. Heroes of Might and Magic 4 (2002, PC)

When your father pulls off an overnight and skips work to play a game, you know you have yourself a marvel. Though this was not the first Heroes game I had played, it was the best out of the preceding three, culminating everything that made them great and stripping away the negatives. As addictive in gameplay as it was, it offered little to my gaming experience asides from introducing me to the term “hot seat.” Why, then, would a simple, albeit deep, turn-based strategy be on this list? Local multiplayer. In all honesty, “Micro Machines 2: Tournament Edition” for the Mega Drive was the first one to offer me that feature with the inclusion of two additional joypad slots on the actual cartridge — an innovation still hard to surpass given the limitations of the platfoms back then — turning the experience into a four-player frenzy. But, I am a strategy buff and opted to give a mention to an unsung hero in multiplayer gaming that turned the nerd to a herd. I still, until today, prefer local multiplayer, no matter the situation.

5. Mass Effect (2007, XBOX 360)

I don’t know where to start with this one. The universe? The lore? The story? The music? This game checked all my boxes. I’ve read up on Mass Effect history more than I have on the actual world’s. I’ve studied characters as peers and thought of them as such. If you’re of the dying breed of gamers who have not played this, you have given up on an enriching and soul-lifting experience; not since “Deus Ex” did I feel that I belonged in a game. It is for games like this that I preach the power and magic of video games and hope that one day I will be able to transmit this love to my children.

Published by Spark Makki

A writer and copy editor who sleeps because he has to and dreams because he can't afford not to.

16 thoughts on “The 5 games that made me who I am

  1. Great post dude, I approve. I haven’t played most of these (save for Final Fantasy 7 and Mass Effect) but I have similar memories of games as well. Not many games have affected me on a deep level but there are a couple.

    1. Legend of Zelda (the whole series)

    A Link to the Past was the game that started it all for me. Without it I would not be a gamer, nor would I have some of the friends I have today. Some of my favorite time were spent playing this and its successors with my friends. I can say without a doubt that Legend of Zelda was a defining part of my childhood.

    2. Ratchet and Clank (series)

    These games allowed me to take games a little more seriously. Sure they were goofy and fun but that’s the point. Playing these got me thinking that making games might be fun to do full time.

    3. Mass Effect

    This was the clincher for me. The universe and characters Bioware created sucked me in completely. They created something that I still to this day cannot get enough of. I want to everything there is about that world, how it works, all the details of the species, all the lore therein. This is the game that convinced me that my career must involve video game somehow.

    Anyway, great post. I look forward to seeing more.

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  3. I’m new to the genre of gaming in general, i started off with small games like the freakishly addictive Peggle, and funnily enough Worms Armageddon on the PS3- which took me back to the times i used to play it on the PC when it first came out. I now play games like Little Big Planet 2 (i won the middle east ” design your own sackboy” competition), Katamari and right now trying to win all the trophys for the single player mode in The Adventures of Tintin- the secret of the unicorn.

    Gaming has a way of immersing the mind in a new universe, that can just be visited by pressing the X button a few times. Its like an outline to a daydream that you actually can explore, by playing any character your mind pleases. Definately a much needed break from the real world.

    Great post. You speak about games with great enthusiasm, and can get a reader excited to turn on their console and quip up a few hours of engaged daydreaming.

  4. The Ratchet & Clank series are amazing fun! I haven’t played the newest one yet, but I plan on delving in to it for its multiplayer feature. Truth be told, I still have not been able to go through one full Zelda game. I’m not sure what the problem is. I even purchased a 3DS just so I could play Ocarina of Time which is hailed as one of the best games ever. I can’t tell you how saddened I got when I dropped it midway and moved on to other games. I believe that I will forever be left out of Link’s adventures in Hyrule 🙂

    Thanks for reading and for your feedback! I am checking your blog out now.

  5. Hey Fifi! Sorry for the late reply! Gameing is becoming more and more easy to get in to then it was in the past. Pixels were substituted with eye candy graphics that certainly drive the biggest amount of attention. Casual gaming or not, the medium is a wonderful full of magic. You sound like someone who would enjoy playing “Flower” on the PS3. Possibly the most interesting casual game out there.

    Thank you for the feedback! We should all learn to game.

  6. Nice article, good games. I’d have to say that my favorite games of all time are Fallout 3, Elder Scrolls Series, Zelda : A Link to the past, Bully, and Red Dead Redemption. Not necessarily in that order. It’s worth mentioning the Uncharted Series too, Mass Effect 1, as well as Ico, the Rachet and clank series, and a few others.
    You can check out my list here and make your own, very cool site where you can compare your list to people around the globe
    http://www.unikgamer.com/account/tops/1.html

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