I Had Forgotten Why I Play Video Games.
Setting the clock back about 20 years, I’ve been playing video games steadily since I was six, from the days of Sega Genesis and Nintendo 64, all the way to today. I’ve owned multiple consoles per generation; I don’t believe in fanboyism, I believe in gaming. And yet, as I have gotten older, I have become much more of the typical “hardcore” gamer. My Xbox One library is brimming with FPS titles, and I spend most of my gaming time with Rainbow Six Siege. Whether I like it or not, I have become a competitive gamer.
The other day, I was locked in a debate with some fellow Bit Cultures members about the future of Nintendo. We were discussing the NX and where Nintendo was aiming to go with their newest console when it struck me- I haven’t played Nintendo in over a decade. Through all the thousands of hours I’ve poured into gaming in the past 10 years, the realization of the absence of Mario and Zelda weighed down heavily on my heart. I grew up with Nintendo; Super Mario 64 helped shape my vivid imagination, Super Smash Bros. fueled my red-hot sense of competition, and The Ocarina of Time inspired me to want to become a true hero.
Two days later, my 3DS XL was in the mail.
I was coming home from a friend’s house, admittedly slightly inebriated, when I saw it at the top of my stairs- my 3DS had arrived, and five days early! I could feel myself beaming like an idiot. My hands literally shook with excitement as I tore off the packaging and pulled out my new, red handheld. I had given up on handhelds when I traded in my original DS; a move that I never thought twice about. As I stood there holding this suped-up Gameboy, all of the gaming opportunities I would have started rushing through my head, and I knew I had made a good decision.
After setting up the device, I threw in the sole game that I had preemptively purchased just a few hours earlier- Super Mario 3D Land. The reviews for this game were great, as people all over the internet claimed it to be an excellent experience not unlike the classic Super Mario 64. All I read was “Nintendo 64 nostalgia”, and I was sold.
It’s hard for me to describe in words what I felt when I started the game.
As I entered World 1-1, I was instantly transported back to a time that I cherish in my mind; a time when I didn’t let life’s trivialities bother me as much, a time when my imagination ran rampant and I played video games for one single purpose: fun. I didn’t need the competitive edge over other players, I didn’t need prove jack shit to anyone. I played video games because it was what I liked to do. I felt at home exploring other worlds, it felt right to be the hero.
Sure, I found competition with my friends and siblings when we played games like Mario Kart 64 or Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, but we didn’t need to beat each other. We didn’t need to prove anything to one another. We simply played together. The bragging rights of victory only lasted until the loading screen was done and the next game had started. Over the past two console generations, however, I had lost sight of that.
I never owned a Wii or a Wii U, and I never really thought about buying back into the DS after I sold my original. All I knew was that Nintendo didn’t have the games that I wanted to play. There were no good shooters outside of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, and I was living in a post-Halo world. There were no Achievements or Trophies, so how was I to prove to the rest of the internet that I was better? And all their games felt childish in comparison; I was too mature for those kinds of games. I started playing games just for the sake of beating them, just to be able to add another notch to my gaming belt.
To put it bluntly, I had stopped taking enjoyment in my games.
This is why going back to Nintendo has been such a revelation for me- their games are about having fun. The immediate nostalgia effect Super Mario 3D Land had on me was profound, and has helped me achieve the revelation of my own self-destructive tendency with my favorite hobby. I’m determined now, more than ever, to go into my gaming with a positive attitude rather than a competitive one. That doesn’t mean I need to exorcise my sense of competition, that doesn’t mean I need to stop playing games like Rainbow Six Siege; all it means is that I need to remember why I play video games.
I play video games to have fun.