One of the joys of writing this review column is that it’s essentially a “whatever you want” sort of gig — you can’t make new old games, after all. As such, I’m afforded the luxury of being able to plot a certain rhythm to the games I choose, and make adjustments if I’m feeling especially aggrieved or burnt out with one sort or another.
In an odd turn of events, my regularly scheduled editorial will be replaced by a special feature. I’ve reached out to a staff writer at Pitchfork (who wishes to remain nameless), and he expressed interest in writing a review. We’re honored to have such an infamous site lend us some of its unique flavor.
When I was but a child of three, I received the first video game console I’d ever owned. A drab gray box gifted to me by my grandmother, herself completely clueless as to what a video game even entailed. I had two games at hand, included in the bundle, to amuse myself with. Both were contained in one cartridge, the venerable Duck Hunt/Super Mario Bros. two-for-one. I can vividly remember that Christmas morning, plugging the box into the TV in a way I didn’t properly understand, and the image flickering to life when I pressed the power button.
A brief digression from my usual game-based prattle, right off the top. If I were to ask you to name your favorite film about a masked protagonist, face hideously disfigured and burnt, mounting a revenge campaign against the forces that wronged him, what would be your answer? I’ll even make it a bit easier and narrow the time frame you have to consider — let’s only think movies released between, say, October of 1974, to August of 1990.
Back in those days gone by, it was very rare that a video game offered a simultaneous experience for a friend and myself that felt at all gratifying. I found, at that age, that I didn’t especially enjoy video games played for competition — I was perfectly satisfied with the level of competition I already encountered during 4th grade-level athletics. But there wasn’t a great alternative if two people wanted to play at the same time, as cooperative play was fairly limited.
In the early days of console video gaming, there seemed to be little embarrassment at exploiting broad, rote story arcs in service of a few hours of electronic soothing. Nintendo, in particular, has this reality stamped and branded into their history — what the story of Mario (who I think it’s safe to call Nintendo’s Jesus) questing to save a kidnapped princess lacks in creative artfulness it makes up for in accessibility.