Feels like the first time

Okay, so it’s June. Where are the updates?
Unfortunately, I’m still working on getting my new life squared away over here. Moved to a different state, polished off another course in the online classes I’m taking, took a two-and-a-half week roadtrip to go visit the girlfriend’s family and friends. Really, the only thing I’m still waiting on is that whole “employment” thing. Lots of applications, and lots of waiting. But I don’t want to get too involved with programming and then have to put everything right back down again, so I’ve been amusing myself by playing video games (call it research, if that makes it sound better). Lately, it’s been New Vegas, which has me feeling all nostalgic for the original isometric Fallout for PC. What a great game that was. So, spoiler alert, I’m going to talk about games that I wish I could play again for the first time, and why:

Fallout 1: Road Warrior (one of my favorite movies) crossed with Baldur’s Gate. Where could it go wrong? God, I spent *so* much time playing this game instead of working on my high school homework. It’s just as sandbox-y as the more well-known Bethesda releases; there’s just so much to do! I still remember the very first time I saw a super-mutant, and how completely unexpected it was. One of the first things I did in the game, really. I completely skipped Shady Sands, and went straight to Necropolis. And damn near shat myself the first time a dude twice the size of my character opened fire on me with a mini-gun. I wasn’t expecting that at all. I mean, there aren’t any FEV mutants in Road Warrior. The very best part of the game, I think, was the Master in the south. My first playthrough, I didn’t have the psychic amplifier, so every step I took towards the master was filled with terrifying hallucinations. It was just so perfectly constructed; a masterpiece.

Dead Space 1: Just the first fifteen minutes, really. The game was great for the startle-scares, but the first fifteen minutes had one of the best atmospheres I’d ever seen in a horror game. Anybody who’s ever been around when I describe that part of the game knows how into it I get. I *felt* it- the game gives you no weapon, separates you from the rest of your team, and all of the sudden some horrific monstrosity is bursting out of a ventilation duct and coming for you- RUN! Every time you turn around, some dead body is standing up and chasing after you, some shadow is flitting across the ceiling, something just made a slurping noise behind you, but where is it?! The rest of the game was pretty good, but *nothing* beat those first fifteen minutes.

Braid: The last level- the reveal. That sudden sinking feeling when you realize: you’re the monster. You’re not saving the princess; she’s running from you! The whole game built you up and placed you in Tim’s shoes. You’re just a nice guy, reaching out to this woman who doesn’t seem to acknowledge you. The princess is always in another castle, until she’s *right there.* What a blow to the gut.

World of Warcraft: Technically, the first time I played, I thought it was stupid. I didn’t see the point, and I got bored very quickly. A few days later, I started a new character with some friends, and we did some questing together. I’d never played an MMO before, and every co-op game I ever played involved shooting lots of bad guys, instead of actually working towards some sort of goal. The first couple weeks of WoW showed me how cool multiplayer games could really be.
And then I spent the next 8 months getting ganked.

Aquaria: Alec Holowka and Derek Yu opened my eyes to indie games; I’d never heard of such a thing (that wasn’t just some terribly little school project). The graphics, the music, and the storyline! Everything about this game, which seemed like the most beautiful Ecco/Zelda lovechild you could imagine, was amazing.  Hearing Naija giggle as she destroyed the schools of fish, and then wonder if she’s becoming something horrible… Meeting Li, and then losing him. Discovering that your Creator is some abomination… and how about that boss fight, huh?

Walking Dead: Oh god the feels. This game did such a masterful job of putting you in the protagonist’s shoes; I don’t think I’ve ever felt such strong emotions while playing a computer game before. I would have done *anything* for Clementine. God, I pretty much did. Well done, guys. Just… well done.

Half-life 2: Honestly, it was Alyx that made the difference. Don’t get me wrong, the games were amazing. Just the right balance between solving puzzles, telling stories, and shooting things. But Alyx gave the games a more human feel. I found myself shouting at the TV more often than not- “Look out! Yeah, you shoot that critter! Great job!” It was the little things that made the difference. If you shine your flashlight in her face, she squints and shields her eyes. If you turn it off, and it’s dark, a couple beats go by before she makes sure you’re still there, sounding just the right amount of pretending-not-to-be-worried. I’ll just be over here with the rest of the gaming world’s population, waiting patiently for Episode 3.

What about anyone else? I know at least 3 people keep their eye on this blog. What games do you wish you could play again from a blank slate?