If i’m ever asked what my favourite game of all time is, the first game that pops into my head is Dead Rising. I don’t know why because it was an incredibly flawed experience that, although I had a hell of a good time with it, delivered moments of incredible frustration. But even with those flaws and that controller chucking madness, it was a bloody good time, and one that evoked feelings of excitement and limitless positivity for the future of the medium that I haven’t had since. I played it for hours and hours at a time – something i’m not generally want to do – slaughtering countless of the undead before usually coming to an untimely end and having to start again bigger and stronger than before. I finally finished the game in a marathon session over the easter long weekend of 2007, and was so enamoured by the experience, I started it all over again. It for me is a well-designed top-shelf modern video game experience.
But is it my favourite game of all time?
The truth is, ask me on a day where I’m feeling incredibly nostalgic, and my answer could vary wildly. It is a question that sends my brain into a flurry, and I can almost picture miniature bespectacled neuron men and women frantically searching through the filing cabinets that hold all of my gaming memories, flinging neatly labeled files into the air. If it was a film you’d have a montage with game titles flying across the screen as these little guys flick through my visual memories – Super Mario Land 3: Wario Land, Another World, Power Monger, Doom II, Resident Evil 2 – each bringing with them warm and fuzzy feelings of nostalgia of growing up in the family home, my first kiss, my first….ehem…wicket. It is a fun exercise, sure, but one that inevitably pulls out more questions than answers.
And that’s mainly because video games can never ever be viewed objectively, and my gaming memories are often more about time and place, rather than the actual act of playing the game. Naturally, that is going to favour the older games that as I get older, remind me of a simpler time in my life and a perhaps more aspirational time for the industry. Whether it was sulking under a desk lamp in my room playing Burgertime Deluxe after getting a stern parental talking to as a young lad, or just marvelling at what Rare had achieved with Donkey Kong Land, it was a great time to be growing up alongside games. Nostalgia is a juggernaut that more often than not can’t be beaten.
But when i’m not feeling nostalgic, I realise just how far we’ve come, and how amazingly talented the modern game developer is. Super Mario Galaxy and Persona 3 were both mechanically brilliant games that kept me glued to the television over two consecutive summers, while there are short and sweet games like FEAR and Vanquish that I play every year almost as a matter of tradition. And that’s when i’m not thinking about Dead Rising. The fact is for some kids out there that didn’t grow up in the 80’s and 90’s these are the games that defined their childhood, and ergo, could well be at the top of their piles.
So is it an answerable question? I’m sure there is a game out there that, if you develop an algorithm complex enough, is objectively the best game ever made. But unless you’ve grown up in a vacuum, every game you’ve ever played and perhaps written about, has been the victim or benefactor of exogenous factors. And that’s not a bad thing – despite the internet’s insistence to the contrary – it just means that much of the gaming-centric focused corner of the internet’s reliance on “best of” lists is undermined by the fact we are human. And that is a wonderful realisation.
While Dead Rising be my favourite game today, tomorrow it could be an entirely different answer, so it’s just best not to ask.