I’m not scared on much. I balk at the ideas that spiders are to be feared, I ogle some of the most deadly snakes right in the eyes, and walk through dark alleyways at night like they’re fields full of flowers. But the things I am scared of are stupid, inane, and quite simply irrational. Time is one of those things. Not getting old per se, but rather that I have a limited amount of time to ration out across the things I like to do. My brain is trained to optimise things, and well wasting time, that’s simply not an option.
Which means I really don’t like doing things twice.
When I first met my soon-to-be-wife, one of the first things that struck me about her, was that she would watch things over and over again. And not just “I have seen Star Wars a hundred times”, no, there was a pile of TV shows and films that she had seen enough times to remember the script off by heart. It was the strangest thing about her at the time, but now after a good decade and then some, it has rubbed off on me to the point where now I do the same thing.
But when I really think about it, I wasn’t that dissimilar at times in my life, and I can’t count the number of 80’s and 90’s games I’d played through more than I care to admit. Whether it be the Game Boy games like Balloon Kid or Radar Mission that I became enamoured with in the early nineties, or Amiga classics like Turrican or the Great Giana Sisters, my childhood was full of playing and replaying the same games ad nauseam and loving every minute of it.
But somewhere in the mid-to-late nineties that all changed and bar a few very special cases, I was content with playing a game to the credits, and putting it on the shelf to gather dust. In my early twenties, while I was right at the start of my career, I became ridiculously aware of the passage of time. If you’re not quite at that point in your life, enjoy it while it lasts, because once you hit that point your brain will start to rationalise every minute of every day. It was at this precise moment that I realised that I’d never experience Resident Evil 2 again. And that terrified me.
Since that time, those same shelves have been inundated with games that have well and truly become pre played, no longer fulfilling their worldly purpose. When I think about the great times had, the great memories collected, and the great ‘people’ I’ve met playing some of my favourite games over the past few years along, I realise that I’ll probably never relive those moments again. I’ll never walk the halls of the USG Ishimura, window shop in Willamette Parkview Mall, or live out Jimmy Patterson’s one-man tale of triumph behind enemy lines. And they’re in good company, as I’ll never Escape From Colditz again, nor will I play political-god on planet Dion, or try my hand in the Killing Game Show.
So my nostalgia for these games will have to remain just that.
Which may be a blessing in disguise. I find that nostalgia is a wonderful but terrifying thing, and for me, part of the appeal is knowing that those moments and experiences are lost for good in the annals of time. It is the reason people are fascinated with the probably impossible idea of time travel, with reading history, and with reading people’s biographies from a time long past. For me, most of the appeal of Roald Dahl’s autobiographical Boy and Going Solo were so appealing to me, was that they transported me to a specific time in history that is lost forever. His tales of childhood debauchery in England in the 1920’s are brilliant depictions of a time that, in all likelihood, I’ll never be able to return to. Like my own childhood it is lost forever. And much like the games I played there.
I love the idea of everyone having their own gaming history, a biography built on their own individual game experiences. Because amongst the stories of our real lives, many of us were living parallel lives through the games we played, visiting other worlds and meeting other people. And while it’s certainly possible to go back in time and relive these memories, I prefer to leave most of them in the past, moments forever lost left behind by the passage of time. Just like sands through an hourglass.