There are a lot of games I’ve called my favorite over the years. Super Mario Bros. 3, Halo, BioShock, Red Dead Redemption, and Shadow of the Colossus have all held the title of my favorite game at one time or another but none of them have ever really held onto the title. I really loved each one, and still do, but calling each one my favorite was always a decision I had come to long after having played them. It was only recently that I figured out why no game has ever stood out to me as my favorite game.
My favorite movie of all time is Pulp Fiction. As a kid growing up I was obsessed with movies. I dreamed of being a film director. I made it my mission to search through “best movies of all time” lists and check them off as I saw them. When I was about fifteen my mom got me a subscription to Netflix for my birthday, and the first three movies I rented were all “classics” that I hadn’t been able to get my hands on yet: Jaws, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Pulp Fiction.
While Jaws freaked me out, and 2001 went rocketing over my head, Pulp Fiction completely blew me away. As a fifteen-year-old I could understand enough of it to be amazed at how clever it was and still enjoy the action and comedy. I quickly bought a copy of the DVD and as I got older, I kept discovering more and more of its details, intricacy, and downright artistry. That first day I watched it on repeat until I fell asleep, and I’ve called it my favorite movie ever since.
I discovered my favorite musician around that same time. I was never really a big music person but I had recently gotten into Guitar Hero and so I began to dig into classic rock. The internet at my house has always been cripplingly slow so my research into rock music was somewhat stymied. Luckily for me, my family went on vacation soon after and the motel we were staying at had (what seemed to me to be) high speed internet. Searching for “greatest rock songs of all time” lists I found Rolling Stone‘s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and sitting on the top was Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone”. I stayed up into the early hours of the morning listening to every Dylan song on that list. Since then I’ve explored his entire catalogue, watched every documentary and interview of him I can find, and his concerts are the only ones I’ve ever been to.
Now when it comes to gaming, there is no Pulp Fiction for me. There is no Bob Dylan. As a kid I played, enjoyed, and loved a number of games. Growing up, my mom would often take me and my brother to EB Games or GameStop so we could find the game that would consume us for the next few months. I read gaming magazines like EGM to figure out what to spend my very limited supply of money on. So what kept a game from sticking in my mind for years to come, to be revisited time and time again like I had with Pulp Fiction or Bob Dylan?
Growing up, my family wasn’t very well-off so whenever we did go out, I had to be very choosy with my purchases. My mom would lend some money but often times my brother and I would have to go through our games and decide which ones to trade-in. Being stupid kids, we would rationalize that even though we had loved a game, we had already played and beaten it, and we wouldn’t want to play it again, so we would trade it in to help pay for the next game.
So trading in games became a habit. We’d get a few games, then trade them in a little later on for a new one. No game became my favorite because I would never play any one game for too long before it was traded in. I didn’t have time to become hooked on a game like I had with Pulp Fiction or Bob Dylan. My gaming attention span just wasn’t long enough before a game was traded in and I began to forget about it.
On top of that my mom was a very practical woman who didn’t know much about video games. When we got a Nintendo 64, the NES went into the yard sale. When we got an Xbox, the N64 was sold. We had upgraded so what use did we have with the old system?
I’ve watched my Pulp Fiction DVD dozens of times. My Bob Dylan CDs (now safely sitting in my car) have been played to death. But I’ve never kept any game for as long as I’ve had those. No matter how much I may love Sly Cooper or Shadow of the Colossus no game holds a sacred spot like that for me. They were all sacrificed on the altar of GameStop’s trade-in policy. Now I refuse to trade-in any games, no matter how much I may hate them or rarely play them (I’m looking at you Dead Island).
There are games that I absolutely adore. Games from my childhood that I’ve rebought whole systems for just so that I can experience them again. But unlike with movies or with music, there is no defining work to me for video games, a game that I can point to that shaped or defined gaming for me. I love gaming but I don’t have a favorite game.
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