Mines of Memory Part 1

In Jesse Schell’s Game Design class, we were asked to reflect on the games we played in the past, and write about the their most memorable aspects. So here it goes.

1. Baby Dinosaur Dooly (Played Year: 1997, Age: 5)

I remember Dooly as one of the first games I’ve played, and it was especially engaging since it tied the level progression so well with the initial anime. What I remember most was how well the characters were portrayed: not just in terms of appearances and animations but also in terms of mechanics (attack).

2. Puzzle Bobble 2 (Played Year: 1997, Age: 5)

Puzzle Bobble 2 was unique in the sense that there was an element of aiming involved on top of analyzing the patterns of the bubbles. The most satisfying moment in the game was when you successfully sever a large group of bubbles, which would fall and pop with a satisfying sound. I always wondered why there was a dragon involved, since it was not necessary for the “shooting” mechanic. However, thinking back, now I realize it serves to add character to the world; otherwise the game would just another aim-and-shoot game.

3. MegaMan X4 (Played Year: 1997, Age: 5)

BEST GAME EVER! I can’t imagine the countless hours I spent playing this, partly due to how fun it was and also due to its notorious difficulty. One of most appealing aspect was the game was in its blend of mechanics: dashing, climbing wall, and flying. It makes a clever use of the scrolling nature of the game, and uses it to gate certain areas so that the level progression does not detract. I favoured Zero (the one that wields a lightsaber-like sword), over Megaman though, as I found that the close combat adds more pacing to the gameplay.

4. Rayman (Played Year: 1997, Age: 5)

Although known for its fun mechanics and interesting worlds, what I found most memorable were the sounds. The background music was extremely successful in articulating the unique visual world, from the jungle, to the world of music, to the dangerous dark canyon, to the carnival land, and to the kingdom of candy. The boss fights were also memorable, as they required different strategies from the player, such as the flying mechanic to avoid the dangerous notes of the trumpat man.

5. Lego (Played Year: 1997, Age: 5)

This really should require no explanation. If I had to choose, Lego is perhaps the single most important influence, perhaps even more than my parents, on my life. I spent my entire childhood collecting, assembling, disassembling, and reassembling various worlds of Lego. I think I learned my analytical, logical, artistic, as well as spatial skills from this single toy. I think the main reason why it was so universally appreciated throughout my life is perhaps due to its modularity and the simple skill it requires of the player. Of course, the product is only limited to one’s imagination, hence everyone will get what they wish for.

6. Dance Dance Revolution (Played Year: 1998, Age: 6)

As a person not very versed in sports, DDR was extremely challenging. But it was unique in the sense it tested skills beyond the hand-to-eye coordination, as was with typical video games back then. Of course, I wasn’t that good myself, but I loved watching the experts dance it out. It was interesting to see the visual screen when two competent people went head-to-head. Hence, the display not only served as a instructional purpose for the players, but also a fair judging ground to compare the progress of the two players.

7. The King of Fighters (Played Year: 1998, Age: 6)

When I first started playing this game, I was totally confused. Thrown into the game and confronted by a competent AI player, I did not have much time to fully comprehend the control system, let alone use it. It was one of those games that required practice, but what makes a better motivation than to be able to knock out someone that has mercilessly beaten, and embarrassed you all this time? I found that the integration of an “ultimate” skill was a clever design decision as it allowed the losing player a chance to come out ahead in the last minute.

8. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Played Year: 1998, Age: 6)

For some reason, I found this game extremely hilarious. It was perhaps the somewhat sloppy animation of the characters, or the way the enemies died, or the repeating sound effects that accompanied every attack move. Also, the variety of characters and their corresponding weapons appealed to multitude of audiences; I liked to play as the sword turtle (there’s a sign here) whereas my brother played as the turtle wielding the nunchuk.

9. Monster Truck Madness 2 (Played Year: 1998, Age: 6)

As one of the very first racing games I’ve ever played, monster truck was unique ini the sense that it marries a competitive racing game with the fun of destruction. I remember I would frequently be detracted from the main race and focus on crashing into the other players. The scale of the truck as well as the sloppy controls gave off an impression that you are controlling a heavy, hence dangerous, moving vehicle. The explosions were just too awesome!!!

10. Cockfighting Game (Played Year: 1998, Age: 6)

Don’t get the wrong idea. It is a non-digital game where the players, while standing up, hold up one of their legs and use it as a weapon to push over the other players. The last person standing wins. Its simple design and objective belie the complexities of social interaction, strategies, balancing skills, as well as dexterity involved in the gameplay. It also served as a good way to settle disputes: who gets the chocolate ice cream and whatnot. I mean, you’re in gradeschool, what can you do?

11. Origami-slapping Game (Played Year: 1998, Age: 6)

Korea was still a developing country when I was little, hence you didn’t see people play a lot of digital games. Most of the games were physical. This game involved two players trying to slam down their origami patch onto each other’s in an attempt to flip it over. Due to the lightness of the paper material, the force relied largely on the orientation of the patch when it hits the other and on the strength of the player. Due to the factor of aim involved, it allowed weaker players to outplay the stronger ones.

12. Starcraft (Played Year: 1999, Age: 7)

A timeless classic. I think the most successful design choice employed in the game was the introduction of three playable races. Most real time strategy games involved two direct opposing sides, hence the choice was very polarized, and replayability became an issue. Personally, I never liked Zerg, so it’s a good thing I still had the option to play Protoss and Terran. Its incorporation of both micro and macro management gave the game a diverse scale of gameplay: you can control the individual units for better battles, as well as oversee the operation of the resource extraction and unit production. Coincidentally, this game came out soon after the movie Alien: Resurrection was released. Perhaps that link across different media is the reason why those games are so memorable.

13. Mario Kart (Played Year: 1999, Age: 7)

Unfortunately, I did not get much chance to play the game over an extended period, due to the inaccessibility of the nintendo console. However, I remember first using the mechanic of throwing objects and laying down traps for other players. This additional layer of competitive gameplay gave a whole new dynamic to the game, as the racing became more of a secondary skill, whereas being able to strategize weapons and aim became the primary mode to victory.

14. Metal Slug (Played Year: 1999, Age: 7)

For a kid at the age of 7, I was a spoiled brat splurging money on Metal Slug at a local arcade. The degree of difficulty almost made it feel like a scrolling shooting game such as 1942. This was also what made the game so unique and fun! Not only there were countless enemies spawning everywhere, the player also have access to an inventory of extremely powerful weapons to counter them. I also found out later that the use of half-naked homeless citizens significantly made the game feel unpredictable. You may be given the machine gun that you need at the moment, but you could also be given a shotgun instead. Also, the incorporation of vehicles added nice breaks in between levels of constant and intense dodging and firing.

15. Virtual Cop (Played Year: 1999, Age: 7)

This was another difficult game where I had to die at least hundreds of times before beating it. Virtual Cop was interesting in the sense that you were automatically moved around the scene, but the main gameplay took place from a fixed perspective. This allowed the players to focus more on mastering their aiming skills and response time.

16. Monopoly (Played Year: 1999, Age: 7)

The use of micro transactions as the main mechanic was very appealing, often fooling the players into thinking they were in fact “real” money (This may reflect the dark reality of current capitalistic society). Weirdly, taking ownership of certain unique, iconic tourist destinations resulted in a higher satisfaction.

17. Hide and Seek (Played Year: 1999, Age: 7)

Given the size of apartments in Korea, I played Hide and Seek mostly outdoors, in the little island of trees amidst the forest of towering apartment blocks. Ironically, this made the game even more fun! Using street furnitures, foliage, vehicles, as well as people as visual obstacles gave diversity to the gameplay as opposed to the traditional static environment. The larger playing area also meant that there could be more players in the game! All of my friends!

18. Age of Empire (Played Year: 2000, Age: 8)

What I found most interesting about the Age of Empire was the resource harvest system, which was to be constructed by the player rather than being predetermined in the map design (as in Starcraft). In addition, the meticulous visual illustrations of buildings throughout their construction (and destruction) was what gave the game its realism

19. Super Mario Bros (Played Year: 2000, Age: 8)

Again, I did not get the chance to play the game through from start to finish due to console unavailability. In comparison to other games I was playing at the time, Super Mario Bros was blatantly simple. Perhaps this was why I noticed that I was seeking ways to better master the game’s mechanics throughout the game. It is also funny that the highest peak of interest curve is when you jump onto the flag at the end of each level.

20. Rollercoaster Tycoon (Played Year: 2000, Age: 8)

This game is perhaps what has taught me the practice of “planning.” You had to consider your choices based on the bigger picture of the park itself, and making sure you position certain elements strategically in relationship to each other. Also, each ride itself required the player to “design” it, laying down the tracks of various roller coasters. Perhaps I may confess my guilty pleasure here: I would troll some customers by trapping them on a single road parcel or dropping them off in the middle of the lake and seeing them drown.

21. Janggi (Played Year: 2000, Age: 8)

An Asian equivalent of chess. Although I have not played it many times, I find it interesting in how the King is restricted to a designated zone for movement. This single and simple difference entails such variety of strategy that I have neither explored in Chess nor Go.

22. Find Waldo Books (Played Year: 2000, Age: 8)

If I have to attribute my patience to something, it would be the Find Waldo Books. Flipping through the pages, each with its own world where Waldo was hiding, evoked excitment and conveyed the player progression very explicity (unless you were just skipping through). From personal experience, I found that sometimes I would be able to find Waldo by micro-searching, with my eyes glued to the page, whereas other cases I would achieve the same result by looking at the whole picture from afar. Strange.

23. Pokemon Blue + Red (Played Year: 2001, Age: 9)

The first portable console I ever got was the original GameBoy. The first games I got on it was Pokemon Blue and Red. Despite the two being almost exact same games except for few elements, I was surprised at how different they felt due to the different coloured packaging and pokemon associated with each cartridge. A very successful marketing strategy indeed. Within the game, I was very engrossed with making my pokemons strongers rather than bothering with collection of pokemons. What stood out particularly was the level design, where the player was forced by the map layout to navigate and overcome certain obstacles.

24. Worms (Played Year: 2001, Age: 9)

Worms. The title says it all. The most fun aspect of the game was in the character design and animation. Although the gameplay itself is innovative, the worms, even when it’s just walking, was entertaining to watch. I remember I would burst out laughing when a worm dies and a dancing tombstone would take its place. In later versions of Worms, I used an infinite hack that allowed me to use infinite amount of ropes. This enabled a Tarzan-like locomotion that I found very amusing and perhaps even more entertaining the other shooting mechanics.

25. Blue Marine (Played Year: 2001, Age: 9)

Discontinued soon after its launch, Battle Marine distinguished itself from other turn-based aim-and-shoot games due to its graph aiming interface. Instead of using angles, the graph visualizes the projected trajectory of the torpedo. This added a layer of complexity that not only was the player in control of the exact path of the missile, but also the exact point along it where the bomb explodes.


To be continued…

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