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The Games We’re Grateful For: AJ

by on November 15, 2011
 

When the editors of GotGame requested that we celebrate the upcoming fall holiday by sharing the games we’re thankful for, a litany of titles swirled through my head. Admittedly, most of these came to mind for somewhat facetious reasons– it’s easy to make decisions for an editorial like this by picking a title that will garner reaction of support. I thought, “I’ve probably logged more hours into the Madden franchise than any other game, but no one cares about Madden.” Not to mention that game isn’t particularly as meaningful with the emergence of fantasy football. There’s the easy-out option of picking a currently popular or news-making game that would benefit from an already swirling cloud of interest that leaves only one real decision: Modern Warfare or Skyrim? What about being controversial? Pick a game like Grand Theft Auto and say how grateful I am for being able to kill cops in game so I resist the urge in real life. Even better, go for the obscure indie title and win over its cult following while scoring some hipster credibility.

I couldn’t take any of these routes. Not for some sort of moral obligation to be honest with people, but I’ve yet to play Modern Warfare 3 or Skyrim, and I really do enjoy killing cops in Grand Theft Auto (though I’ve no intention in ever duplicating the actions in real life–I barely even break the speed limit, but I feel like a total badass when I do). Instead, I’m going to willingly sacrifice any authority I have as a games journalist by conceding that the game I am most thankful for is a game many have never played nor heard of, and it very well could be awful. I have my reasons, I promise.

Back in the mid-nineties, I was introduced to video games. The very first console I had was a hand-me-down Super Nintendo given to my dad by a family friend. I couldn’t tell you why it was surrendered as it was still the must-have system at the time, but I remember playing it incessantly. Every noteworthy game had its title appear and credits role across the screen as I racked up the hours on my first home console.

Despite having a plethora of games available at my finger tips within the comfort of the house, I remember having an itch to go to the arcade whenever possible. That might be a concept lost on the younger crowd, but there was once a time when gaming was as much a destination as it was an experience. For me, Lucky and Wild was both. It was a 16-bit game that combined the rush of seated racing games and the reactionary skill of light gun shooters into a two-person adventure of high-speed chases and 80’s style buddy-cop storyline. The game took you around city streets, down alleyways, and through a mall as you and a partner attempted to tail and stop thugs and criminals from completing their crimes.

The reason this forgotten, or more-than-likely unknown, game is what I’m most thankful for has little to do with the rarity of the game itself, nor does it have to do with the unique gameplay elements or charmingly cheesy presentation and story. Rather, I am thankful for my regular partner in my attempts to rid the pixelated streets of corruption and a second companion that wasn’t always present for the crime fighting but was still the provider of the arcade lifeblood of quarters: My father and mother.

In the driver’s seat, controlling the steering wheel with one hand while touting a plastic gun in the other was my father. He controlled the car because I had yet to grasp the concept of subtle steering by the age of seven, but secretly I think he had more fun driving. Undoubtably he was the savior of many levels as my aim left much to be desired. This is one of the last times I remember shooting in a video game without being called a “noob.” Rather, my father encouraged the behavior by pumping more quarters into the machine when the “Continue?” option flashed.

Those coins, which represented the cost for more life in game, were carefully budgeted by my mother. Although there were times when the family’s financial stability could be called into question I was still allowed the privilege of spending hours in the sizable passenger seat of the Lucky and Wild cabinet, begging for just one more try. Perhaps my pleasure was as much of an escape as it was for my parents, or maybe it was a way to get me out of the house while my mother paid bills and took care of the rest of the essentials that needed to be tended to. No matter what the reason, I was given the opportunity to indulge, with the gracing of my parents, in a virtual world that I arguably have yet to escape. After all, I’m sitting here writing about it after all these years.

Over time, much in part of the support of the very same parents that allowed me to escape into games years earlier, I’ve continued to expand my love of gaming and the culture that surrounds it.  Games are why I have relationships with some of my good friends, whom I would have never met without happening into a conversation about whatever the latest big release was; They are the reason I’m currently able to pursue a career in writing as they’ve provided with inspiration, connection, and opportunity; They are responsible for me traveling to Seattle and seeing the west coast of the US for the first time in my life, and arguably are why I got to visit my best friend living across the country in the same trip.

Despite the advancements in graphics, gameplay, and every other element of gaming that have come throughout the years, not a single one can match the feeling of the anticipatory drive to the arcade, the building excitement with the clanking of each quarter into the machine slot, and the gratifying feeling of accomplishment that came after defeating a boss with the help of my dad. My relationships with gaming has been a longstanding one, supported by and shared with those whom I am most thankful for. If there’s a phrase to encompass the experience, it could only be said one way: Lucky and wild.

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