If I had to choose a game to show to my future grandchildren (hahaha, like that’s going to happen), I’d go with ABZÛ. This gorgeous underwater exploration game from the director of Journey holds a lot of emotional value to me; I played it for the first time at a difficult point in my life, and it was hugely helpful in letting me move past everything that was going on. It’s also one of the most beautiful games aesthetically that I’ve ever played. The bright, stylized visuals pop off the screen; the soundtrack is full of peaceful, ambient tracks that are great for zoning out even when not playing; and the gameplay manages to evoke curiosity, sadness, and pure joy throughout the game’s runtime.
Really, though, what sets apart ABZÛ as a “showcase title” for me is its wide appeal. It’s the kind of game that I would feel comfortable showing even to people who don’t normally play games, since its quiet, Zen-like vibe gives players the chance to engage with its world at their own pace. There’s no guarantee that any potential descendants of mine would actually have any interest in playing games, so I’d rather show them something that bridges the gap between a game and an art piece, rather than something that “will prove whether you’re a real gamer.” There are so many experiences on offer in the world of gaming, and even people who don’t play are familiar with the mechanics of titles like Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda, and Halo. ABZÛ stands as a game that, in my opinion can be enjoyed by just about anyone: young, old, experienced gamer or complete neophyte.
~Olivia Falk - Contributing Writer
Christmas time in Arizona. In this desert wasteland, feelings of festivity are hard to come by. I miss the snowy mountains of New York, so I decide to head back for a visit. I’ll fly into JFK airport; my best friend, Keith, can pick me up and take me North from there.
Rummaging through storage, looking for my water resistant, ultra durable travel bag, I stumble across relics of my youth: two Game Boy Pockets, red and blue in color. Inside each of them, a copy of Pokemon, one Pokemon Red, the other Pokemon Blue. I search for a link cable. I find it. Soon after, I find my bag. I place the items securely inside. “Keith is going to love this,” I think.
I fall asleep on the plane. When I wake up, bleary-eyed, I check my watch; 8 hours have passed. Why haven’t we landed? Then I notice it: the plane is, somehow, devoid of any passengers. I look out the window; a post-apocalyptic nightmare stretches out before me. The ruins of New York nestled next to the dry riverbed of the Hudson. I rush to the cockpit but the door is locked. I hammer on the door. No response.
“That’s it,” I think. “Game over.”
The plane sails on over the Atlantic and the ocean draws nearer. Then, the crash. The cabin cracks and I escape. Next, an explosion. It all blurs together at this point. I see the sum shimmer across the surface of the island. I feel myself sink. I feel the ocean thrash me about. Then, an island. A lighthouse. The faces of two children: twins. A strange elevator. When I wake up, I am in an underwater city of sorts. Transparent tubes seem to link the rooms. A whale drifts lazily by.
“Heya,” says the boy. “We’re the Maltbies.”
I remain silent. The girl dabs a cloth on my head and applies a bandage with a surprising level of expertise.
“Where am I?” I ask.
They tell me of their world; a former paradise. Of all the details, they don’t say anything about fun. They don’t say anything about Christmas.
It is my turn to tell them about my world. I tell them about Christmas. Toys. Movies. Games. Mysteries to them.
“So what do you do for fun?” I ask.
“We read old history books,” says the boy.
I notice the book in his hand. It is a collection of cheat codes, powered by a website I worked for. He tells me the books is as interesting as it is confusing; he lacks the context for it.
I want to tell them about Bioshock and how it proved that games can tell stories that books and other mediums could not. I want to tell them about Fallout 3 and the joy of exploring a desolate world from the safety of my comfort of my living room. I decide against it.
I reach into my bag and pull out the blue Game Boy Pocket. “Here,” I say, offering the device to the boy. He fumbles with it while I reach back into my bag. The girl watches him.
Grabbing the link cable and the other Game Boy Pocket, I once again extend my hand. “But it’s dangerous to go alone. Take this.”
The night winds down. I play Christmas music from my phone and watch as the two giggling kids drain the life from the last set of triple AAA batteries on Earth.
~Benjamin Maltbie - Contributing Writer
I’ve seen a lot of gaming come and go in my 30ish…cough…years. I’ve witnessed the birth of amazing technology and watched as new generations of gamers have been brought into a world of procedural generation and HD graphics. Which is why the video game I would take with me is a bit dated by today’s standards. Yet it’s still considered to be better in many ways than most of what you’ll find on the shelf at GameStop in 2018. I’m referring to one of the most iconic adventures in the history of our industry, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
Initially released in 1998 for the Nintendo 64, some might wonder exactly why I’d choose Link’s first 3D rendition vs. an old chestnut like The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, for example. The fact of the matter is, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was the first The Legend of Zelda game I ever played. Yes, I know that seems like sacrilege, coming from the Editor-in-Chief of a major gaming site, but The Legend of Zelda simply wasn’t on my radar growing up. I was a Mario guy for the most part, and when I wasn’t trekking around the Mushroom Kingdom, I was down at my local arcade shoving quarters into Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat.
But one day that all changed. I still don’t recall if I bought The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on a whim or simply rented it (which means I no doubt begged my parents for the money by the way). But from the moment the Deku Tree dies in the opening sequence (20 year-old spoiler), I was transported into a world I’ll never forget. The oasis which was laid out before me was unlike anything I had ever experienced. And while the idea of “open world” gaming was still a concept that GTA hadn’t pioneered quite yet, I absolutely felt as if I had somehow stepped outside the confines of the traditional platforming formula I’d been so used to in previous years. Everything about this game, from the villages, to the Temple of Time to just kicking back with some good fishing; it still gives me chills to this day. And while Super Mario 64 is my favorite N64 game of all time, I still have a special place in my heart for The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. The sheer sense of wonder has set the bar all other games have a pretty hard time living up to.
Which is why, in an age of microtransactions and loot boxes, I’m afraid these kinds of experiences may become lost to the ages. Perhaps future generations will look back on them and learn to truly appreciate them for what they were. Innovation in its purest form.
~Jason Messer - Editor-in-Chief
The CheatCC Team
Date: Holiday 2017