Video GamesWed, 7th Apr '21, 12:45 am::

I have vague early-childhood memories of my parents and their friends hooking up wired remote controllers to an old black & white TV in the early 80s to play pong. I never got to play it but soon after we got a handheld pinball video game that my sister and I loved, similar to this Nintendo. I was never good at it but it was fun. Few years later we borrowed a ZX Spectrum from a family friend for the summer and played JetPac. This was around the time PCs were becoming common in India and I got to try out the original Prince of Persia. My friends were playing Contra on NES but I never got into it.

Few years later we got our own PC, a brand new Intel 486 DX2 with 8MB RAM and 500MB Hard Disk, and over next few years my sister and I played so many games on it from Gods and Jazz Jackrabbit to Aladdin and Lion King. As I was still pretty bad at games, I discovered the wonders of Game Wizard, a background app that allowed me to freeze the number of lives I had so that even after my character died, I could play over and over again without losing. I made a few simple PC board games around mid 90s but didn't really go down the gamedev path. Then Wolf 3D, Doom, Need for Speed, and Terminal Velocity came out and my cheating apps didn't help.

After I started coding business systems in late 90s, I stopped playing games. In early 2000s, during my college years, I only finished one game, Splinter Cell because a good friend of mine, Chris, loved it and gave me tips. My favorite part of Splinter Cell was that I could save and load any time. So I would save right before I entered a room full of bad guys and keep loading the saved game until I managed to shoot them all without dying. I was terrible at it but I finished it without needed a modern Game Wizard cheat.

In 2005, I came across Falling Sand Game and loved it. It was more of a toy than a game but I'm fairly certain that when I decrypted the Java code and resized the tiny game to be full-screen, it launched the genre. I didn't write the game but I'm pretty sure I pushed the metaphorical "GO!" button and I think I also came up with the name itself. Other than this, I don't think I played any games until after I married Juliet and we tried Portal. It took us a few weeks but we loved solving the puzzles together and finished it after much effort. I listened to the Still Alive song from the game for months after. We tried Portal 2 a few years later but never completed it.

I rarely played games on my phone but Juliet tried a few ones like Candy Crush. Then my parents got me into a few word game apps but it was under 20-30mins per week. When Naveen turned 4, I installed Terraria on his Kindle and he started playing it. Couple of years ago I bought Oculus Quest and tried out Beat Saber and enjoyed it until our living room was once again overtaken by baby toys.

Last year we started playing a few games together on the Apple TV and during the initial lockdowns, Naveen and I got into Oceanhorn 2. We played it all summer and when the game was over, I was crushed because it was such a great experience just sitting in the living room with kids, looking for hidden treasures to collect on-screen. Thankfully for Naveen, he and Juliet started playing Sneaky Sasquatch soon after and I believe they are still exploring that game 9-10 months later today.

Earlier this year, I bought the new Xbox Series X and we all started playing games together again. We absolutely loved Call of the Sea and What Remains of Edith Finch. I finished Gears 5 on my own, with Naveen occasionally telling me to "go there" or "pick that up" from the sidelines, but the experience was nothing like when we played Oceanhorn because Gears is not really a kid-friendly game.

I haven't started a new game with Juliet yet but after trying out a LOT of different games, Naveen and I finally have a new game we love to explore together, Outer Worlds. It is a surprisingly feature-packed game with so much to explore, ton of player customization and upgrades, and great story-line and interactivity. Naveen uses his experience from Terraria and suggests how I should modify my gear, barter items, or select newly unlocked perks. We haven't finished it but we've explored a lot of the game already and can't wait to see where it goes.

Three decades after getting my hands on a video game, I am still terrible at them. I can barely fight an enemy boss without half a dozen attempts to save and reload. I often get lost and have to go into the same rooms and hallways repeatedly just to find my bearings. And despite all of it, I thoroughly enjoy playing video games, especially with family. I miss the days my sister and I would stay up all night just to get past one tricky level. Now I get to relive those exciting moments and nerve-racking emotions again with Naveen in every new game we try, and someday maybe with Leela.

Books, films, TV shows, and music each have their own place in my heart when I want to engage in passive entertainment. Board games and outdoors adventures are wonderful for active entertainment. But video games for me hit the perfect spot as a blend of both active and passive activity and best of all, since I am so bad at them, last for weeks and even months! And I think it is this prolonged participation in each particular game that leaves such deep, wonderful memories in my mind. Because when we're playing a new game, I am living in that world for a long time, unlike a 2-3 hour movie or a few evenings worth of reading a good book.

I have watched every Marvel and DC movie made in the last 20 years, most of them multiple times. Last summer we spent over 120 hours playing Oceanhorn. That's twice as long as all of these movies combined and then some. And best of all, I spent every single one of those hours engaging with Naveen, asking him why he wants to go there or pick that up, letting him come up with the winning strategy, working with him on his decision-making process. Sure, at the end of the day it's all just games but we needed the escape from reality when Juliet was alone in the hospital after her diagnosis of MS. And now while we await the results of her secondary, possible diagnosis of Myasthenia Gravis, I'm just glad that Juliet seems interested in playing Fallout 4 next.

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