Morrowind and formative game experiences


#1

When I was 14, I got Morrowind: Game of the Year Edition and I’ve never viewed games the same. Up until that point, games were just games. Sure, I loved Zelda as much as the next guy. Final Fantasy games were large epics that I became increasingly obsessed with. I caught every Pokemon I could get my grubby little Game Boy hands on. But as I played through Morrowind, games suddenly became a place where I experienced something. I could exist in a fantastical place, somewhere odd and intriguing. Morrowind beckoned me to explore every nook and cranny of ancient ruins, to sneak around shops as a (literal) cat burgular, to discuss politics with crazy wizards who live in mushrooms, to broker alliances between warring great houses of a far-off volcano island. Every few years, I come back to this game because it was the first game that hooked me, that pulled me in, that captivated me. Honestly, I’ve rarely experienced that awe since.

What are some of the games that first pulled you in?


#2

LEGO Racers was the first game that made me think of playing games as a thing I wanted to do more often in my spare time. It was LEGOs and I could play it with my twin brother which was an amazing idea to me at the time (we didn’t have a console until I was 11)

Civilization 3 made me realize I liked strategy games and especially turn-based ones. I wouldn’t grasp the game really until the fourth game, but I liked it.

Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy was the first game I had on a console and it made realize just how pretty and imaginative games could be.

Civilization V was really the first game to make me start thinking about games on a much more critical/analytical level. How mechanics interact with one another and how games can convey message mechanically.


#3

I’d played some of the older 2D Zeldas before, but Majora’s Mask was the first one in this series that I played through completion (yes, way before I even touched OoT), and it cemented my fondness for games that contain some kind of an explorable microcosm, where characters/NPCs live their lives independent of your existence and reference and relate to each other; there’s also the relative lack of power fantasies and “epicness” and the dark tone that evokes different kinds of feelings from the other games I’d played at the time. Pathologic is another example of a game that left a huge impression on me and that I really love for a lot of the same reasons.

Harvest Moon for the SNES was when I first realized I really enjoy almost anything that involves some degree of simulation, especially of the mundane. I’m the kind of person who actually enjoys playing Papers, Please not just for the ‘narrative’, but also finds its gameplay mechanics super fun.


#4

I played the original Final Fantasy when I was 8 or 9 and it was one of the first games that really felt like it took place in a world instead of just being a series of levels. I remember reading the Nintendo Power Guide cover to cover and really caring about why certain monsters lived in certain dungeons and wondering what the Dragon King was king of. Looking back, a lot of is fairly standard fantasy/D&D stuff, but it was my first experience with a lot of those tropes, especially in a game-setting, so it all felt really magical and sprawling


#5

Halo: Combat Evolved on the original Xbox was the first game that felt truly epic to me. I’d played a ton of PC and PlayStation games before but something about the look, feel and scale of Halo took my breath away.

I’ll never forget the fear my 12-year-old self felt that moment you first encounter the flood. That entire level; creeping through the jungle, discovering the helmet-cam footage, retracing the steps of the fallen marines. All leading to that blood-curdling moment when you find yourself trapped in the same room you just saw in the found-footage and you know exactly what kind of horror is now coming for you…


#6

Oh, I know exactly what you’re talking about.

I had a NES and an Amiga and up to a point, games were something I really liked, but I didn’t think about them as a medium, something that was exciting and I really wanted to be involved in.

I had a teacher whose husband wrote hints and cheats for a magazine called Amiga Action under the pseudonym The Boggit. I met him a couple of times because my parents were teachers to and were friendly with the family.

One day, he showed me Monkey Island 1 + 2. This would have been in about '92, so when the second game was pretty new.

I didn’t know what I was looking at but I knew it was very different from anything I had seen before in video games. The characters were having conversations, things were happening, there were jokes and stuff! Suddenly the whole idea of what games could be exploded in my mind and I knew I had to know more. Without even knowing anything about the games than I could glean from the opening sequences, I pleaded with my dad to get one of them for me.

I was so ignorant, still, about this kind of game that at first I asked for Monkey 2. The graphics and music seemed a bit nicer, and back then a sequel was generally the newer, fancier version of the old game so it just made sense. I’m eternally grateful that my dad suggested I get the first one instead, and so I got to play them in order.

I’ve never thought of games the same since that moment. It’s the path that led me towards wanting to make my own games. It’s the path that led me towards wanting to make music for games.

This week I discovered that on Friday I’m going to get the chance to meet Tim Schafer, someone who was part of this extremely formative path for me. And later this year I’ll meet Peter McConnell who had such a big role to play in how I think about my music and I have so much to thank for now that I’ve just in the last year started to make music for games part time.

I’m quite excited.

(Incidentally, while it came much later for me, Morrowind was the first RPG I played that fully ‘clicked’ with me)


#7

Morrowind was absolutely this for me as well. I didn’t have a PC or an XBox when I was growing up so I didn’t get to it till later but it was still the biggest formative experience for me. WHere Metal Gear Solid showed me that games could be cinematic in a way I had never thought of, Morrowind showed me that games could be outright biblical.


#8

Morrowind was a big one for me, too. I already loved big, open worlds because of Ocarina of Time, but Morrowind took it to a new level. I’d never seen a world of that scale, and the idea that you could break quests and even the main story blew my mind at the time. I remember I ended up printing off a bunch of walkthroughs at a friend’s house (this was before I had internet access) and spent a summer fully lost in Vvardenfell.

Link’s Awakening was an earlier one, and probably the first game I loved. Link’s Awakening, Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask were all hugely important for me for different reasons, but LA was the first, and in a lot of ways it still defines what I look for in a game. There was this sense of the unknowable to it, like there were aspects of its world I would never fully understand, but at the same time it had a clear sense of place and consistent logic to it. Looking back, it’s the surreal touches around the edges of the story that contribute to this, and it probably ended up priming me for Majora’s Mask, which would end up being one of my favorite games.

The last game I’ll mention is Metal Gear Solid 2, which was the beginning of my love affair with stealth games. The MGS lore seems loopy and overblown nowadays, but at the time it was exciting to see games exploring adult themes and grappling with Big Ideas. It was also one of the first games that really encouraged me to play around with systems and look for novel ways to solve problems.


#9

There’s some contenders I’m sure, but my memory is very bad and I can’t really recall how certain games shaped me when it comes to how I enjoy games.

There’s one notable exception though; Medal Of Honor: Rising Sun for the GameCube Why? Because it’s the first game that I realised was kinda crap. In a way it opened my mind to the entire idea that games can even be bad. That was my first step towards thinking critically about games and media as such, I think.


#10

The first game that I remember playing was Doom 2. Doom 2 was a game that I loved to play with cheat codes because I was around five years old and didn’t know how to play well. But I loved playing it because of the music, the visuals, and the sound effects of the guns and enemies. Doom 2 made me love video games.


#11

Super Mario Bros. 3 was the first video game I ever really got into. I’m not sure if it was the first, but it’s the first one that remained a fixture of my life for years. I still play it sometimes. At the time, consoles got to Israel at a pretty significant delay, and even though the SNES was already out, the NES was what most people were playing. Actually, the way imports caught up, I think we pretty much skipped straight from NES to N64.

Speaking of -

Super Mario 64 was another formative experience for me. It really got my fascination with exploration in video games going. The thought that you had so many things to do in a video game level, and you might start doing one and stumble into the other, and you could screw around in the hub and happen upon a level you never knew was there - that really got my imagination fired up.

Final Fantasy VII, finally, was the game that really got me into story-heavy games. I still can’t help but gush at every chance about how much it got right. Far from any claims that people only like it because of nostalgia, I think it was actually massively ahead of its time - I find it easier to understand its greatness today than back when it came out.