The games that shaped you


What games made you who you are? What game do you look back on and think: “Oh that’s why I’m super into stuff like blank!”?

For me it’s Final Fantasy Tactics. I look back and think about that game and wonder how much of my taste in the Fantasy genre and my deep held skepticism in humanity can be traced back to that game. Even my taste in art and music can be traced back to this game.


My embarrassing entry in this category is The World Ends With You, which I played at just the right time to have it challenge my personality very directly and push me towards different kinds of behaviour.


Myst. Myst and probably only Myst. I love walking around and just taking a place in. It’s me, the person walking sims are made for.

Weirdly enough though I have no interest in the Witness.


I struggled to find a good answer. All the examples I initially came up with are not really games that changed me, but reflected what I already was (e.g. my fascination with religious beliefs and the culture in Morrowind).

I think the most honest answers would be Depression Quest. Before DQ I had only a vague idea of depression being something other people had and that involved being sad a lot. Then I went through a rough period (scholars argue that it is ongoing) and one night I played it and found so much of myself in it. It really was a revelation.

Also, I learned from Chessmaster that chess is a bad game that I don’t like.


I’m not sure if any games shaped my young world view but then again maybe it did in some unconcinous way.

Sonic and Streets of Rage immediately jumped to mind,as being important cornerstones of my gaming experience.

Streets of Rage holds a particular precious memory for me, being the only game my mum ever played with me. I say played, she stood in the middle of the screen and let Blaze do her idle animation, running her hand through her hair. She was really impressed with that and wouldn’t stop marveling at it. I meanwhile had to fend off the waves of bad guys that were swarming towards her.

I cherish that memory more than any other gaming related experience.

Otherwise the original Medal of Honour may have begun my relationship with First person shooters, it being a console shooter for a child who never had his own PC. I honestly thought it was a revolution in AI and interactivity. You know why? The enemies stopped, dropped and rolled to avoid being shot. It is honestly one of the most ludicrous looking things you will ever see and look crazy in retrospect.


Tomb Raider.

I was at my friend’s house next door. We were going to go out for a bike ride, then I saw in the living room a PlayStation set up. His mum asked whether I’d been shown the Playstation yet. Suffice it to say, we did not go out for that bike ride that day…

I was aware of games back then, most of my friends had either Sega Mega Drive or Super Nintendo. Playstation was the first time games really made an impression, especially with Tomb Raider. I was just amazed by the 3D levels and the atmosphere. I remember playing the third level and suddenly finding myself being attacked by raptors and a T-Rex. Literally, anything could jump out at you in that game. I was hooked.


The first game I played was Ratchet and Clank and while it’s a fantastic game (even if I was too young for the jokes) I wouldn’t say it shaped me. One that did was the (fairly obscure?) PS1 game N2O that my mum picked up for my brother and I from a bargain bin. The music is fantastic and I’ve liked that kind of music ever since.
Second formative game would probably be Kingdom Hearts, for being the first game I’d seen to use that very overwrought theme of Love, Destiny, Light and Darkness. That game is so bizarre as an adult but it made perfect sense and seemed really beautiful at the time. I think it taught me that there were games that weren’t… explicitly male coded (given most seemed to be about guns, war and football) that I could enjoy without feeling I was also playing a “game for girls”. I think it’s what kept me interested in games as I got older. That’s not to say I wouldn’t play FPS or sports games now, but being a teen is weird time.


The old classic arcade games made me, I crave variety and new systems to poke at because from age four I was switching arcade boards out of our cocktail cabinet machine as if it was an NES.

But as far as shaping my world, Bastion came at the right time in my life with a story that stuck with me as a constant reminder that the person you might want to call an enemy, has a story, experiences, and point of view also.


This is a good question.

Ultimately, I think the one game that changed my life in a pretty significant way would be, of all things, Runescape. I spent years in that game, shaped by a single character, wasting so much time, but learning things I never was taught elsewhere. How to be a merchant; make money by watching the price of things, buy low and sell high. How to spot a scam a mile away. How to make friends with strangers on the internet. How to actually be someone on the internet. That copper and tin make bronze. You know, life lessons.

Really though, I think the most important way Runeacape changed me was helping me to realize how to spot addiction and how to deal with it. I know I got deep into that game and nearly let myself slide down a hole when I should have been focusing more on school, but I was able to realize and quit before that happened. Better that game than alcohol, smoking, drugs. It was a game that taught me how to self reflect and understand who I am, as cliche as that sounds.

I very much doubt I’ll ever get into another MMO, and now only play games I know have a definitive end because of Runescape. For the good and the bad, that game shaped who I am, and I’m glad for it.


The game that shaped me most is one I didn’t get to play until I was an adult.

I was visiting my cousins in New York when I was about ten, give or take a year. They had a Super Nintendo (which I wouldn’t get until a couple years later) and Secret of Mana. It was the most beautiful game I had ever seen. I didn’t realize then that games could look like that, really. I’d mostly played your Marios and your Super Tecmo Bowls (fine games, of course) but any games with even a whiff of magic were strictly forbidden in my uber-conservative house so RPGs were verboten.

When I got home from New York all I could think about was Secret of Mana. There was no way I would be able to buy it for myself - I didn’t get much of an allowance, I didn’t have an SNES, and even I did my mom would never let me buy it.

But what I did have was Nintendo Power at my local library. NP devoted, I think, two entire issues to SoM walkthroughs and I made a bee line for the magazines every time we went to the library to pick up “books” for “reading.” We weren’t allowed to check out current-issue magazines, so I had to huddle over the dog-eared copy and learn everything about SoM during my short visits. I memorized the art, who could use which weapons and magic, and studied the maps like I was going on an actual journey.

I think it’s fair to say my love of fantasy nurtured during those stolen minutes hunched over a Nintendo Power.

20-odd years later I finally picked up Secret of Mana on Virtual Console. I had played a Seiken Densetsu 3 ROM in college but never SoM. I played it start to finish over a weekend. It was so great.


Two games for me.

Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars. I never played this when it first came out. Long story short, I was more of a “sports-game-only” gamer; I only ever played Madden. Then I befriended my current best friend in high school and he sat my down and forced me to play this game (this was around 2001-02). My eyes were opened to a world that was always there, but I never saw.

When I wrapped up with that, I searched through his game collection (with his permission) and pulled out one game, asking if I could play this next. He said yes, and so I popped in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

I haven’t looked back since.


Metal Gear Solid 2. I played it way too young (I was ten when the game came out), and the ending especially kicked open the doors to my mind and introduced young-me to postmodernism, and for better or worse that’s been my jam ever since.


G-Darius is so incredibly bleak that it cannot leave you intact. Taito wasn’t kidding back then.


Halo 2 was a game that “Only cool rich Americans” had where I was living & I became obsessed with things like Machinima because of it. I became an expert in the lore despite not owning the game or an Xbox until well after Halo 3 came out & it really got me into games which lead me looking into a whole lot of other things in life. Once I started listening to podcasts that weren’t solely about Halo related though I quickly wen’t from loving it to disliking it significantly because that was the cool thing to do at the time but I’d be lying if it was not a game that was very important to me personally.


The one that influenced me the most was probably the DEMO of GTA2. There are a couple of factors involved here. My friend had good internet and I didn’t, so I had to play it at his house because I couldn’t download it. The social aspect was important, since I’m awkward and not good at making friends. We didn’t really have games at my house anyway (my parents are pop culture challenged and since we were in a cult we didn’t have Christmas either).

The demo is 6 minutes long. You end up taking run based turns. Do you want to spend your 6 minutes doing some missions, or exploring, or going for a high score, or seeing how long you can outrun the cops. There is only so much you can discover in 6 minutes, so you do a lot of runs, going in all directions. He had lots of demos for other games downloaded, but GTA2 got the most play.

Exploration and discovery is what I like best about games. Having a variety of things to do to keep things fresh is important to me. Having a cultural touchstone for me to use to connect to my peers was important to me.


Obvious one but being like 11-12 years old and getting a PSOne and Metal Gear Solid was a big deal for me, the week after finishing it was when I started buying game magazines.

Other than that it was the glimpses of Point and Click adventure games that really stuck with me and got me invested in the building blocks of creating the facade of a woven story. Stuff like The Last Express and Full Throttle.


Good replies in this thread. I like reading what’s shaped people. Anyway—

There’s a few for me: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past showed me how open a game could be. How a platform that I had previously only played platformers and a kart racer on could also provide adventure, true liberating adventure, on such a grand scale. Funny enough Ocarina of Time would also duplicate this feeling (and so would Breath of the Wild this year in a lot of ways).

Super Mario 64: This is probably less nuanced that my feelings about Zelda, but this game was revelatory. It was 3D. A whole other dimension that I hadn’t ever experienced in a game before. I didn’t even know games could exist like that.

Oh boy. Here it comes. Can’t be a dr_monocle’s gaming history post without—
Xenogears: I read a lot of books. I like stories, they’re fun. I don’t know that I’ve ever encountered a story as delightfully convoluted and encompassing as that which is contained in the two discs of Xenogears. Mechs, religion, power fantasies, despair, nanomachines, the meaning of freedom away from a creator god… I hadn’t really conceived of the possibility that games could tackle such mature themes before. My first JRPG was technically Super Mario RPG (I wasn’t really aware that it was one at the time) but Xenogears is what fully immersed me in a genre that would become my favorite for years to come.


Yesterday I realized that my experiences in Counter-Strike taught me WAY more about human behavior than I realized.

In college dorms, my roommate, our friends across the hall, and a couple other friends in a separate dorm would jump into the same CS servers and “grief”. Now, I know that “griefing” is not cool. Even though we weren’t harassing people or hacking the game, we would do a lot of things to subvert the game and confuse the other players. Since most CS games involve rushing to one of a few choke points, we would camp outside of the choke points and stack on top of each other like a human totem pole. When the enemy team came through the hallway (or whatever), they would never expect six players to be in two columns on either side of the door.

Another game we would play was “Hide and Seek”. If one of our group was on the Terrorist team and spawned with the bomb, they would toss the bomb into a spot that was outside of the game’s geometry, like under a table or into a narrow corner. Even though players could see the bomb, they couldn’t get close enough to pick it up. So after doing this, our “inside terrorist” would repeat a code word into “All Talk” and then the Counter-Terrorists on our team would find places in the map to hide. The Counter-Terrorists would just sit until time ran out while the Terrorist team yelled at our inside man. It infuriated people, which was kind of the whole point.

What I learned from these experiences is that you can’t assume that your opponents share your same mutually exclusive goals, even when that’s what they say. For example, when Bill Nye debated Ken Ham on the topic of whether or not “Creationism” was a viable explanation for existence, the two people debated the same thing, but with two very different goals. Bill Nye wanted to prove that Creationism was not a viable explanation for existence. Ken Ham wanted to gain followers. And if you look at the video, Ham goes out of his way to ingratiate himself with the audience while Nye doesn’t care about appearances. Even though Ham said a lot of things that didn’t make sense, it didn’t matter. When Nye pointed out Ham’s hypocrisy, he sounded condescending and unlikable. Ham made sure that he looked good because, once again, he wasn’t trying to prove anything: he just wanted people on his side.

So, yeah. Playing WAY too much Counter-Strike, and griefing, taught me a lot about why it’s important to understand people’s intentions.


This is a great topic! I think my first game that really developed me as a player was Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, I still get excited for games either about skateboarding or about exploring a 3D world via creative expression in movement. Wario Land 3 also got me interested in puzzle-platforming, which is mostly about problem solving in movement - not too far from what I get out of Tony Hawk either.


My mind went straight to Castlevania: Circle of the Moon for Gameboy Advance.

When I was younger and first got my GBA, this was a launch title (I think?) that I immediately dove into. And then almost as immediately gave up, because it was so much harder than anything I’d played before. I didn’t have the reflexes, or know the genre at all. Got stuck in the catacombs fighting the same hopping skeletons, and just ragequit.

But within a few weeks, I came back. I learned what to expect from Castlevania, how to be patient with games and understand when you’re doing something wrong, and how to navigate a giant castle. Not only have I come to love the Metroidvania genre, but I feel like CotM was a key part in teaching a younger me about how to deal with difficulty in games, and how that can still be fun.