I only have two memories of my early childhood.
The first, and probably the most prevalent, is of playing t-ball with my dad as my coach. We were the first team to ever score a double play in the league (which they threw out as being “against the spirit of tee-ball”). The second memory, while certainly less amazing (and traumatizing), is of sitting at my grandmother’s house and playing video games with my oldest brother. He had received a Super Nintendo and Super Mario World for his birthday, and we sat there all day playing until our eyes hurt and he got tired enough that it was affecting his performance (the scientific studies of fatigue and its effect on motor skills obviously didn’t exist in the far-away time of the ‘90s).
That memory is one of the driving forces behind my love of video games. My dad had passed away a year or so before that and my ability to get close to anyone had been seriously hindered. Sitting there with my brother and helping him navigate the Mushroom Kingdom allowed me to bond with someone. It was a type of reverse aversion therapy; If I wanted to experience and help with the game, I’d have to talk and interact with another human being. After that, I inherited the NES (which had been collecting dust in my brother’s bedroom) and the trove of games that came with it. Playing those (and sneaking into my brother’s bedroom to play his SNES when he wasn’t around), allowed me to have a reason to talk to other kids my age. Oddly enough, video games gave me a social life and made me less of an outcast…weird, right?
Fast forward to a more recent weekend and I’m sitting down to finally dig into Fable Heroes. I’ve never been an enormous fan of the Fable series, but I've always enjoyed the hack-and-slash genre. Besides, I was given the game in exchange for this article (thanks, Bitmob!), so what’s the worst that could come of it?
As I played through for the first time, I didn’t like it. It wasn’t that I hated it, but its simplistic controls and incredibly easy design left little desire to keep going. The game never really gets any more difficult (even in the additional content that unlocks once you beat it) and there’s very little value In the title, even though they’ve tossed in tons of replayability in the form of character unlocks and branching paths within each of the levels. But the problem isn’t the content, it’s the actual desire to want to play that content in the first place…much less over and over again.
At the point that I was fully prepared to write the game off as something that just didn’t interest me, my nephew Wyatt came into my bedroom. His grandfather had been in the hospital and wasn’t doing great. His mom was staying there all day and his dad (my brother) couldn’t get off of work in order to watch him, so I became his entertainment for the day. As he ran up and gave me a hug, his eyes were immediately drawn to my television screen. Even as I tried to talk to him, he would nod or shake his head in response but never took his eyes off of the puppets (the characters you play as) on the screen. Finally, he turned his head to me and, with a toothy grin, asked if he could play.
That was the rest of my afternoon. Wyatt would squeal and laugh as he hacked and slashed his way through Albion. He became “Wyatt The Good Guy!!!” and would scream about beating up the bad guys with his sword. He died often, he slobbered a bit on my controller (when he stares at something he does so with his mouth wide open, which means he drools a bit when he concentrates…it’s actually kind of adorable), and he yelled way more than I would have liked to hear on a Sunday, but eventually (with a little direction from me), he beat the entire first half of the game. He loved every second of it, and honestly, so did I.
It reminded me of playing Mario with my brother all those years ago and, while he isn't as socially awkward as I was (he hasn’t quite gotten to that age yet), it was still a traumatic experience — and video games — that brought us both together for that afternoon.
It’s funny how you sometimes forget that not every game is for you. While I may not have liked Fable Heroes much, it obviously appeals to a different audience. The simplistic controls and colorful backdrops are reminiscent of a number of older platformers, and while it may not hold the same appeal as Super Mario World (and will probably not garner the same following), it’s a great game for people who don’t play video games – or at least not as many video games as some of us do.
At the very least, when I asked Wyatt what he would give it (out of 10 stars), he said he would give it fifty million. Maybe the next game I’ll let him play will be something that involves counting.
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