When I was in college, I studied film critique. Not heavily, my major was a general study of the media, but I seized any opportunity I could to dig into the messages and imagery a film presents. What may come as a surprise is I didn’t do this out of a love for film. I enjoyed film, but analyzing it wasn’t my ultimate goal. This was simply the closest analog I could find for studying video games on that level. I wanted to analyze video games, to look at games the way film critics look at film. Why? Well, gaming has been a part of me all my life.
When I was about 3 or 4, my older cousin left me his NES — or Nintendo as we called it — but my memories of that era are a bit fuzzy. Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros. stick out in my mind the most. No surprises there. Their peers were a list of titles that apparently weren't worth remembering, because I can't remember any. Oh wait, I do recall owning Wall Street Kid. See, I told you it wasn't worth it. I loved my NES but I wouldn't fall deeply in love with gaming until I owned my first console. A Super Nintendo.
Despite being a grade schooler who hated reading, Japanese RPGs became my obsession at that age. Final Fantasy IV and Final Fantasy VI soaked up most of my free time and hold a special place in my heart to this day. I may not know where my copy of Clayfighter is, but my Final Fantasy cartridges sit next to my gaming station, reminding me what RPGs should aspire to be. I wasn't joking when I said I became a bit obsessive. Getting every character in both games to level 99 was one of my childhood projects, a feat I approached but never accomplished. I did manage to max out both games' clocks while trying, though.
I grew up with gaming, but I also grew up with music. I've always had a knack for rhythm, so in grade school I took drum lessons. I didn't last long. Something about turning my love of rhythm into work never set well with me. Lugging my snare drum to and from school didn't help things, either. So, to my parents' devastation, I dropped music in favor of more time with my Japanese RPGs.
I picked up guitar in my late teenage years. I had aspirations of being in a band with my high school buddies, but quickly realized I was the only one committed to learning an instrument. Unfettered, I kept playing and practicing — still do to this day. I couldn't have picked up guitar at a better time, either. I started in 2004, one year before Guitar Hero would change my outlook on gaming and music forever.
If Final Fantasy games defined my childhood, rhythm games defined my young adulthood. I could finally combine my love of rhythm with my love of gaming in the form of unadulterated rock. Despite my family's fears, I never dropped real guitar for the plastic one. A reasonable concern given my history with drumming. The two experiences were wholly different in my mind, and always will be. Guitar helps me wind down; Guitar Hero usually amps me up.
The release of Rock Band left me initially unimpressed. "A fake guitar is one thing," I told myself "but an entire drum set? Who would want that?" I did, apparently. Rock Band helped rekindle the love of drumming I lost in my early school days. I keep telling myself I'll upgrade to a real kit soon, but as of this post I'm about 3 years deep and no years closer to that goal. Once that day comes, though, neighbors and noise police beware.
I picked up writing recently. I suppose that's an odd way of phrasing it. Picking up writing is kind of like picking up reading. I've written all my life, but I'm taking it more seriously nowadays. I became editorial director for the gaming clan I'm a part of, PMS/H2O, freelance my writing out to GameZone, and covered PAX East and E3 2012 as media. Eventually, I’d like to bring what I learned from film critique into my own gaming critique. It's a small start, but everyone starts somewhere. With any luck, it will lead me somewhere as well.
If you want to get a taste of what I do around the web, check out the following links.