Let’s face facts: the present can be brutal.
We have to work. That often sucks. I enjoy my job, but I’m one of the lucky ones.
You might have to go to school, TAFE, university. There are pressures. You have bills to pay. You have relationships to maintain, problems to solve. You have to sit on a train with your buttchecks wedged in between two strangers. You have to sweat together. Gross.
The past? We’re allowed to lionize the past. Our brains tend to be wired that way. We forget the struggles of the present that was. We forget being stuck on that train with no air conditioning, wedged between two dudes, we forget about the buttcheek on buttcheek action.
We just remember the good times.
And the future? Well, everyone knows that the future represents a glorious horizon of possibility. That’s where our lives get better. That’s where we get our shit together. That’s the place where all of our dreams comes true. That’s the place where we’ve written that best seller, made our millions. That’s the place where we’ve settled down with the woman/man of our dreams and bear children that shit moonbeams. That magical future where we reap all the rewards without without have to deal with the inglorious grind of the present that’s supposed to get us to that point, out there in the distance.
Alright, let’s dial this thing back to video games.
Because the same thing goes for the video game experience. We lionise the past and gaze longingly into the future. It is for this reason that old timers like myself tend to reminisce on the games of yesteryear without any shred of self awareness; only remembering the good times, the great games. Huddling round a CRT with our buddies playing 4-player Goldeneye — we can vaguely grasp at that feeling. I know I do.
But you know what I’m less likely to remember? The three hours I spend studying for my final high school exams before playing Goldeneye. You know what I’m even less likely to talk about? Those terrible games I played and hated on N64 PlayStation One. Do you know what we never talk about ever? The fact that Goldeneye has aged terribly to the point where I wonder if it was ever that great a game to begin with. The real answer to that question is literally lost in time.
I guess it’s all part of that ‘human experience’. The video games we play in the present often feel like a grind. In themselves they are an escape from that sweaty buttcheek present, yet I often get the sense that what I’m really doing is creating those memories that I will later distort. REMEMBER SKYRIM? REMEMBER THAT TIME WHEN YOU FIRST KILLED A DRAGON? Yeah, sure. But remember that time you totally got lost trying to find that quest giver and you spent an hour walking round in circles?
Nah, not really. Because we’re not built that way.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we don’t enjoy video games ‘in the moment’. Video games can be engaging on a second to second basis. I’ve always believed that the best ones always are, but video games are subject to the same rules as everyday life. We lionise the past, and the present is merely something we have to endure until we somehow reach that mystical end point in the horizon: the future.
At present my life is a bit of a shambles. I’m in the process of moving house, my consoles are all locked up in storage and I’ve been spending every waking moment not working painting my goddamn house. My hands are currently covered in paint. My shoes are covered in paint. I smell like paint. Literally when I inhale oxygen I can taste paint. My present is filled with struggle and pain(t).
The game I’m currently looking forward to the most is Destiny. Destiny is set for release on September 9. By that time I will have fully moved into my new house. That house will be painted perfectly. My furniture will be laid out just like I like it and my 19 month old son will be in the corner crapping moonbeams. I will settle into my comfy couch in that glorious neon future and I will play this perfect video game that currently has no flaws.
I wonder if that’s why we tend to get so hyped about unreleased games. There’s the marketing, there’s that brutal cycle of advertising and bombast but there’s also that little voice whispering in the back of our minds: this game is from the future, that distant unknowable dot on the horizon where everything will be allllriiiiiiiiiight.