It’s strange to remember just how easily influenced I was. Embarrassing to admit just how obsessively I was able to actually love one. single. video game.
But to be fair, I was only ten years old at the time.
I played a lot of games at that age. Mostly on my Amiga 500. Games like Treasure Island Dizzy, Midnight Resistance, Way of the Exploding Fist. Games I loved. I played games for as long as I was allowed, until I was properly kicked out of the front door. “Play outside,” my parents would scream. The sun is shining and video games are not meant to be played under those conditions.
Monkey Island was a little different from the other games. My reaction to it, at least, was different. I have a hard time explaining precisely why Monkey Island was different. But it was. It just was. From the second those synth chords chimed ominously over the Lucasfilm logo; the second those MIDI steel drums hit, everything changed. I was spellbound.
‘Spellbound’: that’s the only word for it. The game placed me under some sort of weird hypnosis. Very quickly I became obsessed with Monkey Island. Utterly obsessed. I played Monkey Island constantly. I would start and restart new games every single day. I kept specific saves at specific points in the game so I could replay certain parts over and over and over again. I must have replayed Monkey Island start to finish around 50 times. Of all the video game worlds I have experienced and lived in, none is so familiar as Melee Island. Every square pixellated inch burned into the synapses of my poor, long-suffering brain.
There’s something about that age I think. 10-12 years old. A brain waiting to be bent into shape. Before puberty, before the discovery of the opposite sex. Before complications. Before high school. Before responsibility. Before exams. Before homework. Before consequences for your actions. At that age video games felt like mysterious objects to covet. They came in giant boxes like treasure chests and lived inside discs. They felt like the keys to a cupboard door that lead to Narnia. To worlds you could inhabit and breathe in. When I look back now it’s terrifying just how engrossed I became in the universe of Monkey Island, the connections I made, the investment my young brain placed in that world.
It influenced me in all kinds of weird ways. It changed the way I walked.
It literally changed the way I walked.
I distinctly remember trying to walk like Guybrush Threepwood, the game’s protagonist. I remember extending my feet longer than initially felt comfortable. I remember swinging my arms dramatically to match the animations. I remember trying to walk faster. I remember walking around the playground trying to hold that conscious thought in my mind: this is how he walks. His legs do this. This is how he walks. This is how he moves.
I remember trying to grow a ponytail. Like Guybrush. I remember trying to convince my parents this was a good idea. I remember going to my year 6 formal dance with a pathetic clump of blonde hair poking out of my Mum’s spare hair-tie. In hindsight, this was a drastic error in judgement.
I remember weekends. Going on ‘adventures’. Adventures in the real world that might somehow mimic adventures in the graphic sense. In the Lucasarts sense. I remember taking my backpack and filling that backpack with objects I might ‘use’ during my adventures. Objects I could combine with others in order to solve ‘puzzles’. I remember my brain being shaped according to the game’s SCUMM engine. I remember how those verbs actively determined actions I would take in the real world.
“Use object x with object y”. “Push”, “pull”, “look at”.
“Open”, “close”, “look at”, “use”. The words that allowed you to interact in game. I allowed these words to infiltrate the manner in which I communicated with real life space and real life objects.
One night I walked with my mum to the shops and spent the whole hour telling her about Monkey Island. I told her the story of the game from start to finish. Each item you collected. The puzzles you solved. The places you visited the conversations that happened along the way. She listened. I remember those moments. How could she tolerate that? How?
This is strange. I admit this is strange. I understand that my obsession was objectively weird. But this is not a story about a broken down child doing weird in an attempt compensate for heartbreak or abuse. I did not have a difficult childhood. At age 10 I was healthy and loved. I was popular at school. I was good at things. I was good at sport, good at school. Good. Well liked. Trusted. Healthy. Balanced. My obsession with Monkey Island did not stem from underlying psychological issues. I did not feel the need to disappear. I did not want to hide from the people around me. I did not want to hide from myself.
I don’t know what I wanted. I’m not what my ten year old self took from the video game he obsessively played over and over and over and over and over again.
One night before I slept I remember praying intensely and I never prayed. Dear God, please let me fall asleep. Let me fall asleep and wake up inside Monkey Island. I wanted to be in that video game. I wanted that sincerely.
It is embarrassing to remember that. It is difficult to write those words. A memory I’d like burn and forget. I wasn’t unhappy. Was I unhappy? I don’t think so. I was normal.
Is that normal?
It’s normal I think.
It’s funny how much of that obsession still filters into my adult life. It’s because of Monkey Island that I wanted to travel and travel has really defined my life. It has fundamentally altered who I am and what I have become. When I was 19 I went to America for four months by myself. In my head I called it my ‘Monkey Island 1’. When I was 21 I travelled to Japan where I lived for two years. That was Monkey Island 2.
Monkey Island changed the way I walk.
Nowadays, when I play video games and that game asks me my name I always write: ‘G Threepwood’. If that doesn’t fit I just write ‘Threep’.
This is normal. I think.