The Time A Video Game Changed The Way I Walked

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.

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Comments

    http://stansellseverything.ytmnd.com/

      One of my most favourite YTMNDs ever. I miss those days.

      Automatic circumcisers has got to be the most terrifying fictional product I've ever heard of.

    Article upvoted!

    PS: Please provide us with a photo of the "pathetic clump of blonde hair poking out of my Mum’s spare hair-tie"

      Oh christ. I don't know if such a photo exists!

        A pity you can't have a cool username here, for what I presume are professional reasons.

          You sound more like a flooring inspector.

    This story is excellent. I love it. Thanks Mark.

    Truth be told, I was equally obsessed with Sonic the Hedgehog growing up. I'm embarrassed for some of the things I said/did that are very much in the same vein of this article, but I think I'll just quietly hope everyone I know has forgotten about it...

      Man, I was obsessed with Sonic and I didn't even own a console. I've never actually owned a Sonic game.

      But my schoolbooks were filled with drawings of Sonic, I had Sonic themed contact on the outside, I even had my mum help me cut out patches of material and sew them onto my quilt in the shape of Sonic. Crazy how kids can become fixated on stuff.

    I can't remember if I was ever obsessed with any game quite to this level at all. I know I was quite taken with Pharaoh's Tomb though, for some reason. Kids are weird.

    Great piece.

    Did you throw "Guybrush" out there when trying to find a name for your son?

    Excellent. I thought I loved the game but clearly I was a novice in comparison. The first time I got through the insults/swordfighting was one of my happiest memories as a kid. I also think these games thrived in a time when walkthroughs easily available on the internet didn't exist.
    Thanks Mark this story has raised many happy memories, sorry but your actions are far from normal :)

      Hah! No walkthroughs! God, I remember calling up a friend who had the game, at night, trying to get his advice on how to solve some of the puzzles.

      Putting that paper DRM wheel-dial-symbol thing together on startup every time, actually going to the dictionary to find out what a pulley was.

      Our surrogate sisters were equally enthused and insult sword-fighting was a joyous pastime we shared. That was truly one of the greatest games of my childhood.

    Great article, I had warm memories playing this as a 10 year old with my big brother - remembering getting stuck trying to find the Swordmaster through the forest (gawd) and juggling jugs of rum before they melted the cup. The game that made me want to jump around in real life though was the arcade version of 'Double Dragon', man that game had me and my brother jumping from boulder to boulder, kicking wildly into the air - I was always the 'Red one' and my bro 'the blue one'. Good times.

    Dammit, should have lead with "How appropriate. You write like a cow."

    Monkey Island changed the way I walk.

    It was probably the pantaloons.

      Yeah. You put that much stuff in your pants, it's gonna have an impact on your locomotion.

    I was never obsessed with anything to quite that level myself but I still remember the locations of every bad guy in the original time crisis

      To this day I play Time Crisis whenever I come across one in the arcades at cinemas - the only place they still seem to exist.
      I'm just as good as ever :)

        I still play it, but I can't finish it on a credit any more. Stupid old person reflexes and lack of practice.

        I very nearly kept a CRT screen around just so that I could keep using my G-Con and playing this. Took up too much room, though.

          Actually, you're right - I'm not a one-credit winner any more either so I guess I've lost something over the years.
          I doubt I could complete Point Blank on Very Hard with a G-con in either hand any more either, so yeah... Old Person mode sucks.

          I picked up on old empty virtua cop arcade cabinet and fitted it with a crt and ps2 mainly for the time crisis series so I still play it regularly.

          Last edited 30/01/15 5:29 am

    Mine was the first Quest for Glory. I remember there was one time my parents were away out of state and I've played non stop for 24 hours +...

    Fun article. I sometimes miss loving things like I used to as a kid. The sheer electric joy of knowing that you've found the greatest thing that the world has ever seen. I'm way too cynical as an adult.

      https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BiV5iH_CIAATOUA.jpg:large

      I think as geeks, we actually have the opportunity to exhibit our raw, unbridled enthusiasm a lot more than most folks. There's a reason we call it 'geeking out' when we get so lost in our passion that we become absurdly animated and focused.

    I loved this game as a kid but I was waaay to young to understand the mechanics so I ended up spending months playing it only to make it aboard the ship.. still loved the style and atmosphere the game had.

    top shelf. nice article. thanks for the memories.

    At least part of the reason I'm a musician is due to thinking Hoagie from Day Of The Tentacle was cool. He was actually a roadie but it was all the same to me. He was just so relaxed and unfazed by the time travel madness happening around, and I thought 'That dude is COOL'.

      @timon, float over here so I can puuuunch you...

      Last edited 29/01/15 3:48 pm

    Recently bought this again to play on the Mac. Thankfully my memory is so bad I don't remember a lot of it after Part 1 even though I finished it first time around (in glorious EGA). Still love it :-)

    Anyone remember the copy protection wheel you used to have to use?

    Oh man, I loved reading this! So so much. The only thing more compelling than enjoying the nostalgic memories of your own is getting such a well written insight into someone else's. Really nice.

    Great article. I have fantastic memories of this game...sure, not to the extent of yours and no, I didn't (oh damn, I did grow a ponytail at one stage, what a mistake!) I grew up on Sierra and Lucas Arts adventure games, what a fantastic era of gaming.

    Look behind you... a three headed monkey!

    Fantastic article. Even though I never owned the game or a console as a kid I loved Super Mario World. I would watch my friend play the game for hours at a time (I strangely didn't like playing games then) and run home imitating Mario's fist in the air jump while humming the underground tune (always preferred that tune to the more popular above ground). I imagine that if I actually played the game at the time I might have been similarly obsessed.

    Monkey Island changed gaming for me. It was the first game that got me interested and there hasn't been another one like it since. The music drew you in and while the pixels were great, the quick flashes to the photo-esk illustrations were amazing. Combine those with an endless story, no real means of death or failure (except for only one point) and witty humor made this game define my childhood too.

    That's the second best Kotaku article I've ever read!

    There's nothing unhealthy about wanting to escape to a world you love. It's only a problem when you want to escape from a world. The 'to' and 'from' are important.

    Yeah, it's normal. Kids do this kind of stuff all the time with whatever property captures their imagination, which I'm guessing today would be things like Pokemon and Minecraft.

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