Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Only Time Travelers Convention You'll Ever Need (Back to the Future and Back to the Future 2 and 3)

The Nintendo was a social currency as a child. I had one, and I was good at having one - Super Mario Bros 3 before anyone else had it. Good taste in games. Skill. I knew my shit. All I lacked was a clearly defined circle of friends in which to spend this currency.

It is not that I was a completely unlikable geekshit in elementary school. I mean, I may have been. But I had friends. My memories are more of video games than, you know, actual human beings. By which I mean that I actually don't remember who's birthday party I was at when I was first exposed to Back to the Future. Actually, I remember this event so hazily that I can't pin down with any certainty that the birthday party had *anything to do* with Back to the Future. The memories just pin together vaguely in my mind. And it might have been a going away party. (Isn't memory great)

Back to the Future is one of my earliest memories of trying to catch up on something. I know I saw 3 in theaters. So we must be around 1989, 1990 here. But I also know I became thoroughly aware of having missed the original Back to the Future. Which does not qualify as a surprise, as I was three when it came out.

But I'm pretty sure I encountered the series at a party. I encountered a couple of games there - most notably Mike Tyson's Punch-Out, probably the most classic NES game I never owned due to my father's disapproval of Mike Tyson. (Hopefully there's a game down the list where we can talk about Trick or Treating, because that there is some hilarity) This formed my one marginal exposure in childhood to gaming as a social activity - something that has become an increasingly large part of video gaming in my adult life in a way that remains off-putting to me.

The thing about video gaming is that it is a spiritual practice. Never mind the immersion crap. On the level of play, on the level of mechanics, to play a video game is to wire yourself into a system, and thus to confront the disjunct between self and other. Video games teach us the limits of physical incarnation.

I have never worshipped in groups.

Bad video games are more of a spiritual practice than good ones. A good one serves as cultural currency. I could speak to my friends of Super Mario Bros. Because everybody buys a good game. A wretched game is experienced privately, inwardly. Back to the Future as a movie may have been an initiation into cultural practice. As a video game, it's a torturous experience I'm glad I missed - a more or less unplayable run down a street trying to dodge generic obstacles. Playing it, I have no sense whatsoever of why the hell it was a Back to the Future game. I have not seen the movie in years, but I do not recall regular encounters with curbs of death and with men holding sheets of glass to trick you into running into them.

The second game, featuring parts 2 and 3, is another one of those games at the maddening limit point where I suspect the games might secretly be good, but they're not quite good enough for me to beat that information out of them when I could go on to the next post. Here is, perhaps, where the community would be valuable - even a cave troll knows to play the top games. It is that line of hidden gems - Adventures of Lolo, Archon, Boy and His Blob, and perhaps Back to the Future 2 and 3 - where it helps to know somebody.

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