Video games have played, and continue to play, a very important role in my life, so trying to pick only five to sum up My Life in Games felt a little bit like picking a favourite child. Regardless, I somehow managed it, and we begin, aptly, with a life simulation game.
Animal Crossing: Wild World (dev. Nintendo, 2005, Nintendo DS)
The Nintendo DS (Lite, specifically, and the white model if you’re being particularly nosy) was my first ever games console. Of all the games I adored back then—Nintendogs, Cooking Mama, Mario Kart DS—this was undoubtedly the game I poured the most hours into. I vividly remember, despite being maybe five years old at the time, that my dad showed me a trailer for the game on our old desktop PC in the living room (“But where are the animals crossing to?”, I remember thinking).
Buying turnips on a Sunday morning, repeatedly redesigning my house, being heartbroken when a favourite villager left… I utterly adored this world, a cartoonish, cosy mirror of reality. Subsequent entries of the series kept adding more features, like the highly-anticipated terraforming ability in New Horizons, but Wild World for me represents the core of what Animal Crossing is: pure and simple relaxation. This game did have some hidden depth, though: Resetti’s unadulterated anger if you accidentally (or deliberately…) turned off the game without saving, as well as Lyle’s insurance scams, come to mind. Scamming attempts! Who says Nintendo is just for kids?!
Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga (dev. Traveller’s Tales, Wii, 2007)
When we got our Wii for Christmas in 2007 (I later discovered that they were so impossible to get ahold of at the time that my dad actually ordered one from Germany, necessitating an adapter for our sockets), this was one of the first games I received. I loved Star Wars at the time, and like most kids I enjoyed Lego too, so getting this was a no-brainer.
While I don’t really remember much about actually playing through the stories, I remember the slapstick humour, something that also appeared in Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures (another game I loved) in spades. I played the podracing level over and over and over again, and as I got slightly older I enjoyed mucking about in New Town, the more free-form ‘level’ you could unlock. There was so much to do, and the hub world (the iconic Mos Eisley Cantina) was full of personality. You could easily spend 45 minutes to an hour just hanging out there before you even got into the game proper, and I think I probably did, coming up with little imaginary scenarios and finding Easter eggs.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (BotW) (dev. Nintendo, NSW, 2017)
I sort of fell off gaming during my teens, only really sticking with a couple of games (like the Pokémon series), but towards the end of 2017, the year the Nintendo Switch launched, the hybrid console with the tiny, brightly coloured controllers caught my eye. I’d sort of ignored the Wii U for the duration of its lifespan (sorry, Wii U, you weren’t so bad really), so the Switch I received for my 18th birthday in the January of the following year was my re-introduction into home console gaming.
Honestly, there’s not much I can say about BotW that hasn’t already been said. Of course, we know it’s incredible: praising the open-world, the characters, and the sheer amount and depth of content for the umpteenth time doesn’t really tell us anything new. But BotW is meaningful to me because it really just got me back into gaming. I couldn’t put it down! Getting horribly sick with the flu during February 2018 was rubbish, obviously, but BotW made it a bit more bearable. The blessing and curse of BotW’s quality is that the coming sequel might not live up to the original, but that will not detract from just how remarkable this game is.
Persona 5 (dev. Atlus, 2016, PS4)
Here we have another game that has had praise heaped upon it, and again, for good reason. A stunning example of a turn-based JRPG, this game’s combat is so stylish, it’s beautifully voice-acted, and the story, though it is very long (to no one’s surprise: this is a Persona game, after all) and definitely drags at some points, is mostly incredibly engaging. I played through this game exactly two years ago now, and I can’t remember the last time I was so drawn into a game’s world and characters (except, perhaps, for BotW).
Exploring Shibuya was a thrill, and the dungeons, or Palaces, were incredibly well-designed (some more than others, admittedly, though Futaba’s Palace was a highlight), with boss fights that were genuinely satisfying. I cried during the credits! And I never cry at things like that! Never mind My Life in Games, it felt like this game practically absorbed my life for a little while, and so it earns a spot on the list.
Destiny 2 (dev. Bungie, 2017, PC)
And here we have the final game on the list, one I am really enjoying at the moment. I’ve included this online, multiplayer, space opera first-person shooter not because of the gameplay in itself, but rather because of the circumstances surrounding the game. Excellent lore and exceptional soundtracks notwithstanding, this game has been so good to play during the multiple lockdowns and general pandemic awfulness.
I was introduced to some friends of my friend around the same time as I started playing this, and it was probably one of the best things that happened to me over the last year, because although I’ve not had the opportunity to meet any of them in person, we’ve bonded simply through playing together, which has definitely helped me from a mental health perspective. So although it’s not all down to Destiny 2, I think I owe this game a lot. It’s provided a lot of laughs and great memories, and I’m sure that will continue.
Words by Mia Chitty