Monday, February 13, 2012

Top 5: Greatest Gaming Moments (Part 1)

Top 5: Greatest Gaming Moments
Part 1:Donnie's

Spoiler Alert: I’ve written thousands of words about games that range from decades old to months old. If you want to remain particularly spoiler free for a game that you haven’t finished yet, don’t read that paragraph and move on to the next one.

#5 - World of Warcraft – My World of WarCRACK
The year was 2004, I had just finished my first two semesters at college and had come home for a few months for a break. To pass the time I worked at a skateboard shop not too far from my house. One day I bet my manager I could hit a ramp we just got in the shop while riding a tiny doll sized skateboard. Long story short, I didn’t land my nollie-900-quadruple-backflip-360 flip (thanks for the high hopes Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater), but instead wound up with an elbow cast and a copy of World of Warcraft. 
It seemed like such a good idea at the time.
The second I entered that realm I knew that Blizzard was going to destroy my social life and that I would gladly pay monthly for it. I couldn’t get enough of that sweet sweet digital cocaine. The game had such ground-breaking and innovative elements that I, a right handed individual with a cast immobilizing my whole right arm, just could not stop; even if I had to play with my stupid left hand. Some of my most fond memories were coming home from work around 10 p.m. and playing through the night only to witness the sun coming up the next morning and realize that I had to go back to work soon.  Nothing though, compares to the feeling that I had when I was finally a part of a guild who, after months of grinding, questing, and gearing up, was one of the first on my server to go up against the almighty Ragnaros. At the time, Rag was the most feared boss in all of Warcraft. A 1000 ft tall fire god,he demanded the utmost precision when engaging in combat. So much so, that usually our raiding party of 40 fully leveled and geared players would designate one person to stand away from the fight to tell other groups of players what to do and when to do it. If everything didn’t go just right, the entire group of 40 players would be slaughtered. It was the first time that I had felt a part of a team that really needed my help to bring that beast down. 
Before facing him you are required to equip max level armor and clean underwear.
I never did kill him though, and now I hear you can’t even really fight him anymore because he is so easy. But, the memory I have of joining my daggers to the 39 of my brothers’ still lingers with me and makes me swell with Night-Elf pride. For that, this is one of my greatest moments in gaming.

#4 - Final Fantasy 7 – Aerith’s Final Fantasy
The only remake we've ever wanted, but never got.
I played Final Fantasy 7 around the time when I began to look at EVERY girl as a dating possibility and less as horrible cootie virus carriers (what a fool I was). From the moment Aerith came on screen I began to imagine that she and my projected self-image (Cloud) were going to get together and have amazing adventures for the rest of our lives. The rest of humanity must have felt the same way, because I joined with them in the world’s most audible collective gasp as Sephiroth slowly descended from above and ran his cartoonishly long samurai sword through her back – and through my heart. 
A + C = Love
This was the first time in a game that I had ever known the bitter taste of death. Aerith would never come back to me. I would never again feel her soft, blocky shoulders or gaze into her crappy 3d eyes. But what made this moment one of my Greatest Moments In Gaming wasn’t necessarily her death, but that I got to fight Sephiroth immediately afterward. I had never been so angry in my life. I mean, he killed my non-existent polygonal girlfriend! Needless to say that I, and millions of others, played out that battle with every ounce of emotion and anger that we had, and it was one of the greatest moments in gaming.

#3 - Gears of War – Dom’s Sacrifices
Brothers to the end
I know this is cheating a little bit, but this moment in gaming history actually spans two different games of a series. In Gears of War, Dom and Marcus were practically inseparable. Even in times when your group of four had to split up, it was always Marcus and Dom stomping through the inside of a giant worm together. But they never crossed the line from burley frat boys that never grew up into real relatable and emotional characters until late in Gears of War 2. Being prepared to search all over (read: under) a planet to find your wife is one thing. Finding her, and living with the knowledge of what those filthy grubs did to her is another thing. THEN, pulling the trigger to end her misery is even ANOTHER thing all together. I actually shared this moment with Dark Link himself while sitting on his couch. It shook us to the core. 
A bond so strong even marketing can't separate them.
This moment though, wasn’t complete without the events that followed years later in Gears 3. It didn’t seem right that Dom should be without his love. And driving a truck into a gas tank to create an explosion that would save Marcus and his friends was a fitting end to this broken warrior. He couldn’t save his wife, but he wouldn’t stand by and watch his friends die if he could help it. What really made this moment feel right was the conversation that Dom has, speaking to his wife, right before his collision. As well as the feeling that you get after the realization that Dom was gone really sets in. You felt sorry that he had died—for sure, but you didn’t want him back. You knew he was in a better place and maybe even back with his family in some form. To wish he was alive was a purely selfish act. Dom was dead long before his heart stopped beating and it seemed that now, he was finally home. This was one of the Greatest Moments in Gaming.

#2 - Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 – Price’s struggle
You don't know what they do to guys like him in the gulag.
Your eyes are barely open. As torn up as you are, it’s doubtful that you could see much of anything even if you could open them all the way. What you can see, is a faint view of your commander, mentor, and best friend lying on the ground- being brutally beaten by…Him. Focusing a little nearer to your body, you find the grip of a 7 inch knife sticking out of your chest. With every ounce of will and strength you have left in your soul, you grip the knife and begin to pull. Tearing through bone and muscle alike, you free the blade and take deadly aim. The knife is released with a slight feeling of doubt that it might not know where it needed to go. It connects with His eye, and as he falls you realize that your mission is finished in more ways than one. 
CAUTION: Keep away from eyes and face... but mostly the eyes.
Your eyes start to close with gratitude and your vision starts to fade. The last thing you see is your captain, lying dead on the desert floor. The darkness engulfs you……and then…… he coughs. This is undoubtedly one of the greatest moments in gaming history. The sequel to one of the greatest things to happen to modern shooters comes to a cliffhanging close. While not everyone enjoyed every minute of the full campaign, that ending was one of the most emotionally charged scenes that I have ever seen in gaming. Well done Infinity Ward….well done. You have created one of the Greatest Moments in Gaming.

#1 -Pokemon Snap – Photograph me like one of your French Pokemon
Due to the epicness of this picture, it may not be legally viewed in your region.
As soon as Dark Link and I came up with the idea to try and record our favorite moments in gaming, many games instantly ran through my head. Should I write about the awesomeness that was metal gear solid? Maybe the countless hours that I had spent perfecting the wall jump at Wario’s Stadium in Mario Kart 64? The only thing that I knew was that the game that would be at the very top of my list would be the game that never ceases to amaze… the ever fun Pokemon Snap! I shouldn’t even call it a game, because it stirred something within me and changed my life forever—it was an experience never to be forgotten. With such amazing and plentiful memories of this game, it was really hard for me to come to a single greatest moment. 
OMFreakingG!!!!!1!! There's two of them!
Maybe it was the hours and hours that I spent mowing lawns so that I could come up with the preorder money. Maybe it was the half an hour of pure classic Pokemon photography it took to beat that game (That’s what you do with Pokemon right? Take pictures of them?). Or maybe it was because it was the first time I had ever felt buyer’s remorse to the point that I wanted to ralph.  But what really makes this game the greatest in all of gaming history was the ability that I had to go to Blockbuster and give someone even more of my lawn mowing money so I can sticker my room with pictures a little bigger than a grain of sand. Thanks a lot Pokemon Snap! And thanks to both of our readers for making it this far! If you were able to pick up on the Pokemon Snap as my #1 choice, please continue on to see my real #1 Moment in Gaming.

REAL #1 – Red Dead Redemption – John Marston’s Reward
Ride on, cowboy.
The sight of John Marston on his panting horse, standing silently on a hill in Mexico as he surveys the land in a dying sunlight has never left me. When I close my eyes I can still picture Seth digging through graves looking for treasure and acting all but normal. The amazing feeling I had as I shot the noose that was hanging Ms. McFarlane still beams within me. At times I still hear the whining of the trumpets that played so perfectly in the background as I drew a bead on the bandit holding a stranger hostage. In my dreams, I’m still being challenged to duels outside the Armadillo Saloon—the poor saps never have a chance. 
Spoiler alert: The other guy dies.
Red Dead Redemption, in my humble opinion, is the standard to which all games should be compared. I spent more than 30 hours in the wild west just doing menial tasks before I ever rode to Mexico (about half way through the story). The characters were memorable, the story was believable, and the need to push on was real. I dropped my outlaw ways and made a deal with the law to hunt down my former companions.  All this I did so the government would give back my kidnapped family. After the last of my former gang members was killed, they kept their end of the bargain-- my precious family was returned to me. My wife went back to building our home and my son Jack continued learning how to be a real man under my direction. In a sense, it really felt like I was John Marston. 
Red Dead Redemption’s story of John Marston comes to a close with him sending his family away, knowing that the U.S. Marshalls were coming to murder him. Disregarding the pardon I had earned, they had always planned on killing me someday.  John Marston walked out of his barn armed with only his pistol and courage. Surrounded by 30 men, I drew his gun and fired until he was brought down in a hailstorm of bullets and deceit.  The end of that man touched me in a way that no other game had. I was John Marston day and night, rain or shine, with friend or foe. It wasn’t just a few missions switching between characters in a confusing storyline as in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. I fought for my family’s lives and not some magic orb as in Final Fantasy 7. I felt like I was infinitely more important to the people in this fake world, than I ever felt while fighting Ragnaros with my real life guild-mates in World of Warcraft. I’m still fighting the depression I feel when I remember that John Marston is gone. I loved that man (how should I break this to my wife?). For this reason, and for many many more, this moment, and this entire game, is the Greatest Moment in all of Gaming.

Honorable Mentions:

-Halo: Combat Evolved – The Flood’s first appearance

-Medal of Honor – Holding off the Taliban in a broken shed with dwindling ammo

-Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare – The Cargo Ship mission

-The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – Becoming Adult Link

-Gungrave: pulling the trigger during a scripted sequence to kill the final boss

-Any game on the Wii – Just kidding, nothing is good on the Wii

And a million others that I can’t list

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