Games have been good to me. I've been playing games, in one form or another, since before I started school. Board games, card games, video games, you name it, I love them all. In the grand scheme of pop-cultural pursuits, I consider games to be the equal of any other medium you care to name. To me, this seems self-evident, but I know for most people that's a somewhat radical position.
Every person you know can name the books, movies or shows that changed their life and shaped who they are, but what about the games? They get dismissed as trivial pursuits, disposable entertainment worthy of nothing more than a moment's distraction. Well, that's bullshit. Games deserve a spot at the grownup's table as worthy, meaningful pursuits (at least in the sphere of entertainment -- the "are games art?" argument is something to pursue another day) and to kick that off, I'm here to present my list of five games that changed my life.
5) Sorry! All things considered, Sorry! is not a great game. It's a twist on an ancient Indian game called Pachisi (so is Parcheesi, for that matter -- basically the same game as Sorry!). It wasn't the first game I played, but it was the first game I ever owned, and that made it pretty special to me. I remember how excited I was to get it home and play it, and I have shockingly vivid memories of the pieces and learning to play. My grandmother bought it for me for my birthday one year, probably my fifth. She loved games and passed that love of games on to me. To this day, my memories of her teaching me card games and then kicking my butt at them are among the fondest recollections of her that I have.
4) Atari 2600 This may technically be a bit of a cheat, since the Atari 2600 was not a game, but a game system, one of the first home video-game consoles ever released, and the absolute first ever to become a common household item. My dad brought one home when I was all of about six years old, and I was instantly hooked. I remember him teaching me how to hook it up to the television -- so I could play when he wasn't there -- like it was yesterday. I screwed it up at first and he suggested maybe I was too young and I pleaded to get another chance, and I paid extra close attention the second time he showed me. That not only launched a lifelong love affair with video games as a medium, it also was my first foray into the intricacies of making techy shit work, which was my first real career before I gave up the long hours and existential misery of that world for the longer hours but much more relaxed world of "pop culture and entertainment writer." No coincidence that I write about games as a big part of this job, either. Keep reading for more games that changed my life.
3) Dungeons & Dragons I already devoted an entire column to the ways that Dungeons & Dragons changed my life, so it's a little redundant to go into all that again. Let's just say that it opened up whole new worlds for me and taught me to use my creativity to make things. Also, I got to kill a whole lot of monsters, which is always a good time.
2) Magic: The Gathering I've written about this one in some detail, too, but over the course of a handful of different pieces, so I'll recapitulate. I discovered the game in the early '90s, when it was still new, and fell instantly in love with it. For a while, i made most of my disposable income from running tournaments (and occasionally playing in other people's tournaments, making it as far as a one-time appearance on the then-nascent Magic Pro Tour in 1996). Then I quit for fifteen years, until my older daughter dragged me back in. Now it's one of my favorite ways to spend time with my wife and a number of my friends. It is, quite simply, the Greatest Game, and I will probably play it until the day I die. 1) Halo Once again, I've written about my Halo experiences for this site, years ago. If you don't want to click over, let me summarize by saying that it was Halo that roped me back into hardcore gaming after a multi-year break from almost every kind of game. Sure, it was a PS2 that got me to play games again after my five-year hiatus, but it was Halo that turned me into a rabid, own-every-system, set up LAN parties kind of gamer. That launched a new era of appreciation for games, both video and other, that has lasted to this day and provided me with countless hours of entertainment, my first paid writing gigs and some of the best memories of my life. That's pretty impressive for a game about shooting aliens in the face.
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Find me on Twitter, where I tweet about geeky stuff and waste an inordinate amount of time: @casciato.