1986: Dragon Quest (Gaming with Family)

InfernalMage “The following is a contributor column by The Infernal Accountant Mage.”

It’s probably easiest to start by making it clear that I love video games. I’m not saying they’re perfect; the medium, the industry behind it, the people who consume it, there’s problems with all of these and many of those problems are intractable. What I am saying is that, on a personal level, I’ve played video games my entire life. There was no point at which I was not a “gamer,” for better or worse, and as such I don’t think it’s possible fully disconnect myself from the hobby. There’s no me without games.

That I can read the above and, despite myself, feel a twinge of embarrassment is telling. I’ve come a long way. I’ve dealt with more than I should have on an endless number of occasions. I’m stronger than I ever was before and I get better every day. Yet when I consider the fact that video games have been with me since I was capable of conscious thought, I still feel just a tiny bit ashamed. What does that say about the hobby? What does it say about video games’ place in modern society and how people view those who play them? What does it say about me?

For now, I’ve promised Dragon Quest and we’re going to talk about Dragon Quest. Japanese RPGs will prove to be a theme in this series and this is the first Japanese RPG I can remember playing. Despite this, I’ve played only a small amount of it myself. My time with Dragon Quest was actually time with Dragon Warrior, the North American localization of the game; specifically, Dragon Warrior cartridges were provided for free to new subscribers of the up-and-coming gaming mag Nintendo Power. Being the game-crazed kid I was, I had to have the Power and so I ended up with Dragon Warrior. The magazine will almost certainly come up again, by the way; the latest issue was always a bright point even in dreary times. A new game, meanwhile, was a treasure of unthinkable value, so the combination of the two was a joy almost too great for words.

I’m American, but my formative years were spent overseas thanks to my father’s military career. At the time of Nintendo Power’s Dragon Warrior promotion I was living on a naval base in Cuba; you’ve probably heard of it. Young me was less than interested in the world around him and the goings-on of the family, but as I’m told we weren’t especially well-off and base life wasn’t especially fascinating. That didn’t matter to me; I had my NES. I had Super Mario Bros. and Kiwi Craze and Dino Riki. And, sometimes, if I was lucky, I had my Dad playing Dragon Warrior.

He played through the whole thing, and until the eventual release of EarthBound in 1994 it was the only RPG I can remember him finishing. I was right there with him, able to read the text but not quite old enough to grasp the story. Highlights of the game come in flashes; fighting the GoldMan, a giant golden golem who awarded loads of currency to victorious warriors, and hunting MetalSlimes who awarded similarly giant piles of experience points if one was persistent. It struck me when I was thinking back that my memories of Dragon Warrior revolve largely around combat and don’t really touch on the plot; I’d attribute that to a combination of a young boy’s interest in action over drama and Dragon Warrior’s simplistic boy-saves-princess-and-defeats-dragon narrative.

Really, none of that mattered so much as playing games with my Dad. A grown-up, the one I knew most about and the one I looked up to the most, shared an interest with me! We both liked video games! We could talk about them together! My young mind, put simply, was blown. When we played, the real danger was never the monsters – it was the save points, because each might mean that my Dad would be done for the evening.

I don’t remember much about my childhood; I think I’ve put most of it aside in favor of a happier present and a brighter future. When I think back to my brightest times as a kid, though, they definitely include searching for the next GoldMan, because how else would we afford the Magic Armor? Hilariously, the importance of grinding to get through an RPG wouldn’t really imprint itself in my mind until years later, so while I’d love the genre from that point forward I’d often run into roadblocks when it came to progression.

As for Dragon Quest, the series still holds a place in my heart even if no other individual games have ended up on this list. In particular, Dragon Quest VII is a personal favorite thanks to its extraordinary breadth and depth of content; I can’t recommend the recent 3DS remake enough. I’d also suggest taking a look at the Minecraft-esque spinoff Dragon Quest Builders, a delightful combination of creativity and structured purpose that represents, to me, some of the best of what video games are capable of. The original, though? That’s the one that mattered most to young me, just sitting on a bed watching my Dad grind through it on an old CRT during the not-quite-chilly Cuban autumn.

 

The Infernal Accountant Mage believes the pen is mightier than the sword…well, depending on how sharp the pen and sword are. A child of the ’90s and a prolific writer, he strews his work about like Legos made of words, just waiting for your brain to step on them. He enjoys a devilish challenge, so when it comes to talking about some of the more difficult games out there, you might just run into the Infernal Accountant Mage. Some advice: hold on to your soul around this guy, and don’t sign anything. Read more at popzara.com

 

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11 thoughts on “1986: Dragon Quest (Gaming with Family)

  1. That was an enjoyable read. Dragon Warrior was one of THE formative games of my childhood and my first RPG. I played it all by my lonesome (none of my friends were too into it) and never ended up beating the final boss. I’m glad you brought in your relationship with your father as it gives me a picture of who you are and how games played a role in your life. When I look back on or play the games of my youth, its usually the stories of who I played them with that move me moreso than the games themselves. Getting the SNES classic was fun, but it pained me to play, missing my childhood friends.

    … and Finding Erdrick’s armor was quite the pain.

    Looking forward to more in your series!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My own father didn’t play video games but he introduced them to me, as he used to be a computer engineer of some sorts way back when. I do have a few good memories of him reading text too me in games I was too young to really play. Thanks for sharing your memories and I’m looking forward to the future entries. I’ll be reading them close to once a week too just to get the full column reading experience.

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  3. Dragon Warrior was one of the three first NES games I ever played. I spent a week or so at my aunt and uncles house over the summer and he had bought an NES. He had three games: Super Mario Bros., Dragon Warrior and Metroid. Suffice to say it was an awesome week as I played the snot out of all three. Though Metroid was my favorite, I fell in love with DW and played it through several times. Ill have to snap a couple of pics, but I still have a copy of the Dragon Warrior strategy guide that came stapled on the inside of Nintendo Power!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kind of a tangent here, but you mentioned the guide for Dragon Warrior – strategy guides were HUGE for me as a kid. I still have a vast collection of physical guides and an even more vast collection of digital guides. In fact, writing strategy guides for GameFAQs as a kid is probably what led me to become a full-time writer in the first place, so it’s kind of shaped my entire professional life. They’re still my favorite comfort reading!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well this one is a little beat up, but its the original pages from Nintendo Power. If you would like to have it I would be more than happy to give it to you, I have no use for it now and it has been sitting, sandwiched between other tomes in my garage. Ill get some pictures of it today and post them over at my own blog. I would prefer it go to someone who would enjoy it.

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        1. That’s a very kind offer and thank you for making it, but I still have my own! There was a book-style guide and a little gray-and-purple reference card if I remember right; they’re somewhere with my probably-too-vast collection of game guides. These days most of my reading tends to be on my iPad, since guides seem more likely than many books to become somewhat fragile over the years.

          Certainly something worth hanging onto, though! For that matter, your idea of passing it on to someone else who appreciates the value of such things is a wonderful one, and I hope someone in need comes across your upcoming post. Thanks again!

          Liked by 1 person

  4. I absolutely adore articles like this, it recalls fond memories of gaming alongside my family as well.

    As for gaming being a part of your identity, I sometimes struggle with that also. Obviously I’m more than just games, I can speak on a number of topics, and I think that is ok. As long as video games aren’t the only thing you can ever talk about or they consume your life I see nothing wrong with it.

    Either way gaming is an intractable part of my being, the same way Football, woodworking, guitar, or any other infinite number of hobby possibilities. If someone asked me to define myself in a few words they would be: father, husband, gamer, all around geek.

    I mean, that should tell you just about everything you need to know!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Daniel!

      Something I’ll talk about later in the column with regards to gaming-as-identity is that I’ve found that the gaming community at large is, well, kind of gross a lot of the time. One of the reasons I started writing for TWRM was because I got tired of seeing articles on mainstream games press sites pointing out exactly that in the smuggest possible terms; however, the fact of the matter is that a lot of the time, being a “gamer” means associating oneself with, say, the guy who’s yelling slurs and epithets at you for an entire Overwatch match for picking the “wrong” hero. I’m not comfortable with that, but I’m also not going to deny that I grew up with games, that they’re part of who I am and that I don’t intend to stop playing them anytime soon. It’s an interesting dichotomy.

      Thanks for the comment!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That is a good point, anytime that you identify with something you are then subject to be grouped with all the good and bad stereotypes that come with it.

        Say you are a bookworm, and you are automatically assumed nerdy. Anime fan? People instantly picture a weeaboo fanboy.

        You can tell from our culture today that as a society we have a really hard time not putting people into tiny boxes, and assuming we know everything about them by labeling them. Thus, when we label ourselves we run a risk of that.

        I’m not sure how to get around that as the label helps to shorten an introduction. When people ask me to define myself I say the bit about father, husband, geek; as it gives you a general idea of my likes and dislikes, though there is so much more to me.

        A lot of good stuff here, as usual.

        Like

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