“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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Categories: Wednesday Column