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Desert Island Games

 

You are a cast away on a desert island, shipwrecked if you will, with nothing but your choice of eight games to keep you company (and hopefully sane) until rescue arrives, if it ever does. Let’s pretend at the centre of this island is an all-powerful universal games console that plays any and every game.

The rules: eight, and only eight games – no game collections, no anthologies. These games (as if they could) cannot be used to help you escape from the island, or communicate with the outside world. That means offline gaming only I’m afraid, just in case an ingenious combination of gestures from Dark Souls masterminded your rescue. What’s more there is no Wi-Fi on the island, nor even an Ethernet cable!

These eight games are the ones you couldn’t live without, games that mean something, games you enjoy, games that are special to YOU. They aren’t ranked, but simply a selection of eight. Think long and hard. Maybe a title was pivotal in introducing you to games, taught you what true gaming was, or was the first time you broke a sweat holding the controller. Most importantly it’s your only form of entertainment on a deserted island for a long, long time.

Each week a member of the team at Koku will enter the island with their selection of games, and their reasons why.

Here are my Desert Island Games:

The Ancient Art of War

The first game I ever played, or at least have memories of playing. In the days that DOS and c:/dir meant something, when 4-bit colour was top of the range, and rather than orchestral scores a series of ascending bleeps was the most atmosphere game music could muster. Technology has come a long way since then, but I’ve vivid memories of guiding the stick men armies over mountains and rivers to fight in forts and villages. I was too young to grasp the tactical side of the game, instead I found joy in sending hordes of archers against the enemy knights. I can’t recall winning a single campaign, but even as a four year old (if I remember rightly) The Ancient Art of War taught me the joy of just playing a game and the satisfaction from winning a battle, if not the war. To be able to immerse myself in this world once again on my desert island would be no punishment at all. Who needs graphics or sound when you have nostalgia.

Super Mario Bros 3

Another early gaming experience. The SNES was my second console. I did have a Game Gear, but neither Sonic nor Duck Tales really captured my imagination, and to be honest my gaming skills were up to their modest challenges (in fact I still find the early Sonics annoyingly difficult). Bundled with the SNES was Super Mario All Stars, which would have been a firm favourite had anthologies been allowed. By a mile my favourite was Super Mario Bros 3. I got to know the first world inside out. In recent gaming I’ve learnt the patterns of the Undead Burg from Dark Souls during hours of patient playtime, and the origin of that persistence was from Super Mario Bros 3. The days of limited lives meant I never completed the game, but I enjoyed completing what was familiar, with each play-through getting one level further. My dedication was rewarded with a giant boot or a frog-suit. There were two levels that I often struggled with. The first a desert level, in which the sun would swoop down and attack me, often my biggest stumbling block until I realised I could kill the sun [evil laugh]! The second was Bowser’s flying fortress, in which the screen was moving forward despite my progress, pushing me to the edges of the screen. Unfortunately I never made it past this test. But hours of free time on the island and years of experience leads me to question that if I can beat Dark Souls, is Bowser still going to challenge me? I think probably yes, but I’m certainly willing to give it a go.

Deus Ex

I bought this as a whim. I picked up the box (in the days games came in boxes) and read ‘Trust no one.’ It didn’t give much away, but intrigued me nonetheless. Little did I know that it would become one of my favourite gaming experiences ever. Not only did Deus Ex introduce me to the RPG genre, now my passion, but also to a world of conspiracy, sci-fi and dystopia. I immersed myself in the world, in conversations about lemon-lime, in data pads regarding technology, and in hacking computers in front of their owners. Never before had I experienced a game in which the way I play was down to me. The understanding that I didn’t have to shoot everyone, that instead I could scale to the top of the building silently and save myself a great deal of trouble was a revelation. It felt that I was cheating at first, but as my actions were commented on and even rewarded I realised the game was aware of my actions. Killing or sparing a specific character meant something in hours down the line. I was invested in the outcome of JC’s story, and it mattered what method I used, not just the result. Deus Ex created a high standard from which I judged every game I would play in the future, right up to today.

Baldur’s Gate 2

Fantast, that hybrid of history and myth. There was a time when these games were rife; the Diablo series, Neverwinter Nights, Icewind Dales. Yes I’d play them, but they never meant anything to me personally. I appreciate that may be blasphemy for some, but their worlds never captured my imagination. The same can’t be said for the Baldur’s Gate series. It was the wit and cleverness of the world, the darker tones mixed with humour and lightness that drew me in. Memorable characters like Minsc and Boo are still vivid memories, which when I’m reminded of I still hear,

‘Go for the eyes Boo, the eyes!’

If the first game introduced me to that world, then the second opened my mind. A story that was bigger than my character, in which the main players all had their own desires and their fears. The scope was more ambitious than the first game, with visits to secret worlds and otherworldly planes at each turn, my expectations from the first game was turned on its head. Bioware could have happily created a very similar experience from the first game, instead they pushed the boundaries. What I most looked forward to were encountering another group of adventures to test my mettle, safe in the knowledge that when it all kicked off I’d pause the game and unleash hell with my mage. This was fun in the first game, but magic missiles don’t compare to summoning a fiend from another world. Deal with that!

Football Manager 2008

I’d long been a fan of the Championship Manager, and later the Football Manager series. I’ve invested days, even weeks of gaming into building up a squad and rising from the lowly divisions of the conference to league one. I always enjoyed carving out a career for myself. Perhaps my most successful career was starting at Barnet and gaining promotions until I reached the Championship, to then gain a job at Southampton. After a successful run I landed a job at Villa, then won the Euro’s with Portugal and finally reach the Champions League with Newcastle. Everyone has their own success stories in Football Manager, and that was mine. Football Manager 2008 was the last of the series I’ve played. The next year saw the introduction of the 3D pitch, which after trying on the demo broke the sense of immersion. I could accept words flashing on the screen, and had been won over with the 2D match engine. But with the likes of FIFA in comparison, the 3D engine looked woeful. My time as a manager had come to an end, and I resigned my Football Manager mantle to a new generation. Stepping back to 2008 to emulate that success would certainly take time, but with knowledge of the future, perhaps not too long. Now where did Messi play in 2008…

Civilization 4

I’m a fan of history and a fan of video games. And with the Civilization series these two passions collided. Not that my history knowledge ever helped me. Civilization is a challenge that requires forward thinking, planning and experience, even at medium difficulties. Many games start off in a similar vein: optimistically explore the surrounding area for resources, friendly villages and other civilizations. Starting positions are always vital. Time and time again I’ve begun too far from the equator and battled to survive with nothing more than fur as a resource. The tundra is a hostile environment. Other games I’d rule the seas and expand to new found lands, only to have to deal with unhappy colonies. In different scenarios I’d be the only one on my island, happily researching religions and entertainment, my army of horsemen content with fighting off lions, when suddenly a company of redcoats land, and pick apart my empire. Each civilization game is a unique story, and I’d have no trouble continuing those stories on my desert island. Perhaps it’ll even inspire me to start a one man empire of my own.

Heavy Rain

I could play this again and again. Not too often, nor in quick succession, but like a fine wine enjoy it when I fancy something special. It’s not an experience I’d feel happy dipping in and out of, or just playing ‘my favourite level’. Heavy Rain is a game I like to give my full attention to. For me David Cage and Heavy Rain optimise what I admire about the gaming industry; forward thinking, ambitious, and mature. Not happy with making an easy buck with entertaining gameplay, Cage sought (and seeks, looking at his work in Project Kara) to creative emotive, heartfelt stories. One of the greatest examples of a game that doesn’t treat gamers like geeks, but connoisseurs. Pure vintage.

Skyrim

Dragons have featured in a lot of games in recent times: Dark Souls, Dragon Age. Before that Baldur’s Gate 2 gave them a try. You may have played Drakkhen. And before that Kings Quest had a go. Dragons have been ever present in videogame lore, but no one does it better than Skyrim. When I get bored of fighting dragons I explore caves. When I’m bored of that I craft. When I’m bored of that I cook. And then for the hell of it I listen to the songs at the local tavern. There’s so much to do I doubt I’ll see it all by the time rescue arrives.

So there are my desert island games. Some you may never have heard of, others you may hate. But to me, they each bring back memories of a personal gaming history. But what would be the games you’d take with you? Would they be games of the past, or the latest releases? And remember, no contact with to outside world (In this scenario, not in real life!).

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