Ah, yes. The recent darling of Twitter that allowed us gamers a chance to express who we are through five defining games which seemed to be forever ago. Internet fame is fleeting, isn’t it?
In what started as #5movies had then been appropriated by the gaming community, which was then apparently (re)taken over by sportsball shite shortly after the hype died down. Who did the hashtag originally belong to? Who knows, but many of the responses for #5games garnered a ton of discussion.
And what gamer wouldn’t want the chance to tell the world their absolutely most influential games that also speak about them as a person? Me apparently, since I was too busy hunting down a SNES Classic to join in the conversation before it fizzled out like a Pop Rock.
So as not to serve not only as a historical marker in positive social media discourse, I’m here to present to you the five games that you should play if you want to know all about Yours Truly.
For those who’ve played an early survival horror title or three, you’d know that Clock Tower is the odd duck out of all of them. Where Resident Evil saw us guiding highly-trained operatives through a zombie-filled mansion, Clock Tower gave us two frail civilians with zero combat experience and a marked sensitivity to violence.
And what better way to ratchet up the feeling of helplessness to a terrifying level than to toss out tank controls in favor of an old school point-and-click scheme? It’s all well and good when you’re simply exploring around between scenarios, but when Scissorman is in hot dogged pursuit, you better hope that you don’t click yourself straight into a corner.
Hiding and environmental weapons are your only arsenal, and even then, Scissorman can still gain the upper hand and gingerly insert his sharpened shears directly into your quivering torso. Game Over, indeed…
Typically, when we think of ourselves in a potentially dangerous situation, we like to imagine that we’d transform into Jean Claude Van-Damme and whip the murderous tar out of whatever, or whoever, is coming for us.
But what if environmental and personal factors prevent you from doing so? What if brute strength is not enough to best our adversaries? Would we be able to stay calm enough to merely survive, not necessarily thrive?
Put that all together, and that’s me to a tee. The rules of this game called Life typically do not skew towards success by pushing through, but rather absorbing blows, retreating when necessary, and making the best of what you have right in front of you. Clock Tower beautifully embodies this sense of helplessness, but also rewards survivors who have the wherewithal and courage to walk away intact despite all odds.
Imagine the most precious thing in your life, the person, item, or deity that you covet above all else. Then imagine having that/them mysteriously disappearing out of your life, only to be periodically dangled in front of you just out of reach. It’s almost as if the closer you get, the further they/it drift(s) away from you while the pressure to carry on increases.
Disoriented and wholly out of your element but determined nonetheless, you press on through the murky soup to reclaim what was taken away from you.
On its surface, Silent Hill is the story of a father trying to find his daughter who had disappeared after a car accident. However, unspeakable horrors lie just underneath its Small Town, USA exterior. Quiet school buildings transform into rust-riddled cages and once docile creatures become the eldritch horrors of our darkest nightmares, sometimes right in front of our eyes.
It wasn’t until recently that I discovered that I’m an empath whose thoughts and emotions can be, and often do, get taken over by the ones of the person or people near me. Around the time I discovered this gift(?) over 10 years ago, I immediately realized that I was surrounded by human monsters, literal unfeeling selfish creatures who wore a thin mask of morality and an even thinner veneer of human empathy, with no idea how I got there.
After purging the negative people in my life, I began surrounding myself with good people and learned how to avoid and/or effectively deal with the bad ones. Harry was able to best The Incubus by conducting his own litmus test throughout his journey to determine which people he could trust, and was ultimately able to reclaim his lost daughter by not only trusting his gut, but also the good people he surrounded himself by (*cough* NOT Kauffmann *cough*).
In the pursuit of our hopes and dreams, we typically find ourselves in an unfamiliar environment with little to no resources. However, the allure of finding exactly what we’re looking for is usually enough for us to leave our comfort zones and dive in head first towards our goals.
In Sweet Home, a group of five civilians with varying skills find themselves trapped in a haunted mansion. This is not your typical Disney-level Haunted Mansion, mind you, but one that’s chockful of black pits, dangerous enemies, and evil spirits hellbent on vengeance.
As for the group, their only hope for survival is to scour the mansion not only for the rare paintings that prompted their arrival in the first place, but also for provisions and weapons. In order to press on and escape the mansion, they all have to work together.
Remember when I said that I had to learn how to effectively deal with human monsters? Part of that entails determining if we have the same end goal or not. Almost all of them have a particular skill that can be useful to reach your goal when given proper motivation. The best part? Everybody walks away a winner.
An example of this is my current job as a cook. The waitstaff manager is a despicable bully with a long rap sheet of physical and mental abuse who inexplicably still works there. I have been actively targeted by this person more than once, but I have learned the secret to unlocking her softer, more docile side: stroke her ego and preempt her requests.
By staying one step ahead of foreseen obstacles and not displaying weakness, I’m able to avoid her wrath and escape the miserable dungeon of my day job once my shift is over, with my body and mind intact. Capcom really knew what they were doing with Sweet Home, and it’s a damn shame that it was never released in North America.
With SOS, we leave one dungeon behind and plunge headfirst into another one. Only this time, everything is upside down and everyone around you is dead. The mental stability of the other survivors you come across varies wildly, and not all of them can be reasoned with. Finding the exit to the hull is bound to be an exhausting journey, but a necessary one, with a watery grave being the only other available option.
Using one of four playable protagonists, you have the choice of trying to talk the other survivors into trying to escape with you, or saving yourself, with the latter netting you a bad ending. Saving others is a noble thing to do, sure, but can all be for naught in SOS if the right person, or people, are not found.
As for myself over 10 years ago, I didn’t realize that I was trying to talk those around me out of their destructive lifestyles. Physical/emotional abuse as well as drug and alcohol addiction were rampant in this group, which also led to me struggling with alcoholism for over two years. Numbing my mind to the chaos around me seemed like my only option while secretly plotting my escape, destructive as it was.
Much like the protagonists in SOS, we sometimes find ourselves in an unsavory situation where the only way out is through the fires of damnation. Escape may seem downright impossible given the odds, but it is through perseverance and self-preservation that we ultimately succeed. Further, we need to be alright with not being able to save everyone. Sometimes our attempts to “do what’s right” will do more harm than good, a core tenet of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Indeed, with only a maximum of seven survivors in SOS, we truly need to choose our friends carefully while navigating the dangers that surround us, whether they come from without or within.
Final Fantasy V
Ah, Final Fantasy V. Yet another title that hadn’t originally hit North American shores until vocal fans demanded it. In typical fashion, the crystals that represent the core elements of the world are being systematically destroyed. It is up to Bartz and the Light Warriors to save the day.
To help aid them in their quest, the heroes are able to employ varying Job classes bestowed upon them by the shards of destroyed Crystals. Through attrition and old school grinding, the magical prowess of a Black Mage can be harnessed by a beasty Mystic Knight, turning once-threatening creatures into a pile of goo in a single turn.
Characters are able to change Job classes in between battles in a strategic manner. Is Liquid Flame curb-stomping your group of Black Mages? Change them into a group of Mystic Knights that can use Black/White magic and take him out with a flurry of Ice 2-based sword attacks for maximum damage.
Changing on a whim is something that we do on a daily basis, whether we know it or not. Some detractors will say “Fuck that! Just be you!,” but that’s honestly impossible. Would you talk to your mother the same way you talk to your COD bros online? Or maybe grace your precious grandparents with the story on how you spent a lovely, candlelit evening with your Fleshlight? Didn’t think so…
Being changeable on a societal level is one thing, but changing on a deeply fundamental one is one of the hardest things we can do as a person. In effect, we’re all shaped by our experiences, and looking back, I see a charred road against a blood-red sky with small flecks of light dotting its broken surface in my past. This contrasts sharply with the road ahead of me since my own emotional awakening, which is bright and full of hope, helped along by the small but loving group that I surround myself with.
It is through the strength of hope that I was able to escape alcoholism and abusive relationships, but in order to do that, I had to change who I was. I may not have been able to change who I was in the heat of battle, but during some quiet reflection, I was able to become something better than what I was, and rise above the chaos and onto bigger and better things.
Here’s a laughing baby to help lighten the mood. See you on the next trend…