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When the new King's Quest was first revealed back at The Game Awards' debut in 2014, I was immediately intrigued — captivated, really. King-to-be Graham ran and leapt across rubble. He explored beautiful woods and the luscious countryside. He descended into the cavern of a dragon. "Once upon an astounding time," rang out the rousing narration.

And yet, when I finally got to play it, the game just felt... empty. Dull, vacuous, lifeless — call it whatever you want, but there was something missing from the world of King's Quest, something that kept it from feeling alive. In searching for the cause, I realized I had to look more fundamentally than just video games: what makes the world of any fiction feel alive? What gives each world its unique flavor and atmosphere?

In finding the answer to that fundamental question, we'll be able to discern how King's Quest, a game which seemed at its announcement like it had so much spirit, ended up so oddly soulless. As it turns out, the answer lies in people, in how we relate to the real world and how we use proxies (characters) to relate to fictional worlds.

A game's introduction and tutorial segments are crucial to getting a player invested in a game's world and story. Players need a solid understanding of the world they're stepping into, from both a narrative and a mechanical perspective, before they can begin to truly immerse themselves in it. Nail the introduction and players will be solidly immersed and prepared as your story begins and challenges come their way. Ruin the introduction and — best case scenario — players are left disoriented by your mechanics and unconvinced by the beginning of your story. Worst case scenario, they quit before the game's even started.

Unfortunately, upon finally getting around to playing one of last year's biggest releases and critical darlings, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, I found that it was squarely in that latter, "messed up" category. Don't believe me? Put down your pitchforks for a second and let's examine how The Witcher 3 so terribly failed its introduction.

"Growth of a Gamer" is a series of articles exploring the profound way games and gaming can impact our lives, as told by students of the Interactive Media program at the University of Southern California. They've teamed up with us at Gamnesia to tell personal stories of how a particular game or franchise has molded us into the people we are today, and through our experiences we hope to shed light on the ways that these games have affected all of you as well. We invite you all to share your own stories in the comments below, or by writing your very own series entries through Gamnesia's Journals feature. We love coming together to share in the joys that make gaming so memorable for us all, and we hope that you'll join us!

Head inside for your guide to the entire Growth of a Gamer series, or stay tuned every day over the coming week to see each one highlighted on the main site page!

The following is an entry in "Growth of a Gamer," a series of articles exploring the profound ways that video games can touch people's lives. For more information and more great content, you can check out the series' hub page! Until then, please enjoy "Pokémon: Just Another Game."


As someone who's poured enough hours into video games to write several novels, it's funny to think that I fell in love with them purely by accident. My seminal experiences with interactive entertainment weren't particularly memorable. I vaguely recall my dad trying out an action-adventure game on our brand-new Xbox, while my six-year old self observed from afar, perplexed by the incoherent movements on screen. My sparse shelf was populated by mediocre titles such as Superman: The Man of Steel and Zapper: One Wicked Cricket; ultimately, these hackneyed experiences aroused little more than a casual interest in gaming. If you told me that "immersive interactive experiences" existed back then, I'd give you a puzzled look and think nothing more of it.

But there was still a strange allure to the supermarket video game aisles that managed to filter past my decidedly average gaming exploits. I'd wander into these relatively abandoned spaces, enthralled by flashy box art characters that seemed all too willing to snatch me from my reality into theirs. They were quite the motley bunch—among them, a mustachioed Italian plumber, a shorts-touting fox with a ridiculous grin, and a spunky gang of Japanese teens on rollerblades. One of the boxes, Pokémon FireRed Version, caught my attention. I locked eyes with the blazing orange dragon on the cover, and that's when my journey began. Head inside to keep reading!

The following is an entry in "Growth of a Gamer," a series of articles exploring the profound ways that video games can touch people's lives. For more information and more great content, you can check out the series' hub page! Until then, please enjoy "World of Woecraft."


"I_eat_suckas_for_breakfast" was supposed to be the name of the first character I ever witnessed in the World of Warcraft. I remember that afternoon in fourth grade clearly. My friend Max had tried to give that name to a Night Elf Druid, only to discover that underscores were not valid name characters… so we had to settle for "Ieatsuckas."

It was the spring of 2007, and the first World of Warcraft expansion was just released: Burning Crusade. Until that afternoon, the extent of my experience with video games came from a good old GameCube, which had somehow managed to survive four years of being played for several hours a week. Now, here I was in Max’s apartment, watching him as he showed me basic combat on his Night Elf character. I watched, doe eyed, as Ieatsuckas went from zone to zone in this virtual world. There were three whole continents here: Eastern Kingdoms, Kalimdor, and Outland, each with dozens of zones to explore and endless nooks and crannies. As Max retold the events of the first three Warcraft games, my imagination ran wild. For days afterward, I would watch playthroughs and read fan theories all centered around the Warcraft universe. Head inside to keep reading.

The following is an entry in "Growth of a Gamer," a series of articles exploring the profound ways that video games can touch people's lives. For more information and more great content, you can check out the series' hub page! Until then, please enjoy "Portal to a New Phase of Life."


For the majority of my adolescence, I only owned Nintendo consoles and was, for lack of a better term, a complete Nintendo fanboy. The Wii was my jam. Never could I see myself owning a non-Nintendo console or playing one of those violent video games I associated with those other consoles. But when I bought Valve’s The Orange Box and played through Portal for the first time, I didn’t really know what to expect—and I loved it. I ended up playing through Portal many times, making it through the AI antagonist GLaDOS’s devious test chambers and Aperture Science’s abandoned research facilities with as much enthusiasm as the first time. Head inside to keep reading!

The following is an entry in "Growth of a Gamer," a series of articles exploring the profound ways that video games can touch people's lives. For more information and more great content, you can check out the series' hub page! Until then, please enjoy "Swinging Forward with Spider-Man 2."


Back in 2004, my family was living in Hidden Valley, a small community in Lake County, California. It was like a wet dream for a retired dentist from the 50s; it was a small, quiet town with houses spread sparsely across the valley. Its most exciting features were simply one grocery store, two small restaurants, and a video rental store. Clearly a village so remote is a thrilling place to live for any hyperactive child, but somehow I was not a big fan of it. There were few kids around me that I could play with, and when I could, we were still trapped by the boundaries of our homes. Even when we could escape, I never felt welcome outside. There were a few other Latino families like mine, but the town could never connect with me in a genuine way. The town felt artificial, prescribed, as if to maintain an illusion that the problems of the outside world did not apply to them.

I was abandoned on an uncharted island, and the television screen was my only portal away. I often played games based on the shows and movies that I would watch on TV. But one title helped me escape the confines of Hidden Valley into a new world of possibilities: Spider-Man 2: The Game. Head inside to keep reading!

The following is an entry in "Growth of a Gamer," a series of articles exploring the profound ways that video games can touch people's lives. For more information and more great content, you can check out the series' hub page! Until then, please enjoy "Pikmin: On the Importance of Little Things."


The DK Nature Encyclopedia wasn’t exactly a classic of children’s literature, but I would spend hours flipping through its pages all the same, tracing glossy photos of star-nosed moles and rock hyraxes and blue-footed boobies. I carried this book everywhere, including on my monthly sojourn to Blockbuster (a now extinct specimen of video rental stores). There, the flashiest games would croon at me from their shelves, their titles so full of energy they looked ready to burst with excitement: Super Smash Bros. Melee! Mario Kart: Double Dash!! Sonic Adventure 2 Battle! Wham! Ka-pow! Wowza! But one month, with my encyclopedia tucked firmly in the crook of my arm, I wandered away from these brighter and bolder titles and towards the sale bin, unsure of what I was looking for until I found it. The game should have been buried under the riot of color surrounding it, but my eye slid to it the way a stone might roll into the valley between mountains. No corona of light crowned it as I dug it out. No fanfare erupted as I turned it over in my hands. It just smiled, the ways games smile, and showed me a name written in flowers: PIKMIN.

I went back home, popped the disc into my console, and waited for the Nintendo logo to fade as I hugged my encyclopedia to my knees; I would need it, if I encountered something strange on my journey. This was new, uncharted territory, and I had to be ready for anything. Head inside to keep reading!

The following is an entry in "Growth of a Gamer," a series of articles exploring the profound ways that video games can touch people's lives. For more information and more great content, you can check out the series' hub page! Until then, please enjoy the story of how Mass Effect influenced Justin's life.

As a child, I had a lot of different ideas about what I wanted to be when I grew up. "I want to be President, I want to be an astronaut, I want to be a veterinarian," and so forth. But once I reached adolescence, I decided I wanted to be a game designer. My logic was impeccable: I thought it would be awesome to get paid to play with games all day long. When I got my first computer as a pre-teen, I immediately began to build small platformers and shooters. They were nothing particularly special—just a few primitive builds that would amount to little more than demos today, but it was work that I enjoyed nonetheless. Social pressure and the fear of joblessness, however, eventually convinced me to abandon my “naïve” childhood dream in favor of pursuing goals that seemed more practical, like law school… That is, until one game convinced me that creating games was how I wanted to spend my life and that doing so would be well with the risk. That game was Mass Effect.

Head inside to keep reading!

The following is an entry in "Growth of a Gamer," a series of articles exploring the profound ways that video games can touch people's lives. For more information and more great content, you can check out the series' hub page! Until then, please enjoy "Pokémon Gold Version: Where Dreams and Adventure Await"


"Welcome to the world of Pokémon," I heard. In truth I deciphered these words from a few crude pixels on a strangely-upscaled Game Boy Advance screen, but to the little boy playing Pokémon Gold Version for the first time, they meant something. I was no longer sitting on my blue-striped couch trying desperately to find the right balance of soft light and harsh glare from the lamp above to illuminate the screen. These words and the three square waves accompanying them had served their purpose so well that they transcended their very existence. They were my transports to Johto, the world of Pokémon, and Professor Oak made sure I felt welcome. Head inside to keep reading.

Project M was an incredibly popular mod of Super Smash Bros. Brawl that shut down development recently due to growing fear that Nintendo was planning to take decisive legal action in the near future. We thought this raised an important issue, so we made it our discussion segment for this week's episode of Nintendo Week, our Nintendo-themed podcast here at Gamnesia. After briefly reviewing Project M's cancellation, we turned to the bigger question: what should Nintendo do when faced with situations like these? Check out the discussion video above for our full thoughts, or keep reading for a brief, brief summary.

The following is a guest post by a member of the Gamnesia community, Hylianola, containing a brief statistical analysis of several sample surveys of Smash Bros. Fighter Ballot data. It is representative only of the sample surveys which Smash fans chose to participate in and may not reflect the results of Nintendo's official Fighter Ballot. Many Smash fans may have participated in multiple sample surveys or voiced support for more than one character, which can lead to some overlap in the number of votes represented, and the data may represent some regions (nationally or locally) more than others, so please keep these factors in mind. Head inside to see the results!

When it comes to genres, video games have a habit of blurring the line. Fallout 4 has shooting, but we still think of it as an RPG, and while Dying Light has a leveling system, we still prefer to think of it as an action game. With the case of JPRGs, this line becomes even blurrier. What is it really that sets apart Japanese RPGs from other games in the genre? Is it the combat, or is it the art style? Could it be something different altogether? With the imminent release of Xenoblade Chronicles X looming over our heads, it’s something we’ve been thinking about a lot amongst our staff. We’re wondering what you all think about the topic, so leave a comment with your thoughts!

With all the talk lately about Xbox One's new backwards compatibility, it seems pertinent to start asking just how important backwards compatibility is. The PlayStation 4's not going to let you play PlayStation 3 discs on it anytime soon, but Microsoft has every intent to expand the list of Xbox 360 games that are playable on Xbox One. So here's the question: Does backwards compatibility matter? Should it be the standard for all consoles?

There are all sorts of arguments to be presented here. Some consoles are prone to breaking, so people still want to be able to play their games after that happens; it could be cumbersome to have multiple generations of consoles plugged in at one time; some people like to sell their old consoles. There’s any manner of reasons to be for backwards compatibility.

But there's a whole other side to this too. Head inside and let's discuss.

When I first powered Pokémon Silver on and heard those chiptune notes of the melody "An Adventure Begins," I knew I was in store for an amazing experience. The experience, however, didn’t end in game. It led me into rarely checked corners of the playground, attempting to escape the watchful eyes of video-game-hunting teachers, in order to network with the few other adventurous Pokémon fans at my school; we compared Pokémon and, sometimes, even let each other experience life in one another's Pokémon games.

It felt as though we lived in a Pokémon world, but this experience didn’t limit itself to the playground. Every time I turned on the game and heard the musical stylings of Junichi Masuda, I felt the game world grow to encompass me. Each piece had a stark feeling; Team Rocket’s Theme oozed tension and excitement, and the Champion Theme glimmered with energy. Pokémon’s music made me feel as though I was Silver, or Brendan, or Lucas—it eliminated the console’s screen between the Pokémon world and reality.

So, when I was given the chance to attend Pokémon: Symphonic Evolutions, I snatched it.