The Gamer Who Came in From the Cold pt. 4

Return of the Gamer.

Felix Quiñonez Jr.

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Photo by Alvaro Reyes on Unsplash

One of the first things I noticed when I began studying at Hunter College was how diverse the student population was. There were students of all backgrounds, and as a brown person, I never felt like an outsider. There were so many people that no matter what you were into, you could find a group of people who shared the same interests.

A friend of mine took me to a comic book store, and I fell in love with comics again. I started drawing again, and I minored in studio art. I even began making comic books. I would print them out in the student resource center and hand them out to friends. A few of us started a humor magazine. I went to parties. I dated, I wrote, I made art. But more importantly, I felt comfortable in my skin. Now and then, I thought about playing video games, but as a broke college student, I simply didn’t have the money to invest in video games. But it wasn’t like I lacked things to do.

Since graduating, I’ve pursued my writing and artwork experiencing varying degrees of what could generously be called success. I’ve been published online and in print. I’ve covered pop culture, the fashion world, art, global news, and local politics. I’ve written and illustrated a graphic novel. I made a lot of comics by myself and in collaboration with others. I began a comic book anthology with a friend. We’ve completed nine issues so far. It has featured the work of many other talented creators from all around the country. My graphic novel and comics have been sold in stores around NYC and online.

But like most people trying to do creative things, I’ve had to balance my passion with day jobs, and I’ve had my share. That made it challenging to find time to get back into playing video games. And like anyone who’s lived in NYC knows, it’s not cheap. That’s the main reason I didn’t get a new video game console. But honestly, I was never captivated enough. I was no longer actively reading about video games, but I heard about some new games through social media. Some games were so big that I couldn’t help but seeing headlines about them. There just wasn’t anything that captivated me enough to get back into it. That is until the Switch.

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Photo by Cláudio Luiz Castro on Unsplash

Return of the Gamer

As I grabbed my new Nintendo Switch and game (Mario Party) from the pick-up counter, I immediately felt a rush of excitement. I couldn’t wait to get home and play it. For a second there, I felt like a kid again. After confirming that our transaction was complete, I thanked the woman behind the counter and left, still overcome with excitement.

As usual, it didn’t take long for doubt to kick in. On the subway ride back to my apartment, I felt a sense of trepidation. I began to wonder if I made the right decision. By the time I reached home, my excitement was still there but noticeably tempered. That all changed as soon as I took the Switch out of its box. Say what you will about the Switch, but it is one beautiful looking machine.

It took me a little longer than I expected to set it up. Maybe I should have read the instructions. But eventually, I got it going. If you’ve never played Mario Party, well, perhaps it’s not your thing, but there’s a reason Nintendo keeps making them and people keep buying them. It’s a weird little party game, full of fun mini-games. It’s easy to pick up and even more addictive. Of course, it’s more fun to play it with a group of friends, but on your own, it’s still plenty enjoyable.

Mario Party might seem like an odd choice for the first game to buy after almost 20 years. But the fact is that it had been so long that I was kind of nervous about getting back into gaming. My first instinct was to go for Breath of the Wild or Mario Odyssey. But I was worried that they’d be too hard or overwhelming. I almost felt like I had to work my way back as a gamer before playing those. And it was the right choice.

I laughed, stayed up late, and for a little while, I felt like I was a kid again. At one point, I did wish I had my siblings and cousin were with me like when we were kids, but it felt good to be playing again. I felt like I got my money’s worth with Mario Party. I spent a lot of hours playing all the mini-games, sometimes laughing to myself on my commute to work.

But after a couple of weeks, I felt ready for something more challenging. At that point, it was no question what game I was going to get. Mario Odyssey looked great, but Breath of the Wild was a big reason why I decided to get a Nintendo Switch in the first place. That weekend, I headed to Best Buy, picked up Breath of the Wild, and embarked on an incredible, breathtaking, genuinely moving, epic journey. Mario Party was fun and all, but it was barely an appetizer, and Breath of the Wild was the main course.

I came home and embarked on the first of many all-nighters. Breath of the Wild is one of those games that are hard to describe. You kind of have to play it to understand how special it is. It’s also the rare case that no matter how much praise you throw its way, you still wind up selling it short. That’s because its most significant feat isn’t a technical one. Sure, the game is incredibly beautiful, the gameplay is addictive, the controls are incredibly polished, the score is lovely, and the list can just go on. But the things I love most about the game are the intangibles, the things you can’t quantify, the feelings it evokes.

Some games feel like games; they feel like you are in your living room, controlling a character. That’s not necessarily bad; many games like that are still great and can be a lot of fun to play. But Breath of the Wild feels like it transports you to another world, a beautiful, immersive world. It also transported me to another time. I felt like a little kid again. I felt a kind of joy I didn’t think I was even able to feel anymore.

When I played Breath of the Wild, I was a seven-year-old, unboxing a Super Nintendo to explore Super Mario World. I was playing Star Fox and entering the 3rd dimension for the first time. I was thirteen, exploring the world of Panzer Dragoon on the back of a dragon. I was staying up late, discovering the survival horror of Resident Evil. I was all those things I had forgotten that I could be. For so long, I stopped allowing myself to enjoy one of the things I loved most. I focused on all the things that I no longer had.

I focused on the fact that I didn’t have my siblings and cousin to make video games a party. I didn’t have my cousin there to discover new games. I didn’t have my parents buying me games or watching me with joy as I played them. But for some reason, whenever I looked back on those times, I never thought about me. I focused so much on the people around me that I never stopped to realize that I played a role in it too. It was like I had written myself out of my own story.

For the first time, I saw that I was an essential part of those times too. Realizing that was like finding my way back to a place I thought no longer existed. I couldn’t revive those times, but I didn’t have to, and I saw that now.

So far, I’ve spent over 200 hours playing Breath of the Wild, technically I “beat” the game, but there is still so much more to do. I have some more shrines to unlock and plenty of more adventures to embark on. Since then, I’ve defeated Thanos in Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3. I’ve had some very competitive races in Mario Kart 8. I’ve spent quite a few nights in the haunted hotel of the surprisingly fun Luigi’s Mansion 3. I finally got to play the remastered version of the Resident Evil remake that was initially made for the GameCube.

I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that Resident Evil is one of, if not the best remakes ever. Even though the graphics look head and shoulders above the original, it never feels like a simple, superficial improvement. It feels like they were able to achieve their original vision. The graphics, the shadows, and lighting all come together to create an experience that is scary, addictive, and beautiful. There were quite a few times when I just paused to take in the beauty of it all.

I also finally got to check out Resident Evil 0, a game that originally came out on the GameCube after I had already stopped games. I know people treat this game as a sort of black sheep of the mainline franchise, but I enjoyed it. It’s two-character, and item systems can be a little annoying, but since I went in knowing what to expect, it wasn’t a huge deal. Clearly, my love for Resident Evil was still there. The next game I played was Resident Evil 4, a game so infamous that I heard about it during my time away from video games. This was also originally released on the GameCube, and even though the Switch versions were remastered, it goes to show you how excellent the GameCube was. And I am happy to say that Resident Evil 4 somehow manages to surpass its incredibly excellent reputation.

Since then, I bought a Sega Dreamcast. I finally got to beat Resident Evil: Code Veronica. I revisited an old favorite; Marvel Vs. Capcom 2. It’s still incredibly fun and insanely over the top. I got a Gameboy Advance. Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 on it is still a sight to behold. However, the Gameboy Advance’s screen is still insanely hard to see in anything but perfect lighting conditions. I really should have bought the SP version, but I always loved how the original looks more. I also got a Super Nintendo. I’ve been playing a lot of old favorites. I beat X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse, Marvel War of the Gems, and for the first time, Chrono Trigger.

Those are just some of the games I’ve been playing since I got back into gaming. But since then, I’ve also reconnected with my cousin. He lives across the country in California now, but he was the first person I reached out to when I bought my Nintendo Switch. Since then, we’ve been talking a lot more than we had in a long time. We talk about the games we’re playing, speculate about the upcoming PS5 and new Xbox. He never really stopped playing video games, so he always has games to recommend. And sometimes we just catch up on the phone and reminisce about old times.

I’m also happy to say that I’ve, generally, been able to balance my time. I’m working on my second graphic novel, and I’m writing just about every day. I think during this time, we are all finding ourselves at home more. I often hear about people going stir crazy. They want to get out of the house and do things, go places.

As a gamer, I don’t have that problem. I can do plenty of things and even travel to other worlds without ever leaving the house. I also have a new gaming crew. (My cat Mancha and my rat, Rancha) They are always there with me to tackle any new adventure. I’ve even discovered the world of Arcade 1up machines. And I have to say; I might soon have an arcade in my apartment. But I have to go; the boyz are waiting for me. We’re about to embark on a new adventure…The Witcher 3.

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Movies. TV. Comics. Video Games. Writer. Illustrator. Editor

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