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A Love Letter to Video Games

As a relatively new father, I’m trying to indulge my inner optimist more often, if only to model the kind of joyful life untainted by default cynicism I wish for my son. The community of games is too commonly sunk by the urge, by some, to drag others into their own self-loathing mire. I’ve been the victim; I’ve been the perpetrator. But games offer so much creativity and opportunities for expression and thrills that to sunder them with the muck of continual disappointment or rage is to miss the point of loving to play in the first place. So! Here is what I love about games right now, back then, and into the future.

I love the iconic ba-ding sound of Mario gathering a single coin.

I love how flicking the PlayStation 4 DualShock’s touchpad left rewinds DVDs or Blu-Rays at 15-second intervals.

I love that, within five minutes of Microsoft’s announcement that Xbox Live would be coming to iOS, Android, and Nintendo Switch, fans were dreaming of a future where Master Chief battled Mario in “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” and, less realistically, the next Zelda would be on the next Xbox (answer: no).

I love “FutureGrind,” the rail-grinding unholy love child to “Trials,” “Uniracer,” and “Ikaruga” from Milkbag Games, which causes me to stop breathing for 30-second stretches and grip my controller with a PSI of 590.

I love how, tomorrow, a new game could be announced that is like nothing anyone has seen before, played in a new way, that changes the paradigm for years to come.

I love getting a print magazine all about video games in the mail. (They still exist! You too can subscribe!)

I love how something that seemed like science fiction thirty years ago is taken for granted to the point where we get upset if, during an online game against someone across the ocean, the frame-rate drops for two seconds.

I love the unabashed pretension of naming the Switch controllers “Joy-con.”

I love all the kids in Microsoft’s new commercial for their accessible adaptive controller, but I love that one kid the most.

I love that when my wife played the “Animal Crossing” DLC track in “Mario Kart 8,” she literally cried tears of happiness.

I love that when my 22-month-old son pulled out a random NES cartridge from my collection, he picked Sunsoft’s “Batman” game the same day he wore his Batman sweatshirt with the cape-and-cowl hoodie.

I love that full price retail games are only $59.99 when, adjusted for inflation, games I bought in 1999 would today cost over a hundred dollars.

I love, too, that full-featured beautiful games are being built by a handful of people and sold for the price of an expensive sandwich.

I love that I can then buy that game’s original soundtrack on vinyl from The Yetee.

I love how games become signposts of our past, not only marking time but making that time come alive again: I play “Gyruss” and remember opening the NES box as a gift from my now-departed grandmother. (If Proust was born in 1981, his Madeleine would have been “Food Fight.”)

I love that my Mii, created circa 2006, will always have hair.

I love seeing the changing games landscape through the eyes of my nephew as he moves from obsession to obsession, from “Minecraft” to “Five Nights at Freddy’s” to “Battlefield One” to “Spider-Man.”

I love that Nintendo’s take on a third-person shooter asks us to make that most pivotal of decisions: Waffles or Pancakes.

I love Sony’s rigid determination to name each successive console after a single increasing digit.

I love that Fortnite’s massive global success has not pushed Epic to fast-track a mundane sequel but instead launch a competing video game store that gives more money back to developers.

I love this translated quote from Shigeru Miyamoto which he said during Nintendo’s recent corporate management policy briefing: “In baseball, if you want to hit a home run, you need to take a decisive swing to send the ball into the stands.”

I love how in Japan, it’s “Salamander,” in North America, it’s “Life Force,” and in Europe it’s “Life Force: Salamander.”

I love that, in Dublin during the summer of 2016, I saw a crowd of people around a monument at Trinity College and I instinctively knew they were all playing “Pokemon GO.”

I love that my mom would never say she plays video games but when I visit home she shows me some new mobile word-search or dot-connecting app, and before that she played “Hearts” on PC, and before that she borrowed my Game Boy to play “Tetris” and never gave it back.

I love the plunk of a digital golf ball falling into the cup.

I love that your list of gaming loves might be nothing like mine and just as valid.

I love that the sound director on “Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball,” a digital-only experiment in microtransactions, took the time to make sure each bat–aluminum, wood, whiffle–sounds exactly right.

I love the remix of “Donkey Kong”’s theme by Hirokazu Tanaka in “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.”

I love starting a new game and seeing the title screen for the first time.

I love playing “Fire Emblem” as if it were a real war: With no restarts, and my story is over when all of my soldiers die.

I love blowing into the 3DS mic and watching the animated icons spin.

I love that, when interviewed during the Asia premiere of best picture nominee “Black Panther,” director Ryan Coogler talked about his love for “Stardew Valley.”

I love the trailing glow of your ship’s fire across “Asteroids”’ vector screen.

I love that, when I read this list back, I feel like I’ve barely mentioned anything because the well is deep and ever-filling.

I love beating a game and watching the credits scroll by, because I know that means I can now start playing something new tomorrow.

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