Hardware That Creates Feelings
by John Andreula
Playing video games is all about inspiring feelings within us.
Video games are about connecting with deep emotions. They create a link to the digital art and stories held within. They literally produce feelings as well. The feelings I speak of are sensations. Games stimulate the senses of touch, vision, and hearing.
My first personal example of connecting with feelings produced in video games comes in the form of a memory created in my very early days.
It is the memory of an Atari 2600 joystick.
I cannot even recall what game I played with that black and red joystick on the bulky black and brown hardware. It was probably Pac-Man or Ms. Pac-man.
The game experience itself did not create a memory as much as the tangible sensory stimulation of holding the joystick within my tiny hand did. I can recall the gliding movement of the stick. I remember the clicking of the button being pressed.
I was young and cannot piece together more than the feel of the joystick and the excitement of being able to play with what I understood then to be a “grown-up toy.”
My own first home console arrived shortly after my memory of the the Atari joystick. It was a SEGA Master System. It was black and bright red with a bold geometric design.
The available games came in two variations in retail packaging. The game cases featured bold, colorful images over a white grid background. They were similar to VHS cases of the same era. If you owned a Disney VHS from the same period, you’ll know what I am talking about.
Most games were drop-in rectangular cartridges of black plastic with dark red tops where the name of the game was printed in white text letters. They were similarly styled to those of the 2600.
Sega also introduced two other ways to play their games. They created game cards that slid into a port in the front. In hindsight those are reminiscent of expandable memory similar to what I’ve used in computers, cameras, and phones in past two decades. The cards were smaller than floppy disks, but larger than SD cards.
The other interesting innovative form of software introduced in the Master System was the on-board, or built-in game. If I powered on my Master System without any games in it, then an intensely fast motorcycle game called Hang-On took over the screen of my 1980’s thirteen inch tube television.
As most games were for me at that age, Hang-On was incredibly fast and difficult. My underdeveloped six or seven-year old hands struggled to navigate the black rectangle controller and its D-pad and its A and B buttons.
I practiced a lot. My hands became more adept at inputting commands rapidly into the controller. My eyes would read the pattern of a bad guy ninja in Shinobi shooting ninja stars or bullets in my direction.
My brain would communicate to my hands and their developing muscle memory. I would learn the correct timing and button input to avoid the oncoming attacks and to counterattack and best my onscreen opponents.
Blisters, callouses, soreness, and pain in my fingers and wrists accompanied some of my marathon sessions. Tired eyes, I later referred to as “bloody eyes,” were common as well. “Bloody eye” situations also included the pleasure of seeing screen scenes behind my eyelids even after I closed my eyes. I guess I burned the screens images into my prefrontal cortex or my corneas and retinas.
I vividly remember the feeling of the the reset button and power switch as well. The reset button was pressed out of frustration almost as often as I successfully completed a race or a level.
The power switch was reached when my frustration had reached its limits, or worse yet, when my mother had determined she was tired of hearing my brother and I fight. There were many memorable enraged arguments over taking turns on the games we attempted to share. Often we would fail in our attempts at cooperation.
I remember many, many, many, “Game Over”s.
I remember those early and tangible forays into failure introduced at an early age. They would create key learnings. Sometimes I would repeat entire levels with minor tweaks to avoid falling onto spikes or jumping into the the swords of oncoming opponents.
Other times I would stop entirely and step away for a while. Later I would re-enter games and complete previously impossible levels and tasks with relative ease considering my seemingly countless previous attempts .
Any avid gamer is familiar with this strange, but frequent occurrence. It happens in racing games, fighters, platformers, and many other genres.
That’s how the games are programmed. They are designed to frustrate, and eventually frustration gives way to relief. Eventually this is followed up with a feeling of victory after competence is established and the necessary skills required for completion are attained.
Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars was the cartridge I recall most from my Master System years. Fantasy Zone was the card. Later in life I purchased and downloaded Fantasy Zone for my Nintendo Wii.
I still play it on occasion as it has not lost as much playability as other games from that era. I enjoy this reminiscing out of nostalgia.
Nostalgia is the final iteration of feeling created by video games.
Nostalgia is an interesting jumble of emotion and memory. It inspires new and more feelings when you give into its pull and try to reconnect with whatever it is you are nostalgic about from your past.
When you go back and play games from your past not all are fun like Fantasy Zone. Some are difficult to enjoy in the same way due to the imperfections in the coding and the limited constraints of 8 bit and 16 bit gaming design.
In the context of simplicity of controls and the capabilities of the playable characters within the games, some of my favorite games from the past are terrible when I play them again today. Some are better served remaining dormant memories stored in the depths of my mind. Sports games from yester-year are fantastic examples of games that become cumbersome and disappointing through the lens of nostalgia.
An expanse of feelings have been stored from all of my many hours of gaming. There are so many experiences I can draw on. The feeling of playing with others is perhaps the deepest connection I have to my gaming.
I’ve made connections with so many different “Player 2’s” from throughout my life. Besides my brother, I’ve gamed with my parents as well as cousins, uncles, aunts, friends and strangers.
Right now I am blessed with a new “Player 2.” It’s my seven year old daughter.
Lately we’ve played Paper Mario, Mario Kart, Minecraft, and Beautiful Katamari together. I love her excitement and wonderment. I can vividly recall similar feelings when I experienced these games for the first time myself.
Like I have in the past, she thinks and talks about the games long after we have turned the consoles off. She frequently asks when our next gaming session will be. I’ve also watched my daughter interact with video games and electronic devices throughout her early developmental years.
Often-times parents, particularly gamer parents, justify gaming by sighting the positive effect it has on the development of fine motor skills. They claim it invokes development in our creative and deductive reasoning abilities as well.
This is true, however it can also stimulate addictive tendencies better left to be dealt with in latter years of adolescence and adult-hood. I believe children who struggle with addiction at an early age will be likely to have a tougher time dealing with it later and into adulthood.
I proceed raising my daughter aware of all this. My wife and I limit our daughter’s blue screen and electronic device time. She gets an hour maximum on weekdays. She gets no more than two and half hours on weekend days. Sometimes I feel even that is too much.
We recognize that any more than what we allot and she will not only come away lacking focus, but she can also develop a poor attitude. She will even show tendencies toward bad behavior after getting too much screen time.
These are much less frequent occurrences on days without screen time and video games. It calls into question my own history of game play in terms of frequency and time spent. I wonder if I may have turned out more intelligent, better disciplined, and with a higher emotional and social IQ than I had had I not spent so much time playing video games.
Nonetheless, I have no regrets. I’m happy with my past and the experiences it has held for me. I’ve been blessed to have so many vivid and varying feelings as a result to my video game experiences. The video games of my lifetime have created countless emotions and memories that I cherish and hold dear.
If you have any feelings about this piece or special memories about gaming from your past or present please click comment and share them with us. We’d love to hear from you.
Please click like and share this piece with your favorite social media networks. As always, the content is free and the best form of repayment is to spread the word.
If you enjoyed this piece please check out some more of my other creative works on my new website: movingonupwards.com