Memorable Gaming Moments

Here’s something I’ve been thinking about after getting deeper into IF. There’s a barrier to playing IF, the ‘oh it’s text, how boring’ effect, which is no wonder, since games are becoming incredible in terms of graphics. But, thinking back, I can barely remember a lot of the game time I’ve spent on graphical games. It’s a blur of sight and sound that was pretty to look at, but underneath the veneer, there usually isn’t much to engage the imagination. Without imagining, thinking, or extrapolating about something, it just becomes a time sink that is completely forgettable.

I notice this now that I have a computer that can actually run games again. Skyrim, for example, while pretty, is also pretty vacant in the context of pulling the player into the story, in my opinion. I can remember running around aimlessly, and having fun with the combat system, but the story is generic trash. Without the emotional engagement of a compelling plot and realistic characters, I’m left with very little now, having completed it. There was never a time where I felt that the other characters actually noticed me, as a unique character to this world. And while you can do things in any order, once you begin a quest, it’s on rails until you finish it. In fact, you can leave a quest, or questor, standing around for days at a time, standing around in the snow, and they don’t notice the passage of time. Or you can swim while wearing a full suit of plate mail. The game world doesn’t care. There was only one memorable character to me, and it was a non human character. And that, only because it forced me to make a decision that engaged me.

I remember the Walking Dead game a lot more, but not because of the visuals, but because of the story. I can remember the dragon in Zork II, since I had to work so hard to get past it – it engaged my imagination. Necrotic Drift, for example, has some very memorable moments, and looking at the still images, I could imagine the characters becoming animated during the conversations, so I have very clear memories of playing it. I felt like I was in the game. There’s a new game in the 2013 comp, Colatura (sp?) that’s very visual and imaginative, and memorable, in setting.

So I guess, the question that I’m throwing out there is, what were some of the most memorable moments in gaming for you? And, thinking about it, why is it memorable? If Skyrim was stripped down and remade as a text game, how much would it suck? (Notice, I didn’t say, would it suck. :smiley: )

Actually, I did think of one scene in Skyrim which was memorable, but it was a scene that mattered not at all to the game. I think this effect has come up a few times in IF, like Ramses, and Photopia, and probably many others. I’m putting this as a spoiler, but knowing this effects the game not at all. Here it is:

[spoiler]There is a scene where you enter a town for the first time, and a rebel is about to be executed. The pacing for this scene is very good. It’s the best scene in the game, IMO. You stand there, listening to people talk about the man about to be executed, from both sides. If you get too close, you’re warned to step back, so you have to watch. The man gives a compelling speech, and has no remorse about why he is about to be executed. His family is there, and someone runs off, crying, while others make remarks about the man and how much he deserves to die.

What makes these scene engaging, is that no matter what you do, this guy is getting his head lopped off. Even if you kill the executioner, the guy’s head just sort of magically… falls off. As if there was a button somewhere that could make this happen. And then, you’re character is peppered with arrows and what not. I tried over and over again to save this guy, getting more invested in doing so every time, but couldn’t. Being emotionally engaged made the scene memorable, and not just the typical anxiety / relief / frustration that action games usually foster. It actually felt like I was there, for that moment, and that my actions could actually make a difference in the game world.[/spoiler]

So, the rest of the game felt like I was at an amusement park, where you get on a roller coaster, and it’s the same, every time. The answers are stock. The reactions are forgettable. The character, no matter what he / she looks like, is treated relatively the same. In fact, Doom II was more memorable of an experience. Maybe because I played it with other people.

Anyway, not to turn this into a Skyrim bashing thread. Just wanted to point out that a game which people are still playing, years later, dumping hundreds of hours into, is literary junk food.

If I were to remake Skyrim as a text game, I could make it rock the house down. Every project can be awesome. Implementation is all.

(and I don’t mean that in the software sense, but that too)

I agree with you there. I think my main problem was the lack of character engagement. The things you do in the game are world shattering, but hollow, somehow, because the world and its people don’t feel alive. It’s an entirely visual experience, mostly devoid of emotional content.

I think for graphical RPGs, The Witcher is much better at engaging the player. So, you’re right – this isn’t a gripe about graphics vs. text, but how much substance remains after the game is done, days, months, or years after playing it. A good novel, movie, or game sticks around in the subconscious, bubbling up to the surface at times that resonate with the mood of the piece. Skyrim has very few of those moments. It feels like a cheap plastic toy in my memory. So I’m wondering what makes a game memorable, outside of the moments that it compels you to continue, through its addictive gameplay, or story hooks, or whatever. When all of the lights and sound ends and the curtain comes down, what’s left?

The Bethesda sandboxes all have versions of that problem, alas :frowning: Even my favorite of them, Morrowind (I thought it had the best writing overall, back when Ken Rolston was both at the top of the food chain AND at the top of his game), has the issue with the NPCs not being flexible enough to recognize the massive changes in the world … you can rise to near-godhood, change the island forever, be recognized as the leader of this faction and that, and people will still treat you like rabble and ask you if you’d mind delivering a pillow to someone across the street for a few septims, there’s a good lad. Ah well. Keeps the Nerevarine from getting a swelled head :slight_smile: And, to the point, it means that changing the world doesn’t mean you “miss out” on that awesome pillow-delivery job. I … I guess.

Fallout 3 had a special advantage in the form of the radio reports by Three-Dog, which created an illusion of recognition of effort (it also had some genuinely knotty moral problems, like the baby in the Pittsburgh DLC and the whole clusterfuck over the ghouls and the tower residents) … but if you stick around long enough, you hear the same radio stuff over and over and the illusion evaporates, alas.

But they all have their moments. I think Skyrim has several worthy moments (meeting the Night Mother by being sealed in the casket, for example, or some of the Karliah stuff, or some of the minor threads involving the Orsimer) … they’re just separated by these vast swaths of cut-and-paste fetch-quests, random wilderness fights and the mounting drone of the Same Ten Voice Actors Saying The Same Acontextual Stuff … and by the inconsistent quality of the writing (some of the specific storylines had much better writers than others, and as you wander around mixing them, the differences can be jarring).

I purchased it recently in a Steam sale; it is slated as my Winter CRPG :slight_smile: I look forward to it; heard nothing but good things.

Hahaha. That’s exactly how I felt. I never did the night mother quests – I usually play a goodie two shoes in RPGs, maybe a holdover from the Ultima days. I see what you mean, though – there are moments in Skyrim, and it is fun to play, but the final equation, for me, didn’t add to much. I think the biggest flaw was that they forgot to build up the most important character: the player character. More power, levels, fancy weapons, etc, this isn’t what I’m talking about, but depth to the experience as being the character in the story. The Witcher does it very well. So did Knights of the Old Republic. Those vast swaths of wilderness in Skyrim are beautiful, but the main character, IMO, is more shallow than the nameless avatar in Myst. How is that possible?

I respect blank-protagonist designs as much as characterized-protagonist designs as much as hybrid designs; they’re all legit design choices and each can be awesome … just so long as the game doesn’t make any promises it fails to keep. I accept that it’s a game where I’m just a me-avatar in the fantasy world, so I’m not at all disappointed in that aspect. To me, where Skyrim falls down are in some of the ways where it sets up a sense that X matters and Y matters and Z matters, and … they really just don’t. Every Bethesda sandbox has featured a cypher PC and they’ve always been very up-front about it. Whether that’s a problem is just a matter of taste, IMO, not an actual design flaw.

I do think there’s a kind of hype-pressure that makes software publishers feel obligated to make promises their games can’t keep, though, and that’s a disadvantage of having become such a big-ticket business. In that regard (and in many others) IF enjoys a certain amount of luxury. The IF community has no problem with small, intimate-scale games that promise modest, personal experiences … and then deliver on them. The videogame business has no time at all for “small” or “modest” anything … everything must pretend to be Big, Cinematic, Epic, Noisy, or it doesn’t make a splash. The games that do well are, in the end, the games that manage to deliver 20% of the experience the trailer promises (which Skyrim certainly does; maybe even 25%!) because they loom large over the majority, which deliver maybe 10% if you’re lucky :slight_smile:

The first one is, uh, less than subtle about its gigantic redhead fetish, and you literally collect sexual conquests as cards. The second one is better in pretty much every respect, that one included, though it still makes more sense to refer to it as The Wencher.

Oh, and the accents are a sort of hilarious muddle. There are lots of characters with Welsh-style names, f’rinstance, and lots of characters with Welsh accents, but somehow the two never seem to coincide. But otherwise they do a lot of cool things.

And here I was going to wait for winter!

I’ve mostly played Daggerfall and Morrowind but I loved those games specifically because I was given a more or less blank character. So, I always had my own story going in my head that tied together the various quests and such. I don’t think I would have been as absorbed in the games if I were forced into a given character-developing story arc. Hell, I never finished the main quest in any of the Elder Scrolls games. I just didn’t care. I had more fun running around, exploring, doing side quests and advancing in the guilds.


“Would you kindly…”

[spoiler]The guide character, Atlas, who has been helping you since the tutorial, almost always phrasing his direction in an affable Irish brogue like “Would you kindly make your way to the console and shut that generator down?” has been using you as his pawn, and you are a genetic anomaly whose trigger phrase that you cannot disobey is “Would you kindly…” Every single thing in the game that you’ve done to progress and did unquestioningly (because players always do what the guide character tells them to in a game like this,) has been an plot-related manipulation and not just the sequence of events that advances the game.

The convention which simulates player agency has been ripped away from you, and the sense of actual betrayal and shock it invoked in me as they show you a fast montage of everything you were told do (including hijack and crash the plane in the opening cutscene) was a literal jaw-dropping moment and a rare case that I had not been spoiled beforehand on. The fact that they took the necessity that you have to complete area A to unlock door B to get to area C and incorporated that unexpectedly and unusually into the plot was some pretty incredible writing. Atlas and Glados I think were the first two contemporary examples of unreliable narrator and it hadn’t yet become a thing in games…or at least not so well pulled-off.

Then the character you thought was the big bad and turns out to be your genetic father (with the horrifying implication of who your mother was and the manner of your birth if you paid attention to the audio logs previously) uses the “Would you kindly” trigger to compel you to bludgeon him to death with his golf club while shouting “A MAN…CHOOSES! A SLAVE…OBEYS!!!” in one of the absolute mind-blowing moments of gaming ever.[/spoiler]

Similarly in Bioshock Infinite


[spoiler]It had been rumored and assumed that the game, set in a parallel universe and seemingly unrelated to the first one, was going to have an easter egg where Elizabeth, a character with nascent Dr. Who-like powers of tripping through alternate universes, might open up a portal to Rapture from the first game just as an amusing fanwank joke.

But the moment you realize she’s taken you, herself and the Songbird (the mechanical monstrosity who’s terrorized you throughout the game until like twenty minutes ago when Elizabeth figured out the actual secret to control him and use him as your most powerful weapon) to Rapture and landed Songbird outside the glass at the bottom of the ocean where he implodes… accomplished what was an expected jokey callback in a more emotional and satisfying way. Then the last 20 minutes of this game is amazingly surreal and haunting and plays with video game tropes and expectations some more. This wasn’t a remake of Bioshock…the whole multiverse is connected literally.[/spoiler]

Uru: Ahnonay

Thinking I had broken the game when swimming to the rocks in Ahnonay.

[spoiler]Already in this game you’ve found Kadish’s skeleton at the very center of his spectacular puzzle-box vault age where he died with all his supposed treasures, mad as all get out. After that, you investigate Ahnonay in which he professed to have the ability to control time. This is despite the fact that a linking book is supposed to put you at a single fixed point of space and time somewhere. But Kadish provides a book to a small watery island age that when uninhabited seems to race into a desolate deserted foggy version, and then later to a ruined circle of broken rocks hovering in space where the island used to be.

But then the age starts behaving unexpectedly if you use the bookmark ability to “cheat” your way to some inaccessible progress markers. For example, in the ruined late age where the island is just floating rocks in space, you can bookmark a remote atoll in the past, then progress time and link to the resulting inaccessible rock in the future since it’s in the same “place”. As you do this, you “accidentally” discover a fourth version of the age where a huge statue (Kadish?) is partially built and floating majestically in space with scaffoldings and bricks floating in zero gravity. There’s a weird passage to an outdoor area with a tiny island and a tower you can’t get into and water currents around it that keep you from swimming too far away out of the play area where some other scenic rocks are visible and the horizon seems to disappear over an edge. This is not surprising in this series where you’re used to seeing scenic elements in the distance you are not expected to reach. The bookmark seems to malfunction here, placing you in a different spot than you marked if you manage to advance the time eras outside…and the passageway still leads to the fourth era of the age…

This exploit lets you get into the tower which has a lever to shut off the water currents. At this point I swam out toward the scenic rocks which took a bit, and as I got closer they started to pixellate. I’m thinking I’ve totally done something wrong and broken the game…obviously I’m not supposed to see these things up close…until I manage to swim around one of the rocks…which turns out to be constructed two-dimensional scenery for the benefit of those standing on the island. There’s a crack in the horizon behind…which turns out to be a wall…which leads to an observation/control panel with a window that shows…

Wow. Kadish wasn’t controlling time. He built a giant mechanism on a wheel that spins four giant spheres containing constructed theatrical representations of the same age in different time periods into the space that the original book links to. A cosmic magic trick to fool people, like me, who understood that linking isn’t supposed to work in the manner he seemingly had gotten it to. Epic.[/spoiler]


And Portal2. All of it. Especially the songs.

Fallout 3

The vault that turns the game into a demented 1950’s black and white sitcom, and bringing up your Pip-Boy to realize it’s nothing but a common wristwatch.

Then realizing the peppy theme music that plays the entire time and sticks in your head is the key to escaping.

There’s a scene in Silent Hill 3 where you walk into a room, weird icky things happen, and then you die. I am being vague, of course.

EDIT: Be sure to turn volume up if you see it muted. There’s some sort of youtube volume-slider bug right now.

The joke is that while the door initially locks itself, it quietly unlocks later in the sequence. So you could simply walk out. But you don’t, because you’re too caught up watching and thinking “…the hell?”

(I’m assuming by ‘gaming’ we mean computer games, otherwise this list is going to get totally unmanageable. Very partial list, obviously.)

The moment in Spider & Web whereyou realise how the frame-story and restarting work.
The moment in [i]Counterfeit Monkey wherethe constraints come off the letter-remover and you can make concepts and living things.
The moment in Violet whereyou slide the key under the door, and a moment later it gets slid back under again.
The moment in Vespers where you realise that the Bible quotes are getting increasingly apocryphal and deranged.
A particular pre-set scenario in SimLife, the idea of which was to ask the evolutionary reason why gender birth ratios tend to be about even in most species, even though it’d seemingly be more efficient to have lots of females and a small number of males. A big “aha!, oh, obviously” here.
The realisation, in the original Ghost Recon, that getting hit by bullets is about as lethal as it’d be in real life.
The pogo-stick plotline in Dangerous High School Girls In Trouble.
The modron cube in Planescape: Torment.
Fallout: New Vegas, the Indiana Jones fridge.
Mount & Blade, the first time you really get your gear and skills good enough that you can dance your horse through a pack of infantry, swing once, kill, and keep going. Also, the moment when you’ve got a really good cavalry contingent and you’re charging forwards amongst them, the enemy not even in sight yet, in the gold-red light of a sunrise or sunset. Which I always associated with these lines from the Qur’an:

Lugaru: landing a two-footed kick and smashing an enemy into a wall. Landing a roundhouse off-the-wall kick. Countering a counter. Intentional death-from-above from a ridiculously huge jump.
Facade: getting kicked out of the house for insulting behaviour.
Crusader Kings: the first time your dynasty really falls apart in a horrible Shakespearean tragedy of mental illness and assassination and weak heirs. (Before you figure out that Salic primogeniture is for suckers.)
Pretty much all of Portal. Pretty much every terrible thing that happens to you in Dwarf Fortress.
The time that I set up a tiny Tropico island, forbade immigration, and waited to see how long it’d take before inbreeding set in. (Quite some time. But it confused the hell out of the game.)

Hmm. I heard the gameplay is almost totally different. I’ve never played either, though…

Combat’s totally different. Harder, mostly - in the original it’s just about clicking in rhythm, and it’s a lot easier to stun-lock things and deal with groups. In The Witcher II you spend a lot of time dodging to avoid getting surrounded, which is more realistic but also a lot tougher.

When my Katamari starts picking up continents. CONTINENTS!!!

The end of Telltale’s “Walking Dead”. I teared up. No other game has been able to do that. Parts of the game seemed tedious and a little over-dramatic, but the good parts were so very good.

Plundered Hearts. It was the first game I ever played that really made you see through the protagonist’s eyes, rather than just projecting the player into the protagonist. To this day, it remains my favorite work of IF.

Star Trek: The Promethean Prophecy. It’s been years (this was on the Apple 2), and I imagine I am looking at it through rose-colored lenses, but the characters that join you on the away team seemed so much more alive than other games I’d played. And it just exuded tasty Original Series kitsch. The manual was wonderful, too.

No single moment in “The Last of Us” (PS3) stands out, although many moments do. The entire game was fantastic. After so many years, it has become very difficult for a game to make my list of all-time favorites, yet TLOU has rocketed up to my #2 spot, just behind Fallout 3.

I like games with surprises and twists (Bioshock comes to mind, and was mentioned earlier.) Sometimes the whole experience leaves a lasting impression, as is the case with The Last of Us. Sometimes, it can be a particular scene: Making it to the first colossus in Shadow of the Colossus; The extra scene at the end of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow; Meeting another player for the first time in PS3’s Journey; Escaping death partway through the first Portal; Leaving the vault at the beginning of Fallout 3; And most recently, the torture scene in Grand Theft Auto V (in a “can’t believe I had to do this in a game” kind of way).

(Edit) Oh, and a certain unexpected scene near the end of Batman: Arkham City.

Ok, going back to 1990-ish games here…

In Ultima V, when I realized Blackthorn’s Laws were almost certainly

an apology for how tough it could be to keep and retain eighths in Ultima IV.

Also, when I realized the Shadowlords

attacked a city randomly, so the “air of hatred” a friend (who’d gotten the game before I did) told me about after he looted a town was not what he thought.

and overall

having Blackthorn wipe out a party member if guards caught you, or just meeting Blackthorn in his castle, stumbling on his bedroom while asleep, and even using the magic carpet to avoid him, his guards, and in Stonekeep, the Shadowlords.

I also enjoyed Legend of Blacksilver and

watching the hidden continent slowly regrow as I completed more quests

as well as, in Magic Candle,

Bursting Dreax’s bubble instead of winning the game while chanting the final spell in Magic Candle. The “lose just before you win” has been done a lot, but I remember how fun it was to see–hey, that WORKED!


Dividing your party to pull the three levers to raise the hidden isle (I’m a sucker for hidden isles/continents)

Also, in the NES game Labyrinth, figuring

how the central maze worked was not difficult per se but it was creepy til I did.

I also enjoyed figuring how Super Black Onyx worked. It’s a FPRPG maze game without words.

Realizing the map could be drawn on a cube was not an emotional thing, but it was the last neat thing the designers did that helped cross the language barrier. Well, for me.

The following immediately spring to mind:

Spider & Web: The bit already mentioned by maga.

Photopia: The maze.

Also, and even more so, Photopia’s final scene. I remember this in a very clear “where were you when?” sort of way. I was on a train pulling into Marylebone station on my commute home, playing it my Psion MX 5, listening to Andre 3000’s “The Love Below” album (“She Lives in my Lap” was playing). I got choked up.

The Getaway: Ignoring my stated objective during the first or second mission, and instead just driving round central London and then actually past my own house. So cool.

Shadow of Colossus:

Successfully getting onto the (first?) flying colossus.

Flipnic: “You got all flamingos”. (Actually, never managed to get them all, but spent a LONG time attempting it with a friend). Such an awesomely trippy game. Shame about the flipper lag and ball-physics–somewhat essential parts of a pinball game.

Vib Ribbon: Excitedly receiving the copy I bought on ebay, putting it in my PS2, and discovering that the feature where you can play along to music from your own CDs (it’s a rhythm-action game) didn’t really work. It didn’t match the action to the music! Massive let down.