Marty & Me

If I’d have seen the games of today when I was a kid, the grey quivering matter of my brain would have exploded violently through my nose.

Picture it. Marty McFly suddenly appears with his DeLorean in the early nineties in my suburban cul-de-sac. It’s an idle Saturday evening, and I’m playing through Super Mario Bros on the NES for the fourteenth time that day. Charles and Eddie are not lying to us on the radio, Noel Edmonds is cuddling something big and pink in Crinkley Bottom, our kitchen cupboards are full of pastel coloured Tupperware and I still believe in God not Velociraptors because I haven’t seen Jurassic Park yet. McFly parks up, bursts into our house and runs upstairs. “There’s not much time! I’ve got to show Simon the games he’ll be playing in 17 years! Don’t ask why! It’s just the power of love!”. He’s carrying a large suitcase containing all the current consoles of this generation, an HDTV, and also a signed picture of Optimus Prime.

Flinging my bedroom door open he dashes in, swiftly producing the Optimus Prime picture, knowing that it will placate me and prevent me from exercising my simply phenomenal childhood Judo skills. While I’m distracted by the smiling leader of the Autobots, snapped on a successful fishing trip, Marty hooks up the HDTV and a Wii. He positions the HDTV next to my small portable TV, and loads up Super Mario Galaxy. He loads up his save file. It’s one of the early levels, one with the bee suit. I see the colourful, vibrant images displayed on the HDTV. I look over at Super Mario Bros running on my NES through my TV. I look back over at the HDTV, and see a three dimensional Mario frolicking through a flower bed.

Then it happens. My brain explodes. The only place it can go is through my nose. Marty McFly is covered in it. The HDTV is covered in it. My family runs upstairs to see what’s wrong. Thinking quickly, my dad retrieves a few boxes of pastel coloured Tupperware from the kitchen, and the whole family and Marty McFly all get busy scooping up my brain from the wall, the HDTV, the carpet, and Marty’s jacket and tight denim jeans.

Not pictured: a surprised-looking Michael J Fox covered in my thoughts and synapses.
Not pictured: a surprised-looking Michael J Fox covered in my thoughts and synapses.

Thankfully, my father’s quick thinking saves my life and they’re able to use a network of straws and a hairdryer to reassemble my brain and feed it back through my nostrils.

All eminently plausible. That could have happened, but I’d repressed it until now.

It’s not just a matter of Mario games looking prettier. If Marty waited till I was a little older for his next visit, maybe when I’m around 14 years old and I’ve just discovered Grand Theft Auto, he could ask me what that would look like in 3D and I would flatly reply that such a thing was too joyous to even conceive of, for fear that Velociraptors would smite me for having too fertile an imagination. Then he’d show me Grand Theft Auto IV and I’d be likely to go into denial at best, and at worst something similar to the end of Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade would occur, when the chap drinks from the wrong grail. Marty would have to drive me to the hospital in his DeLorean and explain himself to the unimpressed medical staff as they attempted to rebuild me yet again.

And this is the main game view, yes? I control my character from here?
And this is the main game view, yes? I control my character from here?

I think what would really strike the younger me about many modern games is the feeling of a real world surrounding you, and having the freedom to explore that world. Marty McFly could go back in time and interrupt my Command & Conquer: Red Alert session to show me Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3, and I’d think it looked nice but I’d realise it was still the same game underneath, just with worse controls and less fun.

If however, whilst I was hopping about like an aflame hare in Bubble Bobble, he showed me the Capital Wasteland in Fallout 3, the lush forests of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion or the transition from downtown Los Santos to spacious green countryside in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas I might well have struggled with the idea that what I was seeing was possible.

When I was a kid, I savoured the little touches in games that hinted at an authentic world. Duke Nukem’s toilets are a good example. I was running about shooting stuff merrily just like in Doom, when I came to a functional bathroom, complete with working flushers and mirrors. It fascinated me. Not just because I like poo. Now, I take all that for granted. The sense of an apparently living, breathing world, and the freedom to do whatever you please within it is a part of many contemporary games. Not only was that not the case in the games I played as a kid, but I don’t think the notion had even seriously crossed my mind.

Now look at Just Cause 2. This is a game that marries a stunningly beautiful game world with a huge amount of freedom to play within it. If Marty McFly travelled back in time and showed me that game when I was 13, when I was probably collecting apples and pretending to be a bandicoot, something very close to this would have happened.

Additionally I would have said that Marty was a chicken.







6 responses to “Marty & Me”

  1. Kat avatar

    Makes you wonder what the next 17 years will hold. Can you do a follow up blog then please?

    The brain stuff put me off my breakfast though >:(


  2. Celeste avatar

    Yes the brain stuff was a bit of a breakfast-killer.

    My brain nearly exploded when I saw Oblivion, and that was a couple years ago.

  3. Darach avatar

    You think the young you would have struggled to cope with offerings from Bethesda and Rockstar?
    Well, just think how your brain would have imploded at the sight of “Games Room”!
    No amount of straws and hairdryers would have been enough!!


  4. The Rook avatar
    The Rook

    I hear those consoles belonged to Biff Tannen and he’s still looking for them.

  5. Jonny/IV DemonJ avatar
    Jonny/IV DemonJ

    I was thinking about this just the other day. Games have come along in leaps and bounds since the introduction of 3D gaming. I think when you see real a humongous world, like that of San Andreas or Oblivion, even now you have to respect them for being technical marvels! As for the next 17 years? Minority Report virtual reality rooms are the way forward 😀

  6. Scott avatar

    Woah, this is heavy.

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