Can we really only be wowed by something once?

Can we really only be wowed by something once?

There’s something I keep thinking about lately. It’s this idea that we have little space in our minds for formative gaming experiences and the returns dwindle forever.

I was talking to a guy in a pub about it, who overheard a conversation I was having with someone else and rushed over, excited to talk to someone, anyone, about games. It was quite endearing. And it was when talking about older games and remakes that he said: I don’t think anything will ever be as good as the original Deus Ex.

On the one hand, that’s fair enough – the old Deus Ex was good, and it was a good time for games where people realized that RPGs and FPSs could work together. That’s not what bothered me.

What bothered me was the idea that nothing could ever be as good as the original Deus Ex because, blatantly, that’s not true. Put that old Deus Ex next to the new Deus Ex, or next to games like Dishonored and Prey, and I know which ones I prefer to play. And I know that’s not a fair comparison because there’s over 20 years between them, but I think it’s equally unfair to compete with a formative memory.

You see what I really think he was saying, this man, no other game could affect him like Deus Ex once did. And that, I understand.

Step into our time machine in 2016 and Overwatch was one of those jaw-dropping moments for me.

It happened to me too. Once upon a time I played Dark Age of Camelot, and it was the first time I could really give it my all in an MMO. And I did, completely, and it blew my mind. It blew my mind because everything I did there was a new experience for me, a new imprint on my mind. I was so engrossed that it felt almost real to me, this virtual world – I can still feel emotions in the memories even now. And nothing – not even my World of Warcraft experience, which was very strong – has been able to equal it since.

I don’t think it’s because DAOC was a better game than WOW – I think the story speaks for itself here. I think it’s just because the DAOC came first.

I ran home to play Mass Effect 1 when it came out.

It seems to be the same for everyone I talk to: their strongest gaming memories always tend to be in the past, often far in the past. And all they’ve done since, really, is run after experiences like this, perhaps in hopes that they can have such a powerful experience again. But can they – can we? That’s the question.

What if our brains were like ink pads and it was always the first press that left the strongest mark, whatever we did? Each mark that will follow will always be a little more erased.

I wonder if this is some psychological quirk of humans that we are powerless to do anything about. And when I hear sayings like “you can only make a first impression once” and “you can only see a magic trick once”, that seems to back it up. The whole idea of ​​“formative experiences” seems to suggest that this too is something known, accepted and understood. And I’m not sure I like that. It makes me nostalgic to think about it, because I’m starting to think that I’ll never have the opportunity to be completely seduced again.

But no, I wouldn’t believe it. I don’t want to believe it. And when the enthusiastic man in the pub said he couldn’t remember the last time he had been really enthusiastic about a game, I felt a ray of hope, because I could.

I remember running home from work to play Mass Effect, a game I had been waiting for so long, and I was 25 at the time. I had never done anything like this before, child or adult. And I’m pretty sure I did the same for Guitar Hero 2. I also remember how crazy I was about Overwatch, years later, sitting in the dark at the office all alone, long after the home time (don’t tell anyone) just so I can play it.

It’s memories like this that pull me back, give me hope, and make me think the best is yet to come. Maybe there is still plenty of room in our minds to be amazed.

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