A sprite army surrounds a red mage in Final Fantasy 1.

One of the big things that validates gaming for me personally are the memories. Those landmark gaming experiences that we all have, or the unforgettable pleasure of discovering a game for the first time.

What most interests me though is the unique effect that video games have on the mind. A good game will gradually start to seep into your subconscious and a fantastic game will be all-encompassing, becoming all you can think about. In time both of these sets of feelings will become the basis for future nostalgia.

Forming memories

I personally believe that games can be just as powerful a memory device as song. I imagine that this is due to the combination of musical score and recognisable sound effects. But most of the “trigger” effect is due to the positive influences that come with being immersed in an engaging and believeable world. As such video games have become the signposts in my memory landscape; the helpful shorthand by which I remember a host of details about my life I wouldn’t otherwise.

So a neat bonus of playing games is their ability to tie the more mundane (but as the years progress, priceless) details of my life into my long term memory. Even now playing or watching a particular video game can take me back to a certain moment in time; the ping of the bumpers in Sonic 2, the voice effects of Altered Beast, or even up to the present day with the pop of the achievement unlocked marker. An in-game soundtrack or noise can take me back to the era it was played in, the sights and sounds, my then likes and dislikes, and my fluations of mood, all come flooding back to me in those few seconds of graphics and sound.

It’s a similar sort of sensation to listening to a certain musical album can take you back to a particular moment. For me personally though the gaming reminders are always more palpable, due to the nature of gaming often needing longer stretches of time to enjoy, more patience and more determination.

Nostalgia is a funny thing though, and the mind itself poses a great example of this; as we often compensate for older games by making them seem much better looking in our minds than they actually are.

Our memories are at the heart of our time spent with games and despite their unreliable nature they remain important and useful. After all it is often the quality of older titles that encourages us to look for similar quality in the future.

Effecting the present

A really great game becomes the sole (and occasionally unwanted) focus of your waking hours. This sensation is often how I know if the team of developers involved have done their job right. Perhaps a HUD will appear in your minds eye when out walking, or a series of in-game sounds leap out of the everyday din. I often look forward to this rare effect as a barometer for how quickly a game has won me over, as it becomes so deeply rooted in my subconscious it starts to make me double take in real-life settings.

Have you experienced any of these strange and personal gaming phenomenons? Which gaming experiences triggered them?

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