For Labor Day weekend I was driving up to St. Louis to stay with two of my childhood best friends for an extended weekend of whatever kind of mischief we could find ourselves in. I was packing with me a PlayStation 2 and a few of its “classics”.
I’m 24 years old. I graduated from college back in December, and one of my best friends, Brandon, is also 24; he moved three and a half hours away a year ago, and it sucked. Me and him were instant best friends from almost the second we met each other 15 years ago. A large part of our friendship has been spent playing games, particularly bad PS2 games. It was awesome. The other friend, Josh, lives in the same city as me, but got engaged the week before our Labor Day trip; already his focus is beginning to change.
The three of us had talked about bringing up the PS2 in the weeks leading up to the weekend, to have one last bash with the console that had brought us so many childhood memories. The games had to be classic choices: Enter the Matrix, of course, Cold Winter, for flavor, and Medal Of Honor: Rising Sun, the last two being some of my very favorite games from that generation.
I arrived before Josh did, getting to Brandon’s place a little after noon the Friday of the weekend. We talked, grabbed a bite to eat, and then went back to his place and booted up Enter the Matrix.
“Holy crap.” That was all I could say as the PS2 kicked on for the first time in years, as the Matrix symbols started to fall to signal the game was beginning. A flood of nostalgia smashed into me; suddenly me and Brandon were transported back 15 years, to the first time we played this game. We were just a couple of dumb kids sitting on his bedroom floor looking up at the TV in awe, at what was happening on the screen.
Back then it was simple, you die you hand over the controller. Of course a fight would always spring up about handing it over on certain deaths, “give me just one more chance,” but nonetheless we played and played and played. Hours and days flashed by as we sat and gamed having the time of our lives. It didn’t matter if the game was good or not, again I can not overstate how many were truly bad, it didn’t matter that we never beat most of the games, all that mattered was that we were playing games, trading insults, jokes, and junk food.
We didn’t finish Enter the Matrix, then or now, and eventually we stopped playing. Josh arrived, and we went to Six Flags, which by the way is incredible and a dream come true for a manchild like myself. The weekend largely came and went and then Josh left. Brandon and me had a few hours to kill before I left too, and so we said what the hell and popped in Cold Winter and then Medal Of Honor: Rising Sun.
First off, I’d like to take this moment to say that Cold Winter is probably the greatest spy story in any video game: bleak, dark, brutal, and thrilling, it’s one hell of a ride into its twisty tale. It also features one of the most fun and most gory multiplayer modes in any video game; in short: it’s great. Jumping in after years away felt so right, all of the controls, the maps, all of it came back, this was one of the games me and Brandon played the most, we had this down.
Yet, it was missing something. Finally, we turned our attention to Rising Sun. Now, I suppose it’s necessary for me to preface this by saying that I am a huge fan of the classic Medal Of Honor series. I mean, I wrote a 4500 word history of the series a few months back. Rising Sun isn’t the best game in the series, but it does have far and away the best multiplayer. Suddenly, it was 2003 all over again, bad haircuts, worries about some upcoming 5th grade math test, and debates about the most absurd and far out there topics, like a 15 year argument about what day the week starts on. We were just going to play for 30 minutes, but then an hour, finally 90 minutes and then two hours passed. We just kept playing the game, this was why we had brought the PS2 and all the games, we were waiting for this moment, for something to truly click and for us to just lose ourselves with the console one last time and when it happened it was… different.
We were back in this mode and time from 15 years ago, but we were no longer nine years old. We were adults, or at least as much of an adult as I’m probably gonna become. We knew what happened on that math test, we got past the bad haircuts, why in gods name did I get blonde highlights?! We got past all of it. I loved those games, flaws and all, and I love those memories and experiences I got from them even more, but it’s not 2003 anymore and I’m totally okay with that.
Eventually we stopped playing and I got in my car, turned on Weezer and drove the three and a half hours back to my house. That’s a long car drive, ripe for thinking. We all hold on to those memories from our youth and we should enjoy them and keep a place for them, but your life is almost immeasurably better off now than it was then, mine is. I don’t have dumb tests for classes I don’t want to be in anymore. Games are doing things and have evolved in ways I never in a million years could have imagined. Going from Jak and Daxter and Enter the Matrix, to Bioshock and Uncharted. They have achieved stunning scenes of beauty, sorrow, grief, and hope in the form of The Last of Us and I have continuously been blown away and awed by them every second of the journey.
Heck, I have evolved and grown in ways I could never have imagined. My life has taken twists and turns I wouldn’t have expected 15 years ago. I mean, if you had told nine year old Logan that he would in any way be writing and talking about games at 24, that he was going to be far closer than he ever could have thought to breaking into the industry, he would have thought you were crazy. Yet, here I am, writing and talking about games in what I think is a unique and special way. It’s so easy to lose sight of everything we have and have achieved, even for an optimistic, focus-on-the-positive person like myself. The past is so tempting to get lost in, to just lose yourself to this time that is safe and comfortable, where there are no surprises. The problem is there’s also no room for growth and change in the past, ultimately the here and now and the future are far more exciting and better for you then days gone by. The big takeaway for me from that weekend of playing games was just how much I’ve grown; I’ve graduated from college, written some things I’m exceptionally proud of, met incredible new friends, and chased after my wacky dreams. I love my friends and that last weekend with them, is far from the last dumb one. Thank god for our silly little hobby.