I remember Pocky and Rocky (Natsume, 1993).
I would follow after my brother, fighting together
against the cutest goblins and demons, and I loved
being Rocky, always second player, the support team.
I remember Threads of Fate (Square, 1999).
I always chose Rue, the mutable male lead,
to be my avatar because he could use this
transformation ability, and it made me feel powerful.
I remember Legend of Mana (Square, 2000),
planting the fantasy seeds of an entire,
sprawling world, the most sincere characters
and narratives, to be grown and manipulated.
Or the pure joy of teamwork,
bouncing and floating through
each individual landscape in
Kirby Super Star (Nintendo, 1996).
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Bethesda, 2011),
where I spent literal days building a homestead.
Baldur’s Gate II ( BioWare, 2000)
and Minsc’s runaway barbarian imagination.
Final Fantasy XI (Square Enix, 2002)
and my dreams of someday becoming a bard.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (Konami, 1997),
becoming a dark explorer of a reversible universe.
There was this moment in my early twenties
when I revisited Earthbound (Nintendo, 1995)
so I could finally beat the game myself,
no outside help from my brothers.
I defeated Giygas, the ultimate and unknowable darkness,
and I remember I cried because it was me—brought in
by the game’s creator, through the fourth wall—
who kept praying for the heroes, who made the difference.
And I remember the cursor-hand in Mario Paint (Nintendo, 1992),
embodying the playful, white glove of the cartoonist,
setting the right colors within the lines, making
hysterical harmonies on the colorful staff.
As that hand I was in total control, and I spent hours
animating the quite violent deaths of
a little Mario, my imagination becoming more and more
maniacal, scheming as I chose to kill again.
Hit by a train or impaled in a pit, burned
at the stake, decapitated in dozens of ways,
and all as detailed and gorey as my childish hand
could portray with the simple spray-can brush.
Also it was a looping animation, so his doom
was endless: he was a cursed, Sisyphean Mario.
I would laugh myself to tears as I watched
my pixel-bloodbath of a dark comedy unfold.
That nostalgic mix of joy and pitiless creativity,
I miss it. I was an evil kid in those moments, but
I remember it being so pure.