A Question for the Readers #8: A True Journey of Discovery

Consuming media should be a simple process, right? You hear about the video game/film/music album/television show/ what have you, do what you can to experience it and that’s the end of that. However, things aren’t always that straightforward. Maybe the video game is on a dead platform. Perhaps the film isn’t readily available through legal channels. It could be that the lauded album fell into obscurity and is now out of print. There’s even the possibility that the distribution company never bothered selling box sets of that show you want to watch. Even without considering those factors, sometimes the method of discovering the existence of these works in the first place can get downright bizarre when you begin summing it up on paper. It goes to show how seemingly unrelated actions taken by random people influence other people in ways they couldn’t possibly know.

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of watching Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Three Colors trilogy. Despite what the opening paragraph may suggest, getting a copy of the films was simple enough; how I learned of them in the first place is the strange part. After I was on the fence about a certain independent film critic’s conclusions, I wondered if anyone posted a rebuttal to any of them. As it turns out, one person did, and he ended up mocking said critic for praising a summer blockbuster as though it were the Three Colors trilogy. Hearing that got me interested in checking it out for myself, and when I did, I was very impressed. They’re worth looking into, as they are erudite films without being the least bit pretentious (the exact opposite of what Jonathan Blow and the like would create). So in other words, that critic had to review two specific films, causing an essayist to post a rebuttal, which in turn led me to discover the Three Colors trilogy when the latter drew a quick comparison.

What is probably my favorite story about discovering a video game concerns the Metal Gear franchise.  Growing up, my brother had an NES, and one of the games happened to be Snake’s Revenge. I remember liking the game, though I had absolutely no idea how it worked and mostly watched my brother play it instead. In 2006, somebody on YouTube following the influx of incendiary, profane reviews inspired by James Rolfe’s The Angry Video Game Nerd character posted a derisive piece on Snake’s Revenge. I was a bit shocked to see the game I remembered enjoying as a subject of ridicule, though he made a lot of good points. Indeed, when I replayed the game for myself later in 2007, I ended up agreeing with the reviewer; it really hadn’t aged well.

Later in 2008, Metal Gear Solid 4 was released. Because of the unanimously great reviews it was getting, I was at last interested in checking out the rest of the series. There was only one problem; I didn’t have a PlayStation 3. Nonetheless, I did know that Metal Gear Solid was remade in the form of The Twin Snakes for the GameCube, a console I did possess. However, that route had its own problem; the game was out of print by 2008. Even so, I was determined to get a copy, and how I ended up getting one proved surprisingly complicated. I was vacationing in Orange County, California when I ended up taking the wrong route and getting lost. By chance, I happened upon a GameStop. As I intended to seek out a copy at any of the stores I could find, I decided to try my luck there. Sure enough, that specific store had one used copy.

So to sum things up, my brother had to buy a copy of Snake’s Revenge back in the day, somebody had to post a review of it ten years after I last played it, thus prompting me to try it again myself. After that, Metal Gear Solid 4, a game I would later learn Hideo Kojima didn’t want to make, was released, getting me interested to check out the series, which happened because I took a wrong turn on vacation. Because I was impressed with The Twin Snakes and wanted to see more of what the series had to offer, I ended up finally getting a PlayStation 3 in April of 2009 along with copies of Metal Gear Solid 2, Metal Gear Solid 3, and Metal Gear Solid 4. Metal Gear Solid 3 ended up becoming one of my favorite games of all time, and because I had a PlayStation 3 by 2013, I could easily get a copy of The Last of Us, which I was interested in playing because it had received perfect scores across the board. In other words, fans sending death threats to Hideo Kojima to continue the series, me taking a wrong turn while on vacation, and somebody turning in their copy of The Twin Snakes all led to me not only discovering the Metal Gear series in earnest, but also starting this site, as my subsequent disappointment in The Last of Us was a key factor that prompted me to do so.


Now it’s your turn.

What unlikely set of factors led you to discovering a great work?

Bonus Question: What unlikely set of factors inspired you to pick up something new?

7 thoughts on “A Question for the Readers #8: A True Journey of Discovery

  1. I got a Dungeons and Dragons T-shirt in a LootCrate. I’d never played D&D before, but I was aware of it. I wore the shirt to work one day. A co-worker saw my shirt and asked me if I wanted to join in a game him a few other co-workers were about to start. D&D is now one of my great passions. 🙂

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    • I have to admit I’ve never played a tabletop RPG. That said, I did play through Planescape: Torment, which is a very good computer RPG from 1999 that uses D&D rules. If you haven’t, give that one a try.

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  2. It was my birthday. I was 5 or 6 years old. My Grandmother knew I liked video games but somehow thought robots, spaceships, and laser death cannons weren’t something a young child would be into. She gave me a copy of Frogs, and Flies. I smiled, and thanked her but deep down, I thought “Frogs? This is going to be such a bore!” or something to that effect.

    But after the cake. After the ice cream, and after playing my other games to death, I popped it in. Frogs, and Flies is one of the greatest games ever made. You wouldn’t know it from the bland box art, or a still screen. But it is one of the most cutthroat head to head versus games ever devised. You each play a Frog, and try to eat more flies than the other. But the designers added a ton of depth to the idea, and even included day, and night cycles. So yeah, don’t judge a bland birthday present by its cover.

    As for the bonus, I don’t know if they’re unlikely factors, but I ended up playing through Bioshock Infinite the day I was laid off from my last job in a downsize. I had been given a steam code from my brother. He had built a machine for someone to do business work on, and that person didn’t want it because they had no interest in video games. So Bioshock Infinite would be my answer.

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    • I heard of Frogs and Flies through the AVGN’s Intellivision review. It certainly seems like a unique game that’s a lot of fun with a second player, and the idea of a game having day/night cycles back then is pretty incredible. Similarly, I remember getting Super Monkey Ball for Christmas and being a bit apprehensive about it only for me to have a blast playing it hours later.

      I’d say that was set of unlikely factors. You had to get laid off around the same time somebody your brother’s client had a Steam code they didn’t want to use, so you ended up getting it by chance.

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  3. Glad you like the Metal Solid series. A chat friend on the internet recommended this game to me as I mentioned I enjoyed Parasite Eve. I didn’t believe him because as you know I am a skeptic by nature. To my surprise, when I finally played the game, he was right after all! I played Metal Gear solid 2 on PS2. I got the substance version though.

    Back then, I watched a lot video game trailers so when I see something intriguing I buy it. Music is also a big factor for me. Playing games with good music is a plus!!

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    • Indeed I do. I’ve heard a lot of people say Metal Gear Solid 2 hasn’t aged well because, being one of the first attempts at a postmodern, meta-game about games, it wasn’t a particularly good attempt. I, however, believe it to be the other way around. I think this is a case where the no student has been able to surpass the master. Then again, looking back, I have to admit that 99% of what Metal Gear Solid 2 does is stuff I would find insufferable these days. AAA developers really need to drop the “let’s insult our audience” shtick, and I think the only reason I find it tolerable here is because Hideo Kojima ended up being the butt of his own joke when he ended up creating several sequels to this game.

      I agree – it’s kind of a shame more developers don’t too much effort into putting catchy music into their games. On some level, I can understand though; having music play constantly during games such as Dark Souls would ruin the atmosphere, and many of them do have appropriate music cues whenever something major is happening.

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  4. First one that comes to mind is discovering my favourite fighting game series, Darkstalkers, by seeing a random screenshot in a Top 20 article inside a gaming magazine. The vibrancy of the colours and amazing spritework in that one screenshot led me to buy a used Saturn + a copy of Vampire Hunter. Then, because I had a Saturn, I was able to discover the superb Fighters Megamix, something I’d have otherwise not known about.

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