Sometimes, the desire to fall backward through time is hard to resist. This year’s Game Awards showcase strongly brought this feeling on for me. As I watched the passionate crowd cheering on the titles that had shaped them through the year, a core memory of my own came creeping up, scented in 2006 fixation and drenched in video games that changed the tides of the industry, conventions, and the lives of sensitive young gamers. Gamers like me.
I’m always hesitant to let myself float in this space. The people I shared these moments with, for the most part, have left my life. The memories of cosplay-building parties before conventions and up-all-night video game sessions blur like the view of the countryside through a car window – Final Fantasy props and Left 4 Dead campaign modes that were the foundation of my social experience as a young teenager.
But this time, instead of fighting against the nostalgia, I embraced it. As BG3 won the Game of the Year, my heart reeled backward in time, to other franchises that shook the foundations of gamers to their very cores.
Blockbuster Video Was The Place To Get Kingdom Hearts 2
My friends and I were obsessed with Kingdom Hearts. This is not surprising to hear if you were a gamer in the mid-2000s. Sora, Riku, Axel, and Roxas adorned every sketchbook, DeviantArt page, and cosplay picture. Conventions were filled to the brim with excited, Disney/Square Enix crossover props that took months to build.
I wasn’t a wealthy kid, and often couldn’t afford the games that came out. Thankfully, there was a Blockbuster Video just down the street from my house. I probably checked the game out three dozen times before I’d saved enough to buy it.
Like the BG3 fans of today, my friends and I spent our time talking about what it was that KH2 presented for gamers – the huge world, the colorful characters with open backstories, and the gameplay that was more freeing than many other options present at the time – all left an impression on us. I remember getting together at one of my best friends’ houses, sitting on the leather sofa as we all took turns trying to beat Xemnas.
We all had nicknames from the game, and to this day, I still have a special place in my heart for the characters, as they were interwoven in some of the best, and hardest, years of my life.
It makes me wonder who is being shaped by BG3, who is looking at this game through that lens and crafting it into core memories they will look back on decades later and treasure. Baldur’s Gate has that same power, that same awe, that captured my younger self playing Square Enix games, and I know it has likely altered people in similar ways.
The Battle Against Gamer Isolation
One thing that is very different about how we engage with video games in 2023 compared to 2006 is the isolation. Despite sharing gameplay online via streams or social media, I’ve found the modern landscape of gaming to be a terribly lonely space. I miss those days before smartphones and Instagram when we had to drag ourselves to one central location to experience a game together.
It created a different sort of consumption of the content, sitting in the same space as your friends. We talked about how Final Fantasy 7 would always be worth playing, even though the graphics were terrible, because of the story. We chatted about the characters, fleshing out the holes in their narratives. We sat, all our pens and pencils pooled, as we drew on the rugs and tables of our childhood homes.
Instead of performing for millions of people on social media, we were companions enjoying the performance put on by the game just for us. Our inside jokes written in the margins of geometry notebooks are still hidden in a box in my office, untouched by any eyes but our own. There was privacy in the journey we enjoyed, and it’s locked in just our memories, even though none of us are still here together to talk about it.
It’s almost like video game whispers. When I play Kingdom Hearts 2 today, I still think about that morning after playing the game, making cookies and burning my fingers on the tray because I was too distracted chatting with my friends to realize it was still hot. There are no Facebook posts for that. No comments section, just us in the cool of late summer, surrounded by spilled bags of chocolate chips.
Baldur’s Gate 3 Feels Like Childhood
My best friend from high school and I chat off and on, usually about our cats or the struggles that come with being thirty. When Baldur’s Gate 3 dropped, it completely changed our conversations. Suddenly we were gushing about Astarion and Gale like we used to about Axel and Demyx in high school. It was like we were sitting, playing Assassin’s Creed 2 for the first time again, so caught up in Ezio’s high jinks nothing else mattered.
Baldur’s Gate 3 has that 2000s magic. The sort that makes you want to call your friends and gush about characters, or swear about a battle you can’t get through. I’d call my friend and we’d talk for hours about our characters, the choices we were making, and the things we wanted to try in each new save. It made me smile, because it felt like I was thirteen again, and it made me feel closer to her.
If I could nominate a game for “Most Emotionally Inspiring”, BG3 would have it, just as KH2 did when I was a kid. If I could go to Larian and thank them for reminding me why I love what I do, why I love to game, and why I get breathless at the brilliance of this industry, I would. And I’d take my best friend with me because then we could lose our crap together.
BG3 Breaks My Heart Into Tiny, Vulnerable Fragments
Being a games journalist isn’t an easy job. The game releases come and go in waves, crashing over your head again and again until you are numb, soaked, and freezing. In the tangled web of coverage, it’s easy to forget why we do it, and why these games are so incredible.
While games of my childhood were like yearbooks, each earmarking a critical and foundational part of my growth as a person, games of my adulthood have offered shallower marks – leaving me hungry for a similar experience just as important to the foundation of my now.
Baldur’s Gate 3 is my thirty-year-old Kingdom Hearts. As I broke Gale out of a rock, I broke myself out of a shell I’ve been slowly encased in over the past several years. As I watched everyone I care about explore the world in our co-op games, I remembered what it was like to laugh together. To forget about Twitter posts and Reddit threads and just enjoy the game for the incredible piece of art it is. It cracked me to bits and reminded me of the fragile, explosive passion I have for these titles that is my keystone in Games Journalism.
The people who were a part of my Kingdom Hearts 2 days are all mostly long gone at this point in my life, and the memories of those sweet, flip-phone days are distant and bittersweet. However, my passion for everything built by brilliant games like FF7, KH2, and BG3 is more bright and vibrant than ever. I am humbled to be a part of the coverage for such a world-altering title.
I am also extremely grateful to Larian for infusing that 2000s magic into a game that is surely a once-in-a-decade experience. I am grateful for the memories, fresh perspectives, and delicate, new scribbles in the footnotes of my sketchbooks that I will treasure for all of time. I am delighted that BG3 is a part of me, and all those I love, and that we got to share our journey through the game together.
Thank you, to the brilliant team behind Baldur’s Gate 3, for infusing that special magic into the game, and for letting us be a part of it.