You might not be getting any younger, and your favorite games definitely aren’t either.
After successfully justifying games to angry ol’ grandpa Joe at the dinner table, you realize this quest to defend your hobby isn’t quite over.
Level 2: whippersnappers. Kiddos. Youths.
Whether it’s a niece or nephew, cousin or little sibling of a significant other, they’re all pretty much the same. Little Timmy’s Minecraft shirt inspires relief when you realize you have a common interest you can talk about. Of course, you still have to pretend like you don’t want to mute him like you do to all those high-pitched screaming kids in online multiplayer games. So you ask him about Minecraft or Grand Theft Auto V, whatever it is eight-year-olds are playing nowadays. They’ll probably ask you if your favorite game is Skylanders too, and you have to break it to them that you love Half-Life 2.
Now you have to justify how an ugly, boring and impossible-to-play game from the early 2000s or 1990s is your favorite. Fortunately, it’s pretty simple.
Context is critical. Sure, a lot of other games do what Half-Life 2 does, and they do it better. But at the time of its release, it was revolutionary. The narrative and mechanics of the game helped shape almost every game after it. This is the origin of the tools and techniques that led us to the golden age of gaming. It’s like watching the 1927 film Metropolis or Hitchcock's The Birds. Yeah, it’s lame and kind of boring, but it still changed the film world. This is the equivalent of gaming’s history textbook.
These were the games we played when we were kids. We’re doing more than revisiting old levels when we play them again; we’re reliving the wasted summers playing co-op games with our neighbors and the all-nighters struggling to beat a final boss. It’s our nightmares of Ravenholm (we don’t go to Ravenholm) and our stunned silence when the credits rolled. Memories fade, but the games don't. It gives our childhood some kind of immortality. It's a cheat code for returning to our happy youth and the joy we felt the first time we picked up the controller.