There’s a singular moment for every gamer when the playthrough transcends simple mechanics to reach us emotionally. When we identify with our first character in a video game, it’s an experience that often leaves us reeling. Much like reading a book or watching television, we’re uniquely hardwired to seek deeper understanding of the symbols and narratives that surround us, and gaming is far from exempt. To identify with a character and, subsequently, to relate with their narrative is like meeting a part of ourselves we didn’t have the words to describe before that moment. It’s the kind of experience that defines a “gamer,” despite that connotation currently being jockeyed.
Let’s jump back in time a few years to relive the defining moments a few of our writers reminisced about. Don’t forget to share your first experience in the comments!
For me, this moment came in Tomb Raider II. I’d played my fair share of games on the PS2 up to that point, though none of them inspired me to dream big the way Lara Croft’s narrative did. She faced down tigers and sharks alike with unflinching determination, exploring the farthest corners of my imagination with nothing but a pistol and torch at the ready. It was my first real taste of a female character who not only lead the narrative, but did so with all the agency a woman should have. At the time, I was just shy of my teen years, and for a confused queer girl trying to ignore very clear signs, meeting Lara meant the world to me. She helped shape my wanderlust and the confidence I needed in order to embark upon the journey itself.
Though the franchise has come a long way since the pixelated days of tricking your butler into a meat locker (it never gets old), there are still persistent, problematic themes that need addressing.