By Hubert Ham
When I was growing up, my parents never discouraged my video game playing. As long as I was doing well in school, they would feed my habit. Back in the day, at least in my area, you were either a Super Nintendo kid or a Sega Genesis kid. You see, I had made this important decision in my gaming life based solely on the fact that the Genesis games had gore. I go back to this because it led toward Sega CD. It literally connected to the Genesis to create this monstrosity. Being the first major CD-rom-based gaming system (TurboGrafx-16 aside), it was kind of a disappointment but I’m glad I got it. The reason being is that, without this system, I would have never been introduced to Lunar: Eternal Blue.
As a CD-rom based game, it had more capacity for dialogue, video, and music. Lunar gave me one of my favorite gaming experiences because it delivered a more immersive story for the player to experience: animated cutscenes with real voices (well translated, which was rare), larger worlds, more dialogue, and an original soundtrack!
This changed what games mean to me. Don’t get me wrong; I love all kinds of games. I used to play the Tekken series religiously, Madden was life during the off-season, and Call of Duty was, well, Call of Duty. Either way, I love all types of games, but this game was special. It was the first to show me how a game could truly take me into another world, just like a good book. At the time, the story and dialogue made me feel for the characters: I was actually invested in their outcome and for the first time, I could see myself as the characters. Further, I actually wanted to see how the story ended. Until this point, I didn’t care if I saw the end of Contra or Sonic. I played to get points and finish with the most points. Lunar, however, was different.
When Zack asked me to write one of these blogs, I didn’t know where to start; it took me a couple of weeks to scan the games I own. At first, nothing stood out. But when I got to Lunar: Eternal Blue, I felt a different emotion. It was one that reminded me of arriving back home after being away for a long time. Even good memories of fighting monsters over and over so I could see where the story would take me next. That’s when I knew I found the game.
I now realize how this game has shaped my appreciation for others with immersive stories, from Mass Effect and Final Fantasy VII to any of the Telltale games (RIP). However, it has also influenced my educational philosophy. As director of innovation for The Alexander Dawson School in Las Vegas, Nevada, I am responsible for creating unique learning experiences for students. With this, I took a step back and realized that when I create these programs for students, I always start with this vision of what the experience would “feel” like. It never starts with standards or an educational strategy. I wonder, “How would it immerse my students and capture their imagination? How can it create a new world for them?”
Through this, I’ve realized gaming has done so much for me. Not only has it influenced my appreciation for engaging stories and immersive worlds, it has shaped how I create them as an educational experience.
Director of Innovation at the Alexander Dawson School