I've always dreamed of making games. As far back as 5th grade I can remember dreaming of designing, building, testing and playing my ideas as I discovered and enjoyed some of my favorite NES games of the era. I would read opinions in gaming magazines and think about how I would have done it better, how new technologies (like 16 bit graphics! Parallax scrolling!) could change the experience and make it even more fun and immersive. Games brought me joy, and even as a child I dreamed of bringing that joyous experience to other people. Now, as an adult, I still dream of making games and the joy that games bring is still the greatest reason that drives me.
Sector 13 is the game I wanted to play back when I was buying any magazine with Wing Commander or X-Wing on the cover. Even as far back as my days of playing Gradius and Life Force on my NES I dreamed of being in a starfighter cockpit, lasers blasting and missiles flying. Almost 30 years later, I'm seeing the joy I experienced of imagination and discovery all over again with my son and now beginning with my 4-year-old daughter too.
My son was 4 years old when he discovered the joy of a great game. I decided that year, in 2008, that I was going to buy a Wii console so that I could play the Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. The Zelda series was my favorite from childhood, and I hated to miss out on any of the major titles in the series. I also purchased a copy of Super Mario Galaxy at the same time, because why not? I was enjoying Twilight Princess and my son seemed to enjoy watching me play it, but not much held his attention for very long at that age.
One day, he handed me the box for Super Mario Galaxy and said, "Daddy, let's play this one!" When I put the disc in the Wii and the title screen came up as the music rang out through my surround sound system, I swear I saw a light come down from heaven as a chorus of angels sang and my son's life changed forever. He fell in love in that moment, and there was no looking back. We played Super Mario Galaxy together for hours and hours, collecting star after star, just spending time together and sharing the joy of a great game.
Over the next few years, my son's Mario obsession continued with toys, posters, magazines, even candy and bed blankets and pillows - all Super Mario. For at least 3 years my son owned a stuffed Super Mario toy that went everywhere with him, comforting him on the way to school, playing with him while on vacation, even being featured in family photographs as it was always in his hands. Then, one day in early 2010, we found out that Super Mario Galaxy 2 was coming later that year.
As much fun as my son and I were having with our Wii and discovering all the great game franchises in Nintendo's lineup together, I still feel that Super Mario Galaxy 2 was the game forever cemented my son's destiny in life to follow in my footsteps as someone who would forever find joy in games. We counted down the days to the game's release on a calendar. We followed news articles on gaming websites. We devoured any previews, videos, snippets of information, anything we could find about the game. This was the game for which he had the entire hardcore experience, and at only 6 years old.
To this day, I believe Super Mario Galaxy 2 to be the best game Nintendo has ever released. Maybe I am biased due to many happy memories of playing this game with my son, but everything about that game was magic - the flawless level design, the fantastic soundtrack (which we will still often listen to while in the car, even 4+ years later); the entire experience was one of celebrating the joy of games. Countless hours later and 251 stars collected (we never could finish that "Perfect Run" stage) I realized that my son was better at this game than I was. This was a special moment for me.
To this day, I can't listen to the Super Mario Galaxy 2 soundtrack without finding myself overwhelmed with emotion from the memories of time spent with my son, just experiencing the joy of a great game. This entire concept of joy is summed up for me in the ending to the game: an interactive celebration of gaming joy as Mario searches for his hat through parties taking place in highlighted levels from the game, as some of the best music ever composed for the medium plays a melody of the game's fantastic themes. Go ahead and see for yourself:
I can only dream of someday sharing this kind of joy with other people through the games I create. My son is older now, and is starting to enjoy an even bigger variety of gaming experiences. It brings such joy to my heart when I see him getting excited as he follows the progress of Sector 13. I dream of him playing with Sector 13 starfighter toys the way I used to play with my Star Blazers and Battlestar Galactica toys. I dream of a Sector 13 starfighter poster on his wall the way I used to have an X-Wing poster on mine. I dream of him handing down a legacy of imagination and joy to his kids one day the way I am living one with him.
He doesn't know it yet, but he has given me a whole new set of treasured memories to keep in my heart, all from the joy of sharing a great game.