Okay, so there’s this game right, and there are ancient vampires, talking swords, sorcerers, dragons, elves, kobolds, runes, and your character, by circumstance, becomes the bearer of the Soul Eater True Rune, one of the 27 True Runes, and you have your own castle, and you fight these epic battles with your rebel army, and you have to defeat the forces of evil and restore the land, and….
This makes ALL the ladies go crazy and fall in line, just waiting to date ME. *sigh*.
The game I excitedly describe above is called Suikoden. It has been my guilty pleasure since I was a freshman in high school, and I’ve kept my PlayStation 2 just so I can play it every now and then. Suikoden was created by the genius Yoshitaka Murayama and it was released by Konami during 1996 in North America for PlayStation. The game is a turn-based RPG and there have been five games in the series. And just in case, RPG stands for role-playing game. Not to be confused with rocket-propelled grenade for those who have been playing Call of Duty or Battlefield for too long. What originally attracted me to the game was its amazing scope. What I love about Suikoden is that as the main character, Hero (you have the ability to name the character) you recruit the 108 Stars of Destiny that will help Hero build an army and a castle in order to overthrow a government that has fallen under the enchantment of a powerful and ancient sorcerer. Also, for every chapter of the game, Hero can be accompanied by 5 other recruited characters for various missions, which most of the time you can choose. The story itself is amazing. There is self-sacrifice, betrayals carried out by friends, Hero duels his own father, there’s the option to kill or recruit vanquished foes, and there’s the side quest of killing a really creepy vampire. There is also the ability to command an army during battles and based on the decisions you make, recruited members of the army can perish which will affect the ending of the game. AMAZING!
For those who love RPGs, Suikoden sounds like what one would expect from a video game of that genre. And it’s Suikoden that made me forever enamored with RPGs. But from the first time I played it as a teenager to playing it as an adult, there still exists a self-conscious component of spending time playing the game. I remember using the internet for the first time for video games to print out the section of the Walkthrough for Suikoden that described how to recruit all 108 Stars of Destiny. I remember the quizzical look I received from my father when I ran from the computer with a stack of paper and a highlighter and disappeared for hours playing the game. I rarely spoke with my friends in high school about Suikoden, even among my friends who played video games, and describing the game the other night as an adult I wanted to shut my eyes and wait for my mouth to finish the description. As a teenager there was no way to justify my love for the game and my only justification as an adult is that I AM an adult and I can do whatever I want. But I often feel that if anyone were to watch me playing the game I would have to let flow a deluge of statements like “it’s a lot cooler than it looks” or “it’s exactly what you think it looks like”. Or take the scholarly and “sophisticated” approach: “But it’s loosely based on an epic Chinese tale called The Water Margin!” which is true. The Water Margin is a tale about 108 Stars of Destiny and how their fates are intertwined and their heroic accomplishments. But even that wouldn’t be able to justify the game. Nor would it stop the possibility of sex privileges being temporarily, if not permanently, revoked by a girlfriend. Another *sigh*.
Yet, through all the anxiety driven self-consciousness, admitted shame, and embarrassment about playing Suikoden and RPGs in general, it remains a game and a genre of video games that give me great pleasure. The pleasure is derived from playing as a character that often rises from obscurity to fulfill an unbearably weighted destiny, and through sacrifice, hardship, and courage saves and creates a better world. For me, it’s a formula and archetype that never outlives its value or greatness. The guilt that I feel about playing video games like Suikoden is the acknowledgement that we are independent bodies of preferences and sensibilities that don’t always agree or understand one another, which makes accepting differences all the harder. But I love that sweet, sweet, Suikoden.
So, love what you love and ride that unicorn of shame, guilt, and embarrassment into that pleasure-filled sunset of oblivion (video game controller equivalent to a mic drop).
Justin Tripp is a professional writer without a body of work who used to live in Cleveland but now lives in Oakland, California. A hermit’s hermit, he often visits the gorillas who live and play in the mist that enshrouds the Oakland Hills. Justin hopes that one day he can join his fellow Harmonians in Harmontown once it is established as a colony on the moon.
What is your guilty treasure? Is it a video game you spend hours playing, keeping notes and leveling up? An ever growing collection of action figures? Here is you chance to tell everyone why you love it and why it’s awesome. Have no shame because we all like something weird. To submit, email your 1,000 words or less on your guilty treasure to heather [at] geekcle [dot] com and maybe we will feature it on the site!