The influence of video games on our lives is more palpable for some than others. Melbourne-based Obscura Hail are a trio that are the “some”, sharing with us the titles that shaped their childhoods to who they are now (and others that they just enjoyed). If you’re looking for a nostalgia trip, a new game to play or you like the band enough to read about games that you don’t care about, check out their picks below.
Video games were, and still are, a means to psychologically test myself to the point where I’m physically invested in the flow of a game. My dad worked long hours and my mum cared for foster kids, making it easy to plan school sickies around their tight schedules and practice my aim in Time Crisis, my sweaty resolve in Call Of Duty, or my albeit ineffective mantras to prevent breaking my sickie cover by screaming in Silent Hill. My dad brought home my first obsession, Doom 2 on floppy disk, the most exploited of them all, and a gateway to the competitive shooters Quake, Counter Strike and Call Of Duty that I keep up with today.
I express myself liberally when I’m spooked, when I’m challenged by other players, and most of all when I die. The late night dedication to practicing and completing games, to move onto bigger challenges and will myself through fatigue and dehydration, eventually became the framework I formed my songwriting habits around.
The Sims (2000)
Can’t go past it. Pure omnipotent God simulator. Create and control lives, interfere for better or worse. The only video game I played with my mother, whose love for home design/renovation IRL kept the illusion of civility while I crafted their demise within her walls. Probably the best tool to detect anti-social tendencies. Not my own of course, I’m only a sadist ironically.
Silent Hill (1999)
Cursed game. The uncomfortable cinematic angles, nightmare controls, janky cutscene animations that sit on the edge of the uncanny valley, and the rotoscoping low poly environments lend themselves heavily to the atmosphere, already tense with Akira Yamaoka’s unsettling soundscape that easily lingers long after I’ve yanked the power cable out of fear. The whole game plays on anticipation, making any predictable/unremarkable encounter with an enemy seem like a cruel taunt at my unpreparedness.
Quake 3: Team Arena (1999)
First introduction to competitive shooters, first challenger to my Lego obsession, and just the thought of pushing that big matte cream circle button on my old CRT monitor to wait the 10 minutes it took to fire up the game is giving me the biggest dopamine hit right now. It was just a demo that came on a free PCGamer mag CD, but I learned each of the four levels like the back of hand, and trained hard with nightmare bots just to contend with my cousins whenever we’d LAN. I reckon my (believed to be) heightened peripheral and spatial awareness IRL is owed to this game alone.
The video games that heavily imprinted on me growing up were Zelda: Ocarina Of Time, Grand Theft Auto, Mario 64, Pokemon Colour, Duke Nukem 3D and Call of Duty. In all honesty, my game choices were heavily influenced by what my brother, Jalil, was playing at the time. Lucky for me he knew what was good.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time (1998)
The most beautiful and charming introduction to the Zelda games to come. The soundtrack drew me in with its whimsical ocarina melodies I got to play to unlock new skills and the fanciful adventure tracks on rides with Link’s faithful horse, Epona, traversing through the Zelda universe. I remember locking myself away in my room for two weeks every time a new Zelda game was released. These days I get to relive the nostalgia purely through the chillhop remixes found on Youtube.
Grand Theft Auto III (2001)
The first three 3D entries (3, Vice City, San Andreas) were the coolest games to come out. Cruising around the city and surrounding hoods listening to the hilarious commercials in between killer tracks by Rage Against The Machine and Tupac… I had a dream to become a comedy writer for the radio stations. My friends and I would record our own GTA radio skits to tape and send them off in the mail, but in hindsight I don’t actually know where we sent them. They must be out there somewhere…my fingers are still crossed about that one.
In terms of video games I would say my home base is RTS but I’m a sucker for classic Nintendo 64 titles too. I fell in love with RTS at a young age at my cousin’s house in the form Warcraft III. What a time. Then I got into the Command and Conquer series, Age of Empires and Black & White 2. Then I got a Mac and ‘grew up’ and went to uni and games weren’t really a thing for me for a few years. Until me and my best bud moved in together and rediscovered the N64. I had my first play through of Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and could happily ditch all other games for that title alone. Absolute classic and video game bedrock. My other faves for the Nintendo: San Francisco Rush, Mario Kart 64 (duh), Wave Racer, Lylat Wars (StarFox 64) and Diddy Kong Racing.
Black & White 2 (2005)
As the ‘god’ of a civilization you are required to travel to different lands to unite the many peoples. This is achieved either through force or persuasion. Build an idyllic paradise of a city and treat your citizens with love and respect or pull a Sauron and amass huge armed forces to destroy and enslave your enemies. I love that this game gives you all the classic RTS elements while also allowing your god-hand to interact with the environment. It is very satisfying to hoover up half a forest or throw fire and lightning miracles at invading enemies.
The Last of Us Part II (2020)
This is actually a movie and not a game. Me and two best buds have team played the first and the greater part of the second game of this franchise and it is a whole thing. Most of the time we are cuddled together waiting for the next jump-scare or character arc bombshell. You will be enveloped into the world and its characters. It’s a zombie apocalypse survivor game with a focus on stealth, resource management (bullets are scarce) and tactical combat. Also, the occasional Naughty Dog bat-shit crazy action scene. In the words of Bernard Black: “It’ll make you laugh, it’ll make you cry, it’ll change your life.”