The Power Of: Ren and Stimpy
Ren & Stimpy: Stimpy’s Invention is the most important video game I have ever played in my entire life. Let that sink in for a moment, I’ll wait.
Yeah, I totally just said that.
It’s not important because I love Ren and Stimpy (I don’t), or because it helped me get through some terribly emotional childhood trauma (it didn’t). It’s not important because it was the first game I ever played. It wasn’t, not by a long shot. My parents were OG gamers. They had an old Atari that just had pong. My dad was playing an NES before I was done suckling at my mom’s breast. I used to take the light gun from the NES and run around the house pretending to shoot bad guy (instead of ducks…or that fuck ass laughing dog).
Nope, I was indoctrinated at a young age. My cousins played video games all the time and let me play with them, so I wasn’t new to gaming by the time Ren and Stimpy was released in 1993. I had had my very own Sega Genesis for a solid 2 years before then. I had played countless games, and died countless times. The one common factor games pre-Ren and Stimpy had was that I never beat any of them.
So, as you may have guessed, that game is of particular importance to me because it was the first one that I ever beat.
In my youth, my parents would always go to the video store down the street on the weekend and pick out a couple of movies. If I was good, they’d let me pick out a game or two to play. After I got my Genesis I was obsessed with Sonic. It was so much damn fun to play, even if I never got past Greenhill Zone. I literally called the video store every hour for about 2 days waiting for Sonic 3 to come out.
So, one day instead of renting another Sonic game for the eleventy-ninth time I decided to branch out a grab something new. Now, I have no idea what drew me to the game. The box wasn’t particularly enticing. Maybe it was the fact that the cartoon was being shown on TV at the time, or maybe it was just random fate, who the hell knows — I just know that on that day I decided to rent Ren & Stimpy: Stimpy’s Invention.
I sat in the floor of my grandmother’s house and played that damn game all day. It wasn’t a particularly innovative game or anything. It was just a typical side scroller, but for some reason it was way easier for me to navigate the game than it was with any other games before it. I kept making it to new levels and not dying and eventually I saw something that I had never seen before in a video game — the credits.
“Did I beat it,” I thought to myself.
It wasn’t a particularly memorable ending to a game. In fact, I can’t remember it at all. I just know after playing all day that I had accomplished something that I had never done before in my life.
Up until that point, gaming for me was just about having enjoyment. Sure, I’d like to make it to next level, but if I didn’t it was alright. I was content with the knowledge that I was just playing video games to pass time and they were fun, but I had no real fantasies that I could actually beat one.
And in that moment, when the game was over, I realized that everything had changed for me.
I wanted more.
It felt great to finally conquer a game. What else could I conquer?
It became a chain reaction. Games began to bow to my whim. I was the master of all games. None would stand before me. It became a competition of me versus the game and I would be damned if the game won. It was a rush.
RS:SI gave me confidence that I could do anything. It made me believe in myself that if I just kept at it long enough that I could persevere.
That game changed my life, and while it wasn’t a particularly great game, it was a game that I remember to this day.
Sure there have been other games that are more enjoyable, have better game play, are more memorable, are more influential, et cetera, et cetera. It was never really about *that* game specifically. I could say that Kingdom Hearts is my favorite game of all-time because it was just a joy for me to play at the time, or that Uncharted had the best story I ever played, but neither is really that important to my overall development as a gamer. Don’t get me wrong I loved playing the shit out of those games, and remember way more about them than I ever knew about Ren and Stimpy. I have cared way more about some games than I ever will about Ren and Stimpy. But it’s hard to forget about such an impactful moment in your life. So while I am infinitely more emotionally invested in some games, Ren and Stimpy still remains as the one game above all that I will remember for the rest of my life because it was such a big milestone in my life.
It opened up a whole new world to me. I can still have fun just fucking around in a game with no real objective, but I don’t think that I would enjoy cinematic and story driven games nearly as much if I still had the attitude that it didn’t matter if I beat a game or not.
There is something to be said about finally having a breakthrough moment and having a better understanding of what you enjoy about something. For me and video games, it’s about the journey. After finishing a game I get to look back at how much I’ve grown throughout the process, and that something I was missing as an impressionable youth just dicking around on the first level of Sonic the Hedgehog.
So every time I beat a new game I have to give a nod back to Ren and Stimpy. Thank you, you grotesque ratty dog thing and overweight vaguely feline cat thing, you helped me get to where I am today.