Today is the 20th anniversary of Capcom’s survival horror masterpiece, Resident Evil. These days, zombie games are a dime a dozen, but in 1996, that wasn’t the case at all. My friends and I would pool our money together to rent a PlayStation from Blockbuster Video and our latest obsession; a new game called Resident Evil. With the lights dimmed and all 6-7 of us gathered on and around the couch, we’d take turns with the controller and engross ourselves in every disturbing camera angle, jump scare and delightfully horrible (and therefore quotable) English dialogue.
Resident Evil made me a better gamer that year, and dare I say, a better writer as well. As an 18 year old and fresh out of high school, I was so enamored with this tale of a secret lab hidden beneath a lavish mansion that the game rarely left my imagination. This game showed me how an aspiring screenwriter, like myself might some day create an experience this engrossing for the big screen. I learned a lot about how to build suspense and subtext through items found throughout the game.
In working together with my friends, I learned to master in-game puzzles. This was quite the noisy affair, with everyone back-seat gaming like you wouldn’t believe; but in the end, we used our wits and teamwork to make it out alive. The limited ability to save or hold items really taught me a thing or two about choices and consequences, and my strategic abilities have improved as a result. If you try to speed through the game without reading, for example, you’ll never learn about how to mix herbs; and if you save every time you want to, you’ll find yourself out of an ink ribbon right when you need it most! Grinding through multiple playthroughs just to unlock new costumes was a real treat, and hard to do in many cases; something that some new gamers just wouldn’t understand.
Resident Evil taught me patience, strategy, and it was actually the first game during which I started to take notes as I went along. My sketchbook soon filled with images of Jill Valentine and victims of the T-Virus. As video games became more sophisticated in graphics, particular those with zombies, I couldn’t help but think back fondly on that summer with my friends in the mansion. Very few, to this day, have ever lit a torch to the ambiance, creativity and suspense that my friends and I enjoyed so many years ago.