Sometimes a game comes along that helps you get through a tough time. Video games can be nice like that. Sure, they aren’t as soft and snuggly as a puppy, but they’re pretty reliable, always up for a good time, and will happily make you laugh or scream, depending on what you need at the moment. For me, that game was Banjo-Kazooie (1998).
After college, I moved away, far away from my home for a job. It was a great job, a steady job, a fun job. But about a year into it, I began to yearn…yes, yearn for something else. I thought it might be a good idea to go back to school, get some sort of advanced degree to, y’know, help me advance. So I picked a wonderful big-name school, gathered up everything I needed for the application process, sent it all away, and waited. In the meantime, I told my boss about my plans, though I wasn’t entirely sure I’d be accepted in to the program. He understood but had to make plans to fill my position whether or not I was sure I was leaving. In the meantime, I started looking into another move and all that went along with it. The exact chain of events after that is a little fuzzy, but I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this. Long story short, the school didn’t get back to me in a timely matter, my position at work had been filled, and I didn’t get into the program. I begged and pleaded spoke with my now-former boss about taking some sort, any sort of job, and I was able to stay on in another capacity. It was not my original job, but I was still working and getting paid, thankfully.
Externally, life moved on and I moved on with it; internally, I was really upset about not getting into grad school. I didn’t go into any sort of deep, lethargic depression, but I did develop some bad habits as a result — those that involved not giving a damn about time or money or education or authority. The least troublesome of those habits was the Nintendo 64, which I played relentlessly. Super Mario 64, Killer Instinct, Conkers Bad Fur Day, etc, etc. So leave it to a virtual bear and bird to bring me out on my “self-destructive” funk.
Yep, of all the games that could have probably relieved my stress, I found Banjo-Kazooie to be a most soul soothing, a most positive, a most enjoyable game. A bear and his bird, an evil witch, jinjos and jiggies…what a fantastic game it was!
From YouTube user N64Guide.
You know this game, right? I mean, it was an incredibly popular title for the N64, another of Rareware’s gems. It spawned an immediate sequel and then a couple more games. Banjo-Kazooie told the simple story of Banjo, a bear, and his perilous adventures to save his sister from an evil witch. During his travels, Banjo was accompanied by his friend, a bird named Kazooie. Together, Banjo and Kazooie made a wonderful team through a host different levels, solving puzzles, collecting items, beating up bad guys, and navigating the terrain. Being a Rare game, the 3D-ish graphics were bright, colorful, and fairly detailed. Collecting puzzle pieces (jiggies) opened up new levels. There were special items to collect (like, um, feathers, maybe?) that did special things; and other characters occasionally appeared to help the duo, like the probably-un-PC-but-still-kinda-cute shaman Mumbo Jumbo.
What I remember most about this great game was its overall positive vibe. In a time when I was down, Banjo-Kazooie literally served as a bright spot that knocked out, if only temporarily, my doldrums. The game was fast-paced and fluid, spirited yet not overly so, and not the most difficult game to beat. It was just what I needed at the time. A game I could conquer to raise my spirits; a game to laugh at and with; a game to reasonably liven things up. I defeated that witch several times, each time better than the last, and was each time lifted just a little more out of ruin.
Some people invest in therapists, and that works for them. Video games are my investment; they work for me. And Banjo-Kazooie still works today. It’s truly loads of fun and is absolutely worth investing in.