Those of us who grew up playing video games at a tender age no doubt occasionally dream in video games, where we are the heroes of worlds of our own imagining and have to fight to make right. We grow nostalgic when we hear the Mario Brothers theme, which hearkens back to the simpler time of our youth, and those games we cherish and our childhood are forever entwined in our psyche. Zac Gorman, the creator of Magical Game Time, understands that the impact video games had on us was indeed magical, and is able to translate those feelings into deeply emotional comics that intertwine the adventure of video games with the adventure of growing up. If there were any doubt whether or not video games constitute art, the comics of Magical Game Time should put those naysayers to bed.
Gorman’s art style is suitably colourful and cartoony for the subject matter, further drawing the reader into their youth, while also utilizing a slightly wavering line that give his drawings a sense of liveliness. He also chooses to animate some features of his comics online to further enhance their energy (see the wonderful Earthbound comic on the right). Earthbound makes for an easy subject on the topic of growing up as the protagonists are all children. Ness, Paula, Jeff, and Poo (yep) are relatively normal (although psychic) children thrown into an epic battle against an invading evil presence from outer space. The threat in most of his comics is only alluded to though, as the feature is the friendship between the characters, and the formative moments of childhood. As for growing up, in this comic, when Ness calls his father and gets the eternal message from Earthbound, “Why don’t you take a break?” Gorman’s Ness’ only possibly reply is “Sorry Dad, you’ll understand someday.” These are fitting tributes to the messages that lie underneath the surface of a game like Earthbound, that a strong video game is less about the end goal as it is the journey required to get there, and the emotional impact rendered on the player.
Gorman’s Link from The Legend of Zelda is always portrayed as a plucky and youthful adolescent rather than as a taciturn adult to further emphasize the link (get it?) between childhood and gaming. In the comic on the left, it is not the physical trials that are featured, but the adventure that comes after. Like Link we all remember being tongue-tied when finally faced with someone we’ve been fantasizing about, and we’re reminded that it’s these fateful moments, not the bits in between, that build the foundation of the history of our lives. Growing up is hard to do; Link gains some heavy wisdom from ‘Old Man’ in this comic, where childish notions of what it means to be a warrior are overturned, and we are reminded that even in the context of a game, which is made to be entertainment, violence is very real and has the power to change a person. Gorman’s comics are full of these sorts of messages that remind us of what it meant to learn these lessons ourselves, and for gamers of a certain era the messages are even more powerful by the use of our favourite games.Of course, while many of Gorman’s comics are touching, many are written simply to be downright hilarious, whether it’s Fox from Starfox chirping Slippy about not going to his BBQ, or Little Mac’s coach from Super Punch-Out shouting at him belligerently if he’s joined the Nintendo Fun Club yet (while Mac’s getting his face knocked in). Still, it’s the ones that reflect life through the mirror of the games we cherish so much that hit me right in the childhood feels, and keep me eagerly waiting for the next instalment of Magical Game Time.Magical Game Time is available in print on Gorman’s online store.