I have a very strange memory from back in high school that I revisit quite often, so I figured it perfect fodder for a post here. It was May of 1997 and I was on my (I believe) fifth play-through of Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain. In case you don’t know, it was basically a much more mature Zelda where you played a nobleman murdered at a bar who comes back to life as a vampire…but with a catch (oooooooooooh! Drama!). You had to do the bidding of unseen forces and thus you set out on a mature tale of revenge.
If you never played it, you really missed out. That’s not to say it’s a great game. There was literally a loading screen for everything you did. Go into a house, loading screen. Walk to the next quadrant on the map, loading screen. Open the menu to use an item? Loading screen…Oh, and every time you changed weapons or armor. Which you did a lot in the game. Still, the story, voice acting (holy shit, honestly one of the best-acted games ever made) setting, music and atmosphere carried it a long way. Long enough for me to remember the experience of playing it, vividly — along with the smell of a Sweet Cherries & Cinnamon candle from Willow Lane. The fuck you say?
Yeah, a bit of context. I was 13 at the time and I believe I had very recently smoked pot for the first time. So I was really into burning candles, because that’s what a 13 year who just dabbled with weed does I guess. “Can you believe three years ago I wasn’t allowed to touch matches? Now look at me, there’s fire in my room. I’m an adult.” Pretty much sums up why that happens. One day I was desperate to find a candle because all my “cool” multi-colored ones were burned out. Living 7 miles from the nearest town (literally Amish neighbors), I turned to my mom’s stash of scented candles. I walked downstairs from my room and went to the kitchen, pried open the cabinet and grabbed the first candle I could find.
I didn’t think to smell it. I didn’t know it was scented. The first clue would have been that it was in a jar with a lid on it and when I opened the lid the smell burst out like the ISS airlock. I had no experience with scented candles, so I figured the smell was potent upon first open and would dissipate when I burned it…which is the opposite of what happens.
Regardless, in my very small bedroom I fired up the PS1 and set the candle in the windowsill. I don’t remember the order of events that led to the atrociously sweet, noxious smell of this goddamned candle permeating my walls and stinking my room up for two weeks. However, I do remember lighting the candle, not playing Legacy of Kain and instead going outside for some reason. I came back in after a couple hours, not knowing that leaving a burning candle in a wooden house was a bad idea. Thankfully the house was still intact, but the candle, sadly, was not. The wax was a hot liquid, capped with the faintest flame somehow clinging to life in the viscous wax. And my room smelled like what I image Paula Deen’s sex den smells like. Fruit and cinnamon with, of course, a whiff of butter.
I had a problem on my hands. I had to open my door and windows to get the smell out because it was so bad that my eyes were watering. If I did that, though, I would stink up the whole house with the scent of Martha Stewart’s deodorant. So I suffered through it like a (young) man. The rest of the day I holed up in my room and probably played from the Pillars of Nosgoth to the first meeting with Vorador (5 hours?). I think I also damaged my nostrils because I couldn’t get that smell out of my head for months. Over the next two weeks I continued to play Blood Omen over and over and associated that smell with the experience of the game.
The reason I bring this whole thing up is because I was at HomeGoods the other day, and it’s fall, and that means “fall smells” in every department store. When I walked by the candle section, that exact same smell entered my nostrils and all of this shit came rushing back to me. So it got me thinking if there were other games I associate with smells besides Blood Omen. And yes, there are.
Quick-fire-style, here they are:
Goldeneye: Smells like Red Baron pizza.
Fallout 3: Smells like my roommate Josh’s dirty socks.
Mass Effect 3: Smells like weed.
Resistance: Fall of Man: Smells like cat piss.
Diablo 2: Smells like unwashed hair (wonder why?)
Red Dead Redemption: Smells like old carpet that hadn’t been changed in 5 years in a tiny studio in Austin, TX.
That’s pretty much all I can think of now. Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this…Then that means I’m unique and that’s too much pressure.