Meet the man who shares video game wisdom to make the real world a better place

Real life can be pretty rough sometimes. The past year in particular has been a struggle for many, and for all the good in the world, it can often feel like there's just as much strife, oppression, and disillusionment. Trying to make sense of it all can be agonizing, but video games have always been there for us, offering an escape into another world, an attainable goal to strive for, or even a bit of advice from an outlook entirely apart from our own. And none know the life lessons games can teach us better than the Video Game Advisor, who brings gaming's many nuggets of wisdom to the masses via increasingly popular chronicles on Twitter and Tumblr.

A lone Seattle-based man of mystery manages the Video Game Advisor accounts, communicating almost entirely through pictures captured from decades' worth of games new and old. That singular focus on speaking in video game quotes gives him an enigmatic air; he prefers to remain anonymous, so let's just refer to him as 'the Advisor'. Since the creation of Video Game Advisor in December 2014, he's tirelessly provided a steady stream of pixel-perfect, thought-provoking screenshots, acting as a curator, archivist, and social commentator on world events all in one. But this undertaking sprung from something we can all relate to: an obsession with video games. "Part of the fun to me is, I want to know every video game I can possibly know," says the Advisor. "I try and go out of my way to find stuff that I've never seen before. I always want to be increasing my knowledge base of how many games I'm familiar with, and this is a good way to do it."

Ever since his parents brought home an Atari 7800, the Advisor has been playing any and every game he could get his hands on, charting the vast expanses of the gaming landscape from mainstream popularity to near-mythical obscurity. Growing up, he frequented the self-explanatory site Zany Video Game Quotes - and years later, he decided to revive that same spirit of an ever-expanding archive, containing the standout tidbits of whimsy, wisdom, and out-of-whack logic, in a way that would appeal to the modern audience. "I figured it was just going to be this weird little side project," says the Advisor. "I don't use social media anything, so I guess it was also just an easy way to figure out Twitter and Tumblr." This would also be something of a social experiment. "I was curious about doing something [completely unadvertised]," he says. "I never linked it anywhere, I never mentioned it, I never promoted it in any way. [I was wondering]: is it actually still possible for things on the Internet to grow organically?"

Apparently so. What started out as a single, captionless screenshot cast into the cacophony that is social media has evolved into a cult icon, with Video Game Advisor boasting over 22,700 Twitter followers and counting. He chose his opening quote carefully, as spoken by the character who serves as the Advisor's avatar: Professor Bordam Daravon, the terribly translated tutor from the introduction of Final Fantasy Tactics. Early on, he imparts to the player: "If you know, you can foresee. Learn and prepare for battles." What it lacks in grammatical flow, it makes up for in gumption, and the throwaway line resonated with the Advisor. "It felt like an appropriate starter - a good summation of what the point of the account was," he says.

From there, this continuous feed of mentally stimulating messages from games steadily grew in popularity. The Tumblr account is purely his own selections, but Video Game Advisor's Twitter is like a visuals-based forum for game fans, with droves of loyal followers tweeting quote screenshots to the Advisor in the hopes that he'll amplify their signal. From there, the Advisor chooses suggestions that fit the spirit of the account, delivering a steady, wildly diverse stream of quips, directives, and credos written within games. "Old Neo-Geo stuff is what I think of as the prototypical example of a screenshot I'd use," he says. "I feel like I have to curate it a little bit, because there's a risk of some people taking it a little too seriously. You have to keep in mind that it's inherently silly to be taking advice from video games. When I was first starting out, part of the joke was the idea that video games are not always going to give you good advice. Like, sometimes they say horrible things."

If in-game instructions dictate everything you do in life, you're probably in need of more guidance than a video game can possibly give. But the Advisor's collection finds the perfect balance between sheer goofiness and honest-to-goodness advice. For every preposterous line, there's something profound or poetic. For every nonsensical instruction, there's a piece of genuine wisdom that could improve everyone's life. And in times like these, where staying on top of current events can feel like a world-wearying burden, Video Game Advisor can act as a lens to view political news with some levity. "If there's some sort of news happening that I can associate a quote with, I try and time it as well as I can," he says. "I think it definitely adds something if you can have some sort of context - if it's not just out of the blue, but it feels like it actually [applies]. That's how actual advice works: you want it to be relevant to whatever's happening to you."

That penchant for picking out topical quotes is what led to Video Game Advisor's most popular tweet to date, on the eve of the United States presidential election late last year. As projections swung and the poll numbers started rolling in, this snippet from Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy 13 became more and more prescient. "Like a lot of people, I didn't really know that Trump was going to win, so it was meant to be mildly amusing," says the Advisor. "I didn't know it was going to be quite so apocalyptic as the day wore on."

The ominous sense of dread inherent to the dialog box shown above resonated with thousands, and the Advisor had waited until precisely the right moment to present it. "I just happened to be playing that game at the end of 2015 when I took that screenshot, and I just kept it in a folder," he says. "Fairly early into 2016, I thought 'This is election day.' I had been holding onto that for months before I actually used it. So there's a bizarre amount of planning [that goes into these] sometimes. There was actually another screenshot that I didn't get to use for election day: a quote from the Chrono Cross developers in game, where one of the people says 'Another exciting nightmare is about to end...' And I thought that would be the closer for election day, like yeah, thank God this is finally over. But nope! Turns out, no." Maybe in four years' time.

In the hours, days, and weeks that followed the unexpected election results, the Advisor's selections keenly captured some of the emotions that gripped many Americans: remorse, despair, a desperate wish that it would all just go away. If you read enough into Animal Crossing dialogue, it can sound like a scathing mockery of 'alternative facts'. And though these screenshots all come from games made well before present day, seeing them now can have a powerful effect. "These are very strange times," the Advisor says with a sigh. "I have to try and limit myself - I don't want it to just be an endless litany of screenshots about how everything is terrible and we're all doomed."

Fortunately, there are just as many uplifting messages mixed in to balance out all the tongue-in-cheek pessimism: plucky words of defiance, or denouncements of prejudice. Simply seeing these kinds of messages pop up in your Twitter feed can be an extremely helpful coping mechanism in troubling times. And if a few of his followers take issue with the occasional bit of political commentary, the Advisor knows just how to handle them. "I have a fair enough bank of reply screenshots - various quotes that are just like, 'Hey. Lighten up.' I'm not going to try and actually argue with someone, but if I can just sort of annoy them by responding to them in video game quotes, then that's good enough," he says with a chuckle.

Besides the poignant deployment of game quotes that somehow speak to our everyday lives, the Video Game Advisor accounts also act as a preservation effort - a way to record and display little bits of gaming's history, like artifacts in a museum. The Advisor combs all kinds of sources for inspiration, anything from established libraries like MobyGames and VGMuseum to niche treasure troves like Bison 2 Winquote, VGJunk, and The Let's Play Archive. "Sometimes, it's just about digging through very large piles of screenshots," says the Advisor. "Let's Plays are really useful - if you know a quote, it's easy to find out where in the game it takes place, which makes capturing it a lot easier." Because, oh yeah, the Advisor prefers to capture everything himself.

You'll find no mention on his account of the painstaking work that goes into capturing each screenshot.  "That's my problem, that's not [the audience's] problem," the Advisor laughs. "It's my hangup. [I make] far too much work for myself. Obviously I have to rely on emulation, so there are newer games that I can't pull anything from." Once he's zeroed in on a quote that would fit his feed perfectly, the work begins. "I go back, I try and find those exact scenes. I pull PNG screenshots, even though I realized some time ago that Twitter always converts them to JPEGs anyway. But I will still capture lossless screenshots, I guess just so that the Tumblr can have them [in pristine condition]."

It's fitting that Video Game Advisor's bio includes the quote "Stay awhile and listen" famously uttered by Diablo's Deckard Cain, because both are scholars with an impressive devotion to documenting their areas of expertise. The Advisor has tumbled down his fair share of rabbit holes in the pursuit of preserved quotes that would please any purist. There was that time he braved a sea of screencaps for one of Guybrush Threepwood's most famous lines in The Secret of Monkey Island, refusing to settle for JPEGs and PNGs with the wrong aspect ratio or inferior EGA visuals, until finally he decided to get one himself and skipped to the game's conclusion using programmer debug codes. Or when he emulated Metal Gear Solid and a GameShark to unlock all access keys and sequence skip to the Hind D helicopter fight, all so he could capture an obscure Easter egg where Colonel Campbell comforts Snake about his mono television. "It's a very crisp screenshot, so it was all worth it," the Advisor says wryly.

Such dedication to immaculate presentation is a rarity these days, with people repurposing others' online content unendingly. But the Advisor clearly has a passion for these games' conservation, and he won't settle for anything less than perfection. That high standard can lead to shelved quotes whenever something looks off, like an Animal Crossing glitch that displays a character model out of place. "They're standing in front of the camera and they're ruining the shot," laments the Advisor. "I haven't used it, because it's not right - it's not correct to the game, and I don't [yet] know how to fix it."

Simply writing out the quote's text in a Tweet would defeat the purpose, because it's all about presenting that snapshot of however a game arrived at such a noteworthy line. "Sometimes, just the way it's presented on screen, maybe shouted at you - it would lose something if it was just the text," says the Advisor. "You want the full image of where this came up, even if sometimes that only raises more questions than answers. Like, what set of circumstances would lead a game to need to say this? People have sent me a photo of the old The Shadow pinball machine [tied in with] the Alec Baldwin movie, where the LED screen, in attract mode, just says 'AIDS IS REAL / PROTECT YOURSELF'. And it's sort of great just on its own, because you get a little bit of the context of where it's appearing, but you've got to think 'Why is a pinball machine telling me to wrap it?' I wasn't going to believe it until Alec Baldwin told me, and now, I believe it."

Not every video game quote deserves to be remembered, but the Advisor has a knack for unearthing gems that might otherwise be forgotten in the annals of gaming history. And for all the ways in which games speak to us, these quotes can be as meaningful or amusing as you make them. "I've always liked, especially for older games, how blunt they are," the Advisor muses. "They're meant to speak directly at you, and - either for space concerns, or because they're translated stiffly from Japanese - they're often very direct. There's almost a clumsiness to them that is actually kind of endearing." One of the Advisor's favorites comes from the little-known Amiga game Kid Gloves, which flatly informs the player that "Smart bombs kill everything" during the tutorial. "You can see what it's supposed to mean as an instruction, but on its own, it almost becomes like an anti-war bumper sticker, in a nice way," laughs the Advisor. "There's something about that bluntness - and how most of the time it's unintentional - that I think really works."

If you've ever felt like you needed a daily pick-me-up, or just some game-related bits of goofiness, it would behoove you to follow the Video Game Advisor and study - if not heed - his stream of advice. Even as he maintains the capture and conveyance of game quotes, delivering wisdom to his ever-growing audience, the Advisor has more in the works: he's contemplating the use of video clips to preserve and present cutscenes, and he's eager to dive into Archive.org's collection of DOS, Windows 3.1, and Apple 2 games - "There's a ton of stuff there that I've never even heard of," he says excitedly. But for now, you can depend on Video Game Advisor for a constantly growing catalogue of perfectly preserved quotes, offering a window into thousands of games you may or may not know. "I don't imagine I'm going to be doing this for the rest of my life," the Advisor says. "But for the foreseeable future, I don't see myself stopping, because there's still a lot to pull from."