Watching someone play video games is never that glorifying. In fact, it’s one of the reasons I totally get the animosity they receive from good chunks of the general public, high society, politicians, and etc. Watching any human being of any age, gender, or class zone out in front of a screen for hours at a time focusing more of their senses on bunch of pixels and sound bites than anything that can be really happening with their family, friends, significant other, or whatever in the real world, of course it sounds embarrassing. That is what my parents see every time I turn on my console in the living room, so I can’t blame them for thinking I’m wasting my life away.
Though one thing I would like to say to all the parents, girlfriends, and overall non-gamers out there: if you watch someone playing a video game, and all you see is them zombieing out in front of a TV holding a remote with buttons that are labeled with a bunch of letters/shapes that serve no purpose in your mind, YOU’RE WATCHING THEM WRONG!!! There is so much context hidden under the surface. Emotions, which become Connections, which become full on Relationships, do develop between a player and their games. I’m about to share some of those right now.
Bringing the Family Together
There is a saying I coined for my family a couple years back: “We may not have it all together, but together we have it all.” I am the oldest of four siblings, and among us is the largest clash of personalities I can think of: I’m the obsessive autistic movie/anime/comic/gamer nerd. “Stevo Devo” is a social, trouble-making hippy type. “Kay Ray-Ray” a hard core competitive sports nut. And Steph is, in every sense of the word, a Diva. Above is a picture my mother took Summer of 2010, and it is that last candid moment of the four of us in the same room all with smiles on our faces (Christmas Day 2011 not withstanding). What we’re all playing is the arcade title Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Because this game played like a classic arcade title that was easy to learn, while simultaneously based on a movie I forced all my siblings to see, and whom all genuinely liked it, we finally found common ground. Of course, the game turned out to have a super unfair difficulty curve, so the fun only lasted a single night before we all tired of it. (Chris can tell you all about that.)
I still love all my siblings, and they each have their great qualities. In a perfect world, I’d choose the three of them to go on adventures with over anyone in my life all the time: go hiking, canoeing, bowling, explore Portland, apply for Amazing Race, just do everything together. But I don’t live in a perfect world. I live in a crappy world. A crappy world where none of us can afford to do all that awesome stuff. A crappy world where even if we did, we would never agree on when or where to do anything. A crappy world where Steph is so stubborn, she’s convinced she and I will never agree on anything ever, simply because we do not share the same opinion on movies, specifically Twilight. A crappy world where Kory’s a slob around the house and only wants to play the same NBA2K and Madden Games over and over and over again. A crappy world where Stevo, my once greatest rival gamer and best friend in the world, has now made so many rotten decisions with his life that I can barely stand to look him in the eye these days. A crappy world where I am not the ideal big brother I would like to think I am, because I am easily irritable, opinionated, and just downright out of touch with the cool crowd.
If a chance encounter of a single night of us all coincidentally being home with nothing to do but play a classic arcade title is the only chance for the four of us to be happy together for no special occasion, than so be it. The next time this happens, it will probably be when the next Super Smash Bros. game comes out. Maybe.
The Annoying New Kid
Here’s a change of pace. Both Chris and I have a strong relationship with the Legend of Zelda series. He may be a long time fan, while I’m a relatively new fan, but both of us share a deep passion and love for the series, its characters, style of play, and the mythology it has created over the years. In anticipation for Nintendo’s Release of Skyward Sword last year, both of us were revving up, replaying our favorite titles. He was going through Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, and I was playing Wind Waker. After being delayed for months, November finally rolls around, Skyward Sword finally comes out, I pick up my copy opening night and… after four months, both Chris and I are still only a third through the game. Why is that? The relative buzz from the general gaming community is that the ending is truly something special as far as the Zelda mythos goes. From what we’ve played, there is certainly a lot we both like. The motion controls play just as well as we could have hoped. The second and third dungeons were awesome. The items so far have been pretty unique for the series. All the minor characters are a ton of fun. This game also has probably Chris and I’s favorite interpretation of Zelda yet. [Pranger’s Note: This is a fact.] I honestly thought I would be completely finished with this game a long time ago.
At yet there happens to be one slight yet-ever-so-crucial little tiny detail that—oh screw it. It’s a BIG problem that positively MURDERS the whole experience, and the problem’s name is Fi.
By the Sages, Fi is The. Most. ANNOYING. Support character of not just the Zelda Series, but any game ever. She is more annoying than Navi, more annoying than Tingle (Chris actually likes Tingle. I know, he’s weird), more annoying than Slippy, more annoying that Natalia from Golden Eye, more annoying than Daxter (I actually like Daxter. I know, I’m weird), More annoying than Wakka from Final Fantasy X (…Ya), more annoying than Shiva from Resident Evil 5, more annoying than… than… Chris help me out here. [Pranger’s Note: More brain dead than Ashely from RE4 and Samus in Metroid: Other M combined.]
And this isn’t even overreacting. You know how hardcore gamers always complain when games hold their hand? Yeah, well this is beyond having your hand held. This is like being handcuffed, quite ironically, to a character who doesn’t even have hands. Is it really so much to ask to have the privilege to celebrate The Legend of Zelda’s 25th Anniversary without being reminded every ten minutes that Zelda is in the vicinity, or that I need to scan the area, or that I need to enter a temple, or what the danger level is, or that my hearts are running low, or that my Wiimote battery life is running low, and all the while in a voice that does not match the tone or setting of the game and completely takes me out of the experience every time I hear it?
…Oh, hey I got it! More annoying than that stupid dog from that one level of Earthworm Jim who turns into a monster alien pit bull and mauls you anytime you don’t whip him before he walks himself off a cliff.
My Abusive Relationship
Okay now for a true hardcore game dilemma. A few weeks ago, close to Valentine’s Day, I gave my two cents on a video game series that holds a very special place in my heart, the Jak and Daxter Trilogy. Here is a series of games that I will go back to repeatedly in my life. There is just something inside that series, whether it be the way the environments are crafted, how down-to-earth the characters are, the impressively vast amount of tools and power ups I get to play with, it feels like this was a world made just for me, and that I was destined to save it.
The one thing that has kept this series from being enjoyable for many a player, and I fully get this for some of you, is the trendy old-school-like difficulty spikes with several or more platforming and driving sections. I wouldn’t say there is anything in all three games that is impossible, but even after five years, and rekindling with the Jak and Daxter Collection now on the PS3, the series has not gotten any easier. And yet for reasons I can’t explain, I don’t care. I just deal with my repetitive check-ins with the Grim Reaper as if it’s just a part of the daily grind.
Let me put it this way, guys. Imagine you meet a girl you like in college that you hit it off with pretty well. Looks-wise, she’s not perfect, but she hits all your personal tastes, she’s at least an 8 out of 10. Her personality however is a 10, you have agreeable political, religious, and social beliefs. You share tastes in music, movies, sports, and class subjects. She has an incredible sense of humor, she never gets jealous, pushy, or overly needy, things just work out. And then, just when you think you’re about to hit it home, she goes, “Please don’t find this weird… but I like to beat people up. You know, just for the heck of it.”
And you’d be like, “…huh. Um, okay… but can we… you know, talk about this—”
“SHUT UP AND BLEED!”
Of course, after you have a black eye, lost a tooth, and are limping around on a crutch, she then gives you a lightning gun, a hover board, and a dune hopper vehicle that can leap thirty feet in the air. You eventually heal, you’re stronger than ever, all is forgiven, then she says, “Thank you for being so understanding. Oh, by the way next time, I think I’ll try using a sledgehammer.”
And that, ladies and gens, is how I felt during that hard as hell race/ring challenge against Errol in Jak II, or the Daxter-riding-a-missile challenge in Jak 3.
To paraphrase Jim Sterling from one of his episodes of Jimquizition, games are already taken seriously by the only people that really matter: gamers. By no means am I attempting to defend games against people who don’t want to listen anyway, I just felt it would be nice to share a few instances of why video games are more to me now than just toys. Scott Pilgrim helped bring my family together, if only for one night. Zelda introduced Chris and I to this obnoxious new kid that makes playing through one of our favorite all time series feels like a chore. And Jak has symbolically shown me why there are people in this world who will time and again return to abusive relationships (No! I am in no way condoning putting up with abusive spouses. Jak may be an abusive game at times, but it’s still a game. Not real life.)
Anyway, I may be out of time this week, but stay tuned. I have one more story about Gaming Relationships to get to, next week.
To be continued…
A Tale of Two Gamers