Video Games Hate Me

My daughter loves video games. She’ll play anything from little critters flitting over sweet little carnival lands, hopping into pipes and running away from little mushrooms (the Mario series) to mercenaries losing their arms and still fighting (Metal Gear). I sit beside her, occasionally commenting on her manual dexterity and focus as things explode and little angels hover about the screens. My challenge: video games hate me. I can’t manipulate the controller the way I am supposed to. I move my head sideways instead of the A or B button (or is it #1 or #2?) and my fingers don’t work correctly when I’m trying to jump and punch/kick/toss/eat/whatever.

The first time I played a Mario game, I kept dying in a pit of molten lava. Not only did I not advance beyond level 1, I doubt very much I made it past the first frame. I was laughing at my daughter’s good-natured remonstrations. I love it that she thought I’d learn from practicing. Nope, kept dying. Then I realized she had accidentally let me borrow her controller so I wasn’t killing Mario on my name. I quietly passed the controller back to her and left the room. She eventually made up for my mistakes.

We tried again, this time with MarioKart. I loved choosing my racing vehicle and the scenes as they unfolded. The problem: the game went too fast for me. Just as I was rounding the first curve, all the other drivers had passed the finish line. In fact, my daughter’s character lapped me twice. Rather than being upset by this, it was a great achievement when I finished in second to last place. I was told to hold the remote just so and not turn it. In other words, I finished in second to last place because I didn’t do anything but press the “go” button.

One of her greatest attributes is that my daughter is patient. We tried again, this time with Shovel Knight. I love this game: the knight has to shovel its way through terrain, leap on top of dragons, gather bags of money and more. Does this game accept me any more than anything else I’ve ever played? Nope. Not a bit. Player 1 kept losing life points because instead of hopping over the bubbles, I thought I should shovel my way through them. That was incorrect. Player 1 wanted to whack me over the head with her shovel, but she refrained. Oddly enough, the game started becoming interesting much more quickly when I wasn’t a player.

I’m happy enough to observe. Video game graphics and story lines are multilayered, complex interfacing systems that entice and then assimilate the player into an alternate experience. I admire the daylights out of people who can actually play – and win – a video game. It takes an incredible amount of strategy and skill to unlock a level, achieve a goal, raid the castle and save the (dragon, princess, insert character here). Or in all fairness, an equal amount of skill to strategically blow things up. I just wish I could play one and not kill my character within the first five minutes.

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