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VenusInFurs avatar 12:46 PM on 05.17.2011  (server time)
How My Brother Ruined My Gaming Experience

As most of you know by now, I recently got my hands on a copy of Persona 4. I went into the game knowing nothing of the series, and to my surprise, I ended up enjoy it, until my brother came to visit me.

My brother, once a gamer, and now a serious adult, came home to visit me after I complained to him that I haven’t seen him in almost two months. He got married back in December to a woman I barely know. I am happy for him; I can say now, without any hesitation, that my brother is finally happy with his life.

My brother, who just turned 30, lives 15 minutes away from me. I understand once you’re married you start to live a different life, but I do notice that he spends more time with her family than his own. For instance, last week my aunt, cousin and uncle came over for dinner; this was the last time I would see them – they’re moving to Argentina – now, where was my brother? Well, he was upstate with his other family. Whatever the reason, I complained to him through the power that is text messaging, but he didn’t respond to any of it; instead of responding, he came home twice this week to visit.

Anyway, he came home on a day I was playing Persona 4 and watched me play the game until he started to ask questions: questions that made too much sense.

Before I start this, I feel I should give some background information about my brother. I don’t want to give the perception that he’s some guy who never laid his hands on a controller, or doesn’t understand the gaming culture; he does understand it, he just lost interest in it. You can’t fault him for that, it happens. He use to be into comic books, but now doesn’t read them at all. He doesn’t live a geeky lifestyle anymore, which is fine by me, but I don’t want to give the impression to my sexy readers that he’s some philistine who doesn’t understand us. This man has beaten the Legend of Zelda without a map or battery save. He waited on line to see The Wizard and beat Battletoads, a goal I have yet to complete! I would fill this page up with his accomplishments with gaming, but I think you get the idea.

I was lying down on bed, my laptop on my right, my PS2 controller on my belly, and me texting frantically to a friend. As I was sending the last text, I heard the door open, my mother screamed “Sergio, you’re home!”

I heard them talk, but stayed in bed. I looked at the time and noticed it was close to noon. Still covered in my blanket and too comfortable to move, I didn’t bother to get out from bed. If my brother wanted to see me, he had to come to my room; I was too pissed off to even care if he was home.

After 15 minutes of talking to my mother, he finally came in the room. “Hello, brother,” he said as he was walking in. He took the only chair in the room and sat near the bed. “What‘s up? How’s school?” he asked as if he was interested in my response. I shrugged my shoulders, put my phone down, and continued to play Persona 4. As I was playing, he continued to ask questions, after a few minutes, I started to open up, and the next thing I know, we’re having a conversation. It’s funny how a few simple words of kindness can break even the hardest of hearts. Anyway, I explained my situation with school and money, and he offered to help me find a job, and even took my resume so he can properly fix it up. Everything was going well between us, and he stayed sitting on the chair watching me play. This is an act he did when he lost interest in gaming. For instance, he never played a Metal Gear Solid game, but has seen me play and beat every single one of them, and can tell you in detail what happen in those games. I can see that he, like I, was immersed in the story of Persona 4

After 40 minutes my brother said, “Hey, when are you actually going to play? The game is cool, I like the story, and the characters are pretty interesting, even the voice acting is good, it kind of reminds me of those anime shows you use to watch, but this doesn’t feel like a game. How long have you‘ve been playing this?” I said, “I’ve played for about 3 and half hours and so far I’ve only had one fight.” My brother was shocked and continued to ask questions: “What the hell is the point of a game if all you’ve been doing is pressing X for almost 4 hours.” I shrugged because I didn’t have a response. He continued and said, “Games are about interactivity, right? Well, there really isn’t a lot of interactivity here to speak of.” After all his blabbing, I explained to him that this was done on purpose. I said that when you and Yosuke enter the Midnight Channel without Chie, is when the first battle sequence finally begin (this is about 2 hours into the game). The opening is slow but the developers wanted to flesh out the world of Persona 4 before you begin to play. My brother seemed to understand my explanation, but insisted that there had to be a better way to do it. “Games have been around for so long, and they still rely on talking heads” my brother said as if he never stopped playing games in the first place.

We started to have a deep conversation about games, and I was quickly reminded at how knowledgeable he was towards the subject. He may not play them much now, but he does understand them, and is not afraid to ask the hard questions. Questions I still ask myself today. I have the game on pause now, actually, I just stop pressing X on the dialogue sequnce to write this, and I’m starting to feel the same feeling my brother felt. I think the game is amazing: the story, characters, music, artwork are all well done, the game even looks good on my HDTV, unlike Shadow of The Colossus, but honestly, the whole pressing X to move the conversation along is boring me. There has to be a better way to do this. My brother said, “Metal Gear has long cutscenes and that codex thingy, but in between them are a healthy amount of pure gameplay, why can’t this game do the same?” I really don’t have an answer. Games have been around for over 40 years and developers still struggle to tell a story. I’m optimistic, but I’m starting to wonder if this is the best games can do.

I hesitate to call games a "young medium" because it's not. It's been around for so long, and I feel it really hasn't evolved much. Games are taking baby steps in the right direction, but this going way too slow for my liking. There has to be a better way than cutscenes or long periods of pressing X to tell a story. I will leave you with something my brother said:

" BioShock did a good job of immersing you into a deep, complicated world without cutscenes; you were part of the story, not a bystander."

By the way, I've played about 5 hours now and 90% of it were me pressing X to move a conversation along. Now, I'm going to pick up the controller and press X to start playing the game again.

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