Save the princess. Stomp on turtles. Gun down your creator’s rival and his robot servants. We gamers have covered a lot of ground in our time, but more often than not in a virtual landscape (though I suspect there are heroes of our realm who have gunned down zombies and detonated ancient alien super weapons). It’s a distressing dissimilarity between the real world and the game world, one that has already created self-image problems for gamers, men included. Think about it: how many times has a well-meaning, average college student saved the world with nothing but his standard fare wits and abilities? Now compare that to the number of hard-boiled, grizzled space marines of our digital fiction, or -- for maximum emasculation -- handsome sword-wielding young men who overcome all odds and tear apart dragons ten times their size…AND they get the girl.
Therefore, the only way to bridge the gap between the men of games and the men of reality is to emulate their actions; only by recklessly recreating their loveable antics can we possibly regard ourselves as worthy of saving the princess!
Satire or not? You decide -- though that decision may be based on how much of a NOT MAN you really are.
Step One: Learn to burst into flames.
Taught by: Captain Falcon (Super Smash Bros.), Bang Shishigami (BlazBlue), Kyo Kusanagi (King of Fighters), Fei Long (Street Fighter), Kratos (God of War), Guy Cecil (Tales of the Abyss)
Ah, fire. Is there anything more manly than a blazing wildfire? I say no, and so do a lot of the manliest of heroes. Hitting things hurts; hitting things with fire hurts even more, so it’s only natural that the mantra of “kill it with fire” becomes indoctrinated. Some warriors step up to the plate with flamethrowers or incendiary grenades in hand – but those men aren’t the ones who go on to memetic status and Photoshopped glory. No, the real men are those who, with passion ablaze, set their limbs on fire and remain unscathed, while their enemies are turned to ash in an instant.
Therefore, in order to become a true man, a gamer on the road to glory must train day and night, creating enough friction on his skin and generating enough heat to burst into flames. No force on earth -- bears, especially -- would be able to withstand the force of a man’s blazing heart made real; firemen everywhere would cower in fear, envious of your blazing might. The only drawback is the damage you might do to your surroundings, and your wardrobe in particular…but then again, if you had the patience to learn self-controlled spontaneous combustion, you’re not really worried about that, are you?
Step Two: ALWAYS enter a room as destructively as possible.
Taught by: Dante (Devil May Cry), Viewtiful Joe, Solid Snake (Metal Gear Solid 2), Kratos (God of War)
When was the last time you kicked a door down? If it took you any more than one second to answer that, then you need to become a man! A true badass rarely, if ever, knocks on doors; he just kicks them down, armed and ready for action. Can you blame him? Just think of the cathartic factor, the joy of busting through doors, walls, windows, roofs, and even dimensions with no regard for property damage (unless that property is yours, but a REAL MAN doesn’t own a house, so there). Therefore, one must cast aside his chains to the laws of physics, toughen his skin and legs, and learn to fly into rooms with foundation-shaking force.
You know how whenever you enter a room, all eyes are suddenly on you? And then seconds later, everyone’s back to their business? That won’t happen if you come in by crashing through the roof. All eyes are on you, and STAY on you – on the man who has killed at least half a dozen innocents with rocketing debris. But that’s to be expected of someone like you; you don’t have time to bother with something so trivial as “doors” or “other people’s safety”!
Step Three: Carry several tons worth of gear at all times.
Taught by: Link (The Legend of Zelda), Kratos (God of War), War (Darksiders), Marcus Fenix (Gears of War), pretty much any Level-Capped Orc (World of Warcraft)
Just how DO heroes gain their impressive physiques? Clearly, it should be beyond the limits of modern science and biology, and yet here we have beasts disguised as men with muscles so big that toddlers could hide in their biceps. And on the other end of the spectrum, we have svelte, graceful men with both androgynous beauty and the power to cut through massive mechanical monsters (and wielding a scientifically impossible sword, no less). The key to their strength and sculpture? The gear.
It has to be the gear. Carrying all that equipment -- guns, armor, grenades, swords, hammers, axes, invaluable -- and massive -- key items must be a back-breaking strain at first, but those who persevere day after day are able to obtain strength beyond their wildest dreams. Why, I reckon that hauling that gear around gives them pinpoint control over their muscles; therefore, Marcus Fenix can turn into a scar-faced Hulk to intimidate enemies, while Tidus can stay slender to appease his summoner girlfriend (and subsequently look like Hillary Duff for her pleasure). So that practice can easily be applied to our world, that we may become men of incredible strength – not to mention that women appreciate a man who doubles as a pack-mule.
The only drawback, of course, is the cost. Buying a replica sword – ONE replica sword – can set you back as much as four hundred dollars, and you can just forget about strapping a few Lancers to your back. The only alternative is to use what you have on hand, however degrading it might be. If you’ve got a dresser, a washer, a car, or an elephant on hand (as you should, if you’re following this guide correctly), then use it. Just be sure to start small, so you don’t throw out your back. That’s a major turn-off for the ladies.
Step Four: Speak softly, and carry a big sti -- SIZZLING SAUERKRAUT THAT’S A HUGE GUN!
Taught by: Gordon Freeman (Half-Life), Kratos (God of War), Solid Snake (Metal Gear Solid), Tai Kaliso (Gears of War 2), Master Chief (Halo), several protagonists (Shin Megami Tensei), Link (Legend of Zelda)
Nothing is more frightening than staring into the barrel of a loaded gun. Except staring at the edge of a giant sword. Or at a pissed-off tiger. Or a mountain that shoots volcanic boulders at you. Or…all right, screw that metaphor, the important thing is that there are a ton of downright frightening things in this world, stuff that can drive a man to his absolute limits. That’s what weapons were made for: so you could shoot that stuff in the face. Who’s laughing now, tiger?
Even so, there’s an unspoken rule in video games: the loud-mouthed idiot rarely makes it to the role of hero. If he’s a villain, it’s likely he won’t survive an encounter with our main character. The old adage rings true: the weakest dog barks loudest. So inversely, the strongest dog barks…softest? Can dogs bark softly? Somebody Wikipedia that.
Strong men need not boast about their strength; their actions alone are enough. That’s why you -- and your enemies, should you adopt this tenet as your law -- should always fear the quiet ones: they convert all the energy used for mouthing off into controlled bursts of badassery. Therefore, all gamers on the journey to ultimate manhood should take a vow of silence; in doing so, the wasted energy is redirected into countless instances of tiger-punting action. Of course, such a feat requires a bit of planning ahead -- how exactly will you order a Big Mac if the cashier can’t see your text box blipping away? Perhaps if you invest in one of those “sidekicks” everyone’s always talking about…
Step Five: ALWAYS. SAVE. THE GIRL. ALWAYS.
Taught by: Nearly every RPG hero ever, half of all Nintendo games, an ulterior motive of virtually all characters, except maybe (maybe) Kratos (God of War)
Mario saves Peach. Link saves Zelda. Leon Kennedy saves Ashley. Cloud…okay, maybe not Cloud, but he tried, and that’s what matters.
Blame it on the fairy tale paradigm -- the knight in shining armor always has to save the princess, right? Rarely, if ever, is this age-old schematic altered, and why should it be? It works, and it gives us just enough reason for some Koopa genocide. Ah, if only we could apply that paper-thin reasoning to our own lives…unless…we really CAN justify all our actions that way!
Yes, it’s perfect! All we have to do is have our significant other -- a girlfriend, a sister, a child, or if you’re desperate, a mother or cousin -- disappear thanks to some convenient evil down the street, and suddenly we have our chance to man up. Time to fight for the honor of our lady’s hand, and to hell with the rules! Would a real man worry about something like that when his beloved is on the line? Not a chance! And that’s what separates a man from a Goomba!
A word of advice, though: be ready with a game plan after you save the girl. You’re going to have a lot of enemies after all is said and done; plus, word on the street is that the Koopas don’t mess around when it comes to a vendetta.
Step Six: Be Kratos.*
Taught by: Do I really need to say it?
Kill your family, then the old god of war, then any other god who gets in your way. And be sure to have your family’s remains permanently bound to your skin. Ladies love that -- not the smell, I imagine, but the look is to die for.
Travis Touchdown (No More Heroes), Dominic Santiago (Gears of War), Wayne (Lost Planet), Auron (Final Fantasy X), Ryu (Street Fighter), Iron Tager (BlazBlue), Jack Cayman (MadWorld), Nathan Drake (Uncharted)
Lifetime MANchievement Award: Mike Haggar (Final Fight)
And now, fair readers, you are MEN. Bulging with muscles; starting fires with every thunderous step you take; all too eager to sit on the mall benches with your significant other’s purse, if it means keeping a vigilant eye upon her. Now, give off a hearty laugh if you so deign; for those whose testosterone transcends godhood, you’ve earned it.
But don’t laugh too loud. I knew a guy who blew a few houses down. An unfortunate circumstance, that. On the plus side, he was better at being black than I’ll ever be.
*Warning: Being Kratos is to be done at the reader’s discretion, as it can lead to a life of eternal rage and misery, unrivaled deicide, and the general ruination of the world at large. So don’t do it unless you’re a generally benevolent chap, or otherwise just want to screw up the planet. Or if you just really, really like Kratos (and there's nothing wrong with that). It's just that a planetary wipeout would kind of suck.