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4:17 PM on 03.20.2008

A Trip Down Memory (Card) Lane Pt. 2

Another day, another ATDM(C)L! This spring break is turning out to be a lot more productive than I thought.

The early years, continued: a new challenger appears!
Let's fast forward through my memory a bit (Altair is that you?), to when I get my chubby mitts on the controller.

At my disposal are a slew of games- with the exception of SMB 3, they are all packed into two cartridges that call themselves "100 in one" and "50 in one." Thinking back, there were an awful lot of big titles in there- Bomberman, SMB, Ice Climbers... only now, considering how good of a deal that would be, do I suspect these may have been bootleg cartridges.

But no matter! What's important is that I enjoyed such a great variety of classic titles! Let's leave the piracy and other misdeeds to a later section, shall we?

As you can imagine, I did not fare well at the games I played. All of the mechanics had to be understood from trial and error, given that I didn't possess any manuals. But at least now it was me at the helm, applying my own hand-eye coordination. Very few games were actually complex enough to actually put me off completely (though Lode Runner seemed impossible at the time), and being so young my tolerance for repeated failure was extremely high.

I think it's safe to say that I didn't play a single game to completion back then. Hell, I'd probably have a tough time getting all the way through the original Mario Bros. even now. Games back then were hard, repetitive, or both- something that has gone out of style as media formats expand. But that didn't discourage me in the slightest!

Modern games have their own doses of challenge, too. But more often than not I get the feeling that when I hit a tough section, that the game is being unfair to me. I get exasperated. Just recently, I spent a good chunk of the afternoon on Call of Duty 4, playing "One Shot, One Kill" on Veteran. If you've played this level, you'll know which part I am referring to: it felt like an impossibility. But are the hordes of Russian soldiers any less fair, than, say, groups of fast-moving baddies in Bomberman? In fact, if I had to choose, I'd take death by Spetsnaz over death by giant coins any day.

So, what kept me sane back then?

The main reason, I think, was that I've been spoiled by more forgiving games. As games evolved, more genres opened up, many of which didn't necessarily require the player to have perfect reflexes, or photographic memory from repeated attempts. For instance, the Final Fantasy series generally makes it hard for you to screw things up. By following the plot progression, you can generally fight your way to the end with ease. There are, of course, some notable exceptions.

For me, returning to games with rather brutal methods of stopping you (large, seemingly endless swarms of enemies being just one example) is like stepping out of a sauna and jumping straight into a frozen lake. I'm so used to having the game hold my hand to some extent, like some kind of clever method you discover if you look closely, or a short cut scene showing the weak spot of an enemy. In simpler games, these things don't appear and sometimes you're left feeling a little lost.

That's not to say either extreme is inherently bad. It's good to be guided once in a while, and a real challenge is refreshing. I've learned, though, that too much of just one can cause the opposite to leave a bad taste in your mouth. Keep the player invested in the game by involving his reflexes or wit, and leaving parts for him/her to figure out, but at the same time don't toss arbitrarily large odds against them just to keep the game "interesting," either.

A good example of this is God of War, I and II. While difficult, it manages to make sure you know what to do nonetheless-- every puzzle or fight is a test of your skill and a means to improve yourself. The highest difficulty is extreme, yes, but only masochists play that mode anyway.

Well, I get the feeling you're sick of my writing by now. I'd hoped to get into the co-op (and "backseat gaming") experience here, but I think that's big enough to warrant another section. Until next time!   read

6:02 PM on 03.19.2008

A Trip Down Memory (Card) Lane Pt. 1

Disclaimer / Preface / Biohazard Warning:
I feel a little guilty reading Destructoid daily and not taking full advantage of the right third of the page, so here I am. Writing in a blog. And already using incomplete sentences! Boy, this is going to go well. Anyways, as a flimsy mask for my shameless Dtoid contest entries, here is some stuff about my development as a gamer.

The early years, or, "You've got to blow harder into the cartridge":

I'm too young to claim roots in the arcade gaming era, or even the beginnings of home consoles. Rather, I was born three years after the release of the NES. Naturally, this was the first contact I would have with video games. Is it a good thing that I didn't get to experience such classic titles as E.T. or Custer's Revenge? That, readers, is a question I leave to you.

Anyways, it's the beginning of the 90's, a decade with the misfortune of being right before the dawn of a new millennium. Bush Mk I is still in le Blanc House, and the USSR is on the verge of dissolving, arguably at the expense of James Bond's purpose in life. Much, much, much more importantly, Super Mario Bros. 3 has hit the US markets! This is also when the NES enters our household. Funny what you can get just by pointing your finger at something and crying....
*ahem* Not surprisingly, when my parents bought it, I lacked the physical and mental facilities to properly enjoy the hardware. My parents did what anyone would do: play the thing themselves and allow me to enjoy being in its presence.

(Note here the parallels between playing video games because your child can't, and playing video games because your friends aren't gamers but they put up with it and watch.)

I distinctly remember enjoying the sights and sounds of SMB 3. Lacking fully developed cognitive faculties, I took pleasure in the pretty pixels and funny sounds. However, I was immensely disappointed when, after completing World 1-3, my father shut the console down and declared bedtime.

My reasons for complaint back then were simple: surely this whimsical display on the television could continue! After all, there was clearly more to be done. While I had no idea who Mario was, or why he was running around, I enjoyed watching him flatten various objects and demolish bricks with his head. I couldn't grasp back then the concept of conflict resolution, i.e. "find and rescue the Princess." To me, back then, this was just a complex substitute for a mobile.

It would be a long time before I could appreciate plot within a video game. Back then, to know what was actually going on you had to read the instruction booklet, and even then some games didn't even have a story to begin with. Duck Hunt, for example, was just that.
Let's not forget that I was illiterate as well. But that's beside the point! Read all the Shakespeare you want, those ghosts chasing Pac-Man aren't going to start developing any character.

But before I even get to storyline appreciation, much less a grasp of "good" and "bad" video games, I need to starting playing this "entertainment system" for myself. All that, and more, on the next ATDM(C)L.

p.s. Please excuse my paint.   read

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