It was 1998, I was in the sixth grade, and the game everyone was playing was Goldeneye 007 for the Nintendo 64.
Everyone who played Goldeneye single-player remembers how brutal some of the levels could be on Secret Agent and 00-Agent. “Facility”, “Bunker”, “Train”, and “Control” were incredibly hard, all those unlimited enemies with near perfect accuracy tearing your health bar to shreds, the objectives, and the turrets. It was really difficult, especially “Control”, but I got through them, and I even got the infinite ammo cheat for beating “Control” under ten minutes on Secret Agent.
“Aztec” was the first secret level you unlocked when you beat every level on Secret Agent. It was arguably the hardest level in the game, though I do not remember why beyond it being really long and the part where you have to fight Jaws. I had completed the level on Agent and Secret Agent, but was stuck on 00-Agent. It was the last level I needed to beat to unlock the second secret level and beat the game.
I was sick for a week. I was reall sick for the first three days of the week and was sort of sick for the last two. On Thursday after spending several hours trying to beat “Aztec” on 00-Agent and failing I needed a break.
To take a break I thought I would play around with my grandfather’s rusty old golf putter.
I was never close to my grandfather. He had a stroke before I was born and scared me whenever I saw him before he died when I was a kid.
I’m a big mini-golf fan, so when my grandfather died I inherited his putter, a couple of golf balls, and a toy where you hit a golf ball into it and the toy pops the ball back out and rolls it back towards you, a portable golf hole.
I had never used that putter before, but I figured this was as good a time as any, and I needed to relax, I was all high strung from that level. I played a few holes, which meant I hit the ball four feet in a straight line into the toy for about ten minutes and put the thing away.
I went back to “Aztec” and beat it on the next try. That was super fucking surprising. I think I was dazed as I went through the last level “Egyptian”, I beat that level pretty quickly on all three difficulties.
So what happened? Did the ghost of my dead grandfather come back just to help me beat a video game? Was it a total coincidence? Was it a good example of how when you are frustrated by something you should take a moment to step back and collect your thoughts so you can think straighter? It’s probably the last one, though it would be nice if that happened more often.
I went back to school the next week and bragged about beating Goldeneye to the only other person I knew who played the game. He didn’t really care.