Today is National Video Game Day. I am aware that this won’t matter to 95% of gamers and the remaining 5% will just use it as an excuse to do what they were planning to do today anyway. Like most strange ‘holidays,’ I’m not sure why this one exists, but I’m going to use it as an excuse to talk about one of the biggest entertainment industries in the world.
I don’t consider myself a gamer, but I like to play occasionally. What this really means is: I like to play video games, but I don’t like to spend more than $20 on them and I can sit and stare at a screen for, at max, 2 hours before I have to get up and do something.
The other reason I don’t consider myself a gamer can be wrapped up in three words: Super Mario Brothers. I don’t know if its because I didn’t really start gaming until I was in college or because I have slow reflexes or because I have poor depth perception, but I am really bad at platforming. If ever there was a person who could be voted “Most Likely to Throw Mario Off the First Cliff in the Game,” I would have multiple copies of that award. This is because I’ve done it so often that I was banned by my first roommate in college from playing the game at all. And then I was banned from playing the theme on the kazoo while she was playing. Some people there just is no pleasing.
Eventually, I did move on to other games that didn’t involve hoping back and forth on a series of surfaces that had little to no relationship with the laws of physics, but the issue remains. For whatever reason I am completely and utterly incompetent when it comes to hitting the jump button while going left or right. If there was ever a person who dreads your average lava level, it’s me.
I have other issues with games I’ve worked through over the years, mostly thanks to better quality and more users friendly controls. I played the most recent Mario Kart and didn’t slide off the track, get myself stuck in corners, or get lapped by the NPCs as often as I did when it was an N64 game. My first shooter was some sort of James Bond game and I spent all of it staring into a corner getting shot in the back by my opponents. They’d even leave me for last and I’d still be stuck in that stupid corner when they came to get me. That was in the early 90s. Now I can go down fighting in Fallout and Bioshock, though I’m still likely to misuse the crouch button.
I also used to have serious issues with points of reference, which is part of the reason I got stuck in corners. Games like X-Wing vs. Tiefighter, where one of your points of reference was the little radar circle in the upper corner of the screen that showed hostile red dots and friendly green dots and the other was the flying lasers that caused your health bar to drop, once caused me real problems and made me decide (at age 8 or so) to never become a fighter pilot. I’m much better about this now because a friend got me started on Elder Scrolls III: Morrowwind in college and if there ever was a fighting system with no points of reference, it was that one. Suddenly your screen would start flashing red at the corners, indicating you were being injured, and you’d be in the desert with no one near you for miles. By the time I figured out to look up when that happened, I’d pretty much had enough of being killed by cliff racers. I later discovered that I was not the only one – someone even developed a mod that removed the monsters from the game.
Now mostly I stick to computer games and I might celebrate today with a session of Plants vs. Zombies if I get time. Or can sit still that long.