Thursday, July 31, 2008

Success in the Gaming World

I'm a gamer. Apparently I was born a gamer. There's something about jumping over rolling barrels, swinging on vines, stomping on enemy creatures to defeat them, and boxing against world champions that is exhilarating. When I was a small child I delighted in playing Pitfall and Snafu on the family Intellivision. When I was a bit older, I was intrigued by Super Mario Brothers 2 and Mike Tyson's Punch Out. Those games were obsessions for a time, and my high scores were evidence of my dedication.

Several years ago when TC announced that he wanted to buy a Playstation 2, I was worried. Would my old days of neglecting all responsibility to beat my last score or move on to the next level come back to me? Would I be able to be a responsible adult with a gaming system around? These were questions that burned in my mind, the flames licking my sensibilities and warming my desire for high scores.

We got the Playstation 2 and I did spend an embarrassing amount of time playing Crash Bandicoot and Jimmy Neutron: Attack of the Twonkies. But their appeal faded as my skill at those games paled in comparison to the challenges the games presented me. My ability was not sufficient to pass any more levels. But just as my fixation on one game faded, another game moved into its place. My auto-competitiveness worked in my favor when TC bought me Dance Dance Revolution for Christmas several years ago. My chronically lazy bones were duped into activity in order to unlock songs, increase my score on this song, or master that level of difficulty. And again, when my ability growth plateaued, so did my obsession with the game.

Now we have a Playstation 3. TC and I have made it a family pursuit, as odd as that may sound. We play Motorstorm together, taking turns at off-road racing, lamenting the cheatingness of the computer when we just can't seem to come in 1st place, backseat driving for each other. TC specializes in rally cars and motorcycles, while I am best at racing trucks and semis. TC plays Uncharted, while I am on the lookout for places to find treasure. I play Monsters, while TC advises me on where to build my towers to defeat the funny little monsters that try to invade my village.

Lately, our family pursuit has been Lost Planet: Extreme Condition. We enjoy playing online against other gamers who are far more skilled than we are. We take turns, watching each other play. When TC is at the controls, I look out for enemies to snipe. And when it's my turn, TC gives me pointers on where to stake out the enemy. The more points we get, the more we level up. We're now up to level 41, whatever that means. As perverse as it may sound, it is a bonding experience for us. It's a way to unwind, spend time together, and encourage each other in the endless battle for data posts and kills with minimal deaths.

On Friday, after a long day of moving my parents, we decided to unwind by playing Lost Planet for a while. We had such great success that we had to take pictures of the TV screen as proof of our incredibly high (for us at least) scores. Several days later, we are still congratulating each other on our success.

My high score. I've never placed 1st in an online battle, so this was pretty exciting for me. Plus, I beat two French people, which is always a plus.

TC's high score. His score is higher than mine. He's so awesome.

This post officially opens up our geekiness to public scrutiny. However, for the careful reader there are important truths in our gaming experiences. What I have learned in all this is that it is possible to be a responsible adult while still leaving time for some family shooting, racing, or monster annihilation.

After all, it's the family that games together that stays together, right?

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