Gaming culture has been around since the seventies. I hate to break it to you, millennials who believe it started with the PlayStation 2 or original Xbox. I had been playing the old Atari 2600 and Intellivision console before you were a glint in your father’s eye. Now I do own an Xbox One and PlayStation 4, yet even with the life-like graphics, I have been finding myself longing for those old 64, 16, and 8-bit classics. Not because I thought they had better graphics but taught me how deal with life.
The biggest problem people have these days comes from their inability to handle life. Unlike many of the games now, there were no save or respawn points. If you died near the end, you had to start all over again. Just play the classic Super Mario Bros to understand what I mean. Rage quitting was a thing way before the internet meme. Now, people do that when they get their asses handed to them by some 9-year-old kid from Idaho in multiplayer mode from Call of Duty (insert current iteration here). However, back in the day, there was no co-op play unless there was someone else in the room.
Rage quitting was always a thing. For example, when you would be playing Kid Icarus for hours and got pretty far, only to die and had to start over from the beginning. Don’t get me wrong, we did quit when someone was just better than me at Super Mario. However, I would rage quit when I died for the 50th time in Ice Climber because I couldn’t figure out how to make that jump work. Unfortunately, we didn’t have many other games to move on to, so we were stuck trying to finish this one.
This could be the root of some of my emotional disorders. That obsession would seep in. I would throw my Nintendo controller and never worried about breaking them. Those things could not be destroyed and don’t think that I didn’t try. I would run into the living room and pout on the couch, but that didn’t change anything. My last game play stayed on my mind. It haunted my thoughts. It replayed it over and over again in my head. Thinking if I had changed that move or started a split second earlier, maybe I would be reveling in victory rather than pouting in shame.
Maybe I would try it again. Again, I’d fail. After another couple of hours, I would storm out of the room and say I will never pick up that controller again. If I hadn’t already blamed the controller for my failure. Games like this had to be solved by deductive reasoning as well as cat-like reflexes. There was no internet to run toward for a play-through to watch about what happened, or a cheat forum to find the trick to move onto the next level. If you had the time, you could wait for that next Nintendo magazine or gaming magazine to provide you with some assistance. That would take too long. I had to beat it immediately. It was a matter of pride.
I started looking at things that didn’t work or maybe actually spoke to a friend who barely managed to pass that level. Started trying to figure out a possible solution. Post notes on a corkboard with push pins. Tying strings from one clue to another. You know, like serial killer boards that you see in those movies. Since I was too young to drink coffee, I was pumped up on coke (the drink but it was the eighties so the other one was possible) and a bunch of sugary candy that could keep me going for days. You know, a child-version of a bender. I thought about it more and more. Strategizing would morph into manic obsession. Finally, after many sleepless nights, I had your plan.
Then the day came! I took my allowance to the local market and grabbed some candy and 16 oz. glass bottles of soda where the label was made of styrofoam and wrapped itself around the bottle. Oddly keeping it colder longer. You knew that 12 oz. cans were not going to cut it. I made it home and plop myself in front of the television and insert the cartridge – not before blowing into it first. I could feel the sweating starting to pool on my forehead but I pressed the start button anyway. It was too late to turn away, I was committed. It was now or never. All those days of planning would be for not if I chickened out now. How could I look into your father’s eyes again knowing you backed out without even trying? Regardless of the fact that he had no idea what I was doing, if he would’ve even cared, but it was a matter of pride.
Hours later, I reached that point – that moment – that was going to tell me whether all the time and energy I had put into planning was for not. I’m focusing on the process. When I get close to that boss, I needed to tap “A” twice, hit the back button on that “D” pad and then hit “B”. Seemed easy enough. The moment of truth had arrived and all that information slipped my mind. I fell into that random button mashing as if I were playing some random fighting game at the arcade. Yet, somehow, I did it! I managed to make it through and beat the boss. It was a victory, not a pretty one, but a victory nonetheless. With a resurgence of confidence, I push forward and suddenly I couldn’t beat the next boss. Le Sigh.
Games, even games now, weren’t meant to be easy. However, we have many ways to make things so easy. We even have videos of people playing the game and we just watch. Subsequently, we offer opinions of the game by watching someone else playing them. In the nineties, many more magazines appeared on shelves, before the game was released, with cheat codes to make gameplay easier. The old way to game was better because it taught you something – persistence.
Or unhealthy obsession, depends on how you wish to look at it. For the sake of this blog post, let’s look at the emotionally healthy aspect of this. Games like these allowed us to play in an imaginary playground pretending to be whatever our childhood fantasies were but it wasn’t easy. They were meant to be challenging and force us to look at any problem from a different perspective and solve it. Which, in many instances, we did. We may not have made the covers of some cool gaming magazine, but we can say we did it.
I’ve played many games since I was a kid. Unfortunately, many have not left a huge impression on me since those of the Atari, Intellivision, NES and Super NES systems. They forced me to look at problems in a different way. Focus on those issues and figure out plans to overcome them. Something that is lost on the youth of today. Not to seem like a cranky, old man but those games made you deal with loss and figure out how to overcome it. Never being easy because life isn’t easy. In the end, millennials, those games were so much better and had so much more to offer. Face it, you suck.