Why I Have To Play Video Games

From BIUL #1.

From BIUL #1.

Ironically, I’ve been having a patchy relationship with video games for the past year or so. I have zero desire to play against grade schoolers, or people I don’t know, and that seems to be the way the wind has blown. I use my computer for business, and the only game I trust not to fuck it up is Age of Empires, from 1997. I’m a middle-aged man. My goals and those of your average gamer are not the same.

I’ve held on to an Xbox 360 since 2008, one of a pool of consoles I’ve traded or brought back from the Red Ring of Death. I actually learned how to fix 360s from a friend, and for a while, it was a very handy skill. It justified the hobby.

But the latest incarnation of consoles require an internet connection, so they can link up with Netflix, and Facebook, and all that other shit. Let me get this straight- I’m dropping sixty bucks on a video game, on top of what I pay a month for internet, plus a subscription cost for the console’s network? That’s some serious information superhighway robbery.

I had Xbox Live for a brief time, during which I purchased Borderlands and another full game download. After my subscription ended, these games ceased to function, even though I paid for them. Needless to say, this left a bad taste in my mouth. Easy come, easy go, I suppose. Lesson learned.

Truthfully, ethical standards in video games have always been tenebrous. In the heyday of the Atari 2600, you had about a one-in-ten shot you were paying ($50+) for a good game. Nintendo used an “Official Seal of Quality”, a common sight on the covers of the worst games ever made.

What does it say about a video game when it's better as a book?

What does it say about a video game when it’s better as a book?

I actually owned a Sega CD and Night Trap. I bought the game because there were rumors it would be banned. It was cringe-inducing and as sexual as a girdle catalog. Dana Plato gave the performance of her life, and a girl in a nightgown sang the theme song into a broom handle. It wasn’t a far cry from Jim Wynorski movies on USA Up All Night.

Here’s proof I didn’t imagine it.

I also had Lethal Enforcers, the shooting game that came with the blue plastic light gun. I had the awful Sewer Shark, which I only played for the Mark Mothersbaugh music; FMV (full motion video) games, as they were classified, always featured bad actors that verbally abused you when you lost. This made for negative fun. Who wants to sit and push buttons while being told how much they suck?

Panic! was a Sega CD game I liked, even though it was hardly a game. You literally push buttons and see what happens. Sometimes, like with Mansion of Hidden Souls, you could put the CD in a regular player, and weird shit would come out of the speakers. I was disappointed that when I tried this with Panic!, I couldn’t hear the excellent version of Dvorak’s “New World Symphony” hidden in the game.

I never had a Sega 32X, but I had a friend who did, and he didn’t talk much about it. I rented one from a Blockbuster once, if you can believe that, but again I paid for nothing because I couldn’t get it to work. From what I’ve heard, aside from Doom, I didn’t miss anything.

My favorite Sega CD game was Eternal Champions: Challenge From The Dark Side. It took a Genesis game I adored and made it even better. There was a “Senator” combatant who used red tape as a finishing move. You could fight as an Atlantean with a trident for a hand, or a chicken. But then a little company called Sony introduced the PlayStation, and with it, a game called Destruction Derby. Then Tomb Raider. Then Resident Evil. Until I mucked it up trying to mod it in 2001, I was hardcore addicted to PlayStation.

That same year I splurged on an Xbox. It came with Halo and SSX Tricky. Those two games alone sustained me for years. I started to realize what I was looking for in videogames; I want my skills tested properly, not with impossible tasks, and I want my imagination sparked. I want a story that unfolds differently enough to keep me from getting bored on replays. I don’t want to do the same thing over and over.

Like pay money for nothing.

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