Dude, you suck at video games.
Some people are born noobs. Others have noobness thrust upon them. Actually everyone’s born a noob, but many of us lost that status so long ago, we forgot what it was like to be a video game virgin. When we pick up a controller, we feel it’s so natural, it’s as if it was created for our human hands. Which it was. But it feels so natural for another reason. When something says “Press the B button,” you don’t have to look down, and go “Hmm, where’s the B button… it’s the red one? Oh, it’s the re– Hey, I died on the tutorial level.” My point being, when a gamer plays enough, they know their controller quite well, even if they only play one or two games on it. But wait, why does it matter?
It matters because it greatly affects how we play games. We, in our foggy gamer brains, believe that when we pick up a game, we learn how to play it from the ground up through the inevitable in-game tutorial, and then proceed to tear through it in our own awesome gamer fashion. But, recently, I had an epiphany that such is not the case! (It’s a good thing I have epiphanies twice a week or this blog would be pretty dead). And this epiphany was caused by my lovely girlfriend and I playing Halo.
Now it’s an obligation for every gamer guy to talk incessantly about his girlfriend and how cool she is, because the stereotype of being a single, deadbeat loser is too pervasive to prevent us from saying now and then, “SEE? SEEEE? She actually likes me!” But that’s not why I’m talking about her. I’m talking about her because… well… she’s not very good at Halo. Immediately you say, “Well, duh, she’s a girl who’s not a gamer, she’s gonna hate all video games.” Truth is, she enjoyed playing a lot, regardless of the fact that she was an armor-covered gun-toting sack of “shoot me now, please.” And here’s the reason why she’s like that: she doesn’t play enough video games to know all this crap. We went through the tutorial together, it tells her “Use the A button to jump, use the R-Trigger button to fire,” yadda yadda, in typical Halo fashion. But is she just challenged, or something? She can’t pick this stuff up as easily as we did? Is it just a girl thing?
No, stupid. It’s a video game thing! Look back on your extensive history of playing First-Person (or 3rd person) Shooter games on the XBOX or 360. What control stick do you use to look around? What control stick do you use to move? What button to fire? What button to reload, to melee, to jump, to switch weapons? Oh my goodness! THEY’RE ALL THE SAME. In nearly every game that involves moving and looking and jumping (which is quite a few, mind you), these buttons are standard. 100%. So when I pick up Red Dead Redemption, I say to myself in the depths of my Freudian subconscious: “I know most of this crap, and the tutorial will tell me the 2 things that aren’t exactly the same as everything else.” So after that brief little refresher, I proceed to tear through the first enemies of the game like a bulldozer running into a wall of marshmallow fluff. Because I KNOW THIS CRAP. Because we all know this crap if we played Halo when it came out 10 years ago (holy cow. That is old). She’s bad at Halo because she can’t move and look at the same time, because she doesn’t automatically reload, doesn’t automatically shoot when the crosshairs turn red, she doesn’t automatically mash the B button when a creepy thing pops up in front of her. But we do, and we can adapt to any number of new games seamlessly because we do.
Or so I thought. The XBOX (and PlayStation) controllers are a standard, pretty-much-unchanging example of controller schemes that, while they might not be intuitive, are used so often than once you learn them, it’s easy to learn new game mechanics quickly. As for Nintendo controllers, I don’t know what the hell they’re doing but we’re going to go through it again once the Wii-U comes out. Yay. But I digress. The thing is, I thought myself really good at Halo, and FPS games in general, because I did all these things on XBOX. But I’ll never forget the first day I went to an internet cafe with some buddies and we played Halo, the PC version. This was before I’d started playing WoW, or any other legitimate PC game besides Diablo 2. You move in PC Halo using the WASD controls, something I’d never really heard of or mastered. And I got my butt kicked. Seriously handed to me, again and again, finding myself totally incapable of performing even the simplest of tasks because this whole “moving” thing was so difficult for me! But, again, keeping with today’s theme, once you learn to play with the keyboard, a thousand games suddenly become quite simple to pick up and get good at. It’s like riding a bike, only most of what you’re doing is shooting things.
So the idea that some of us are just “good at games” and others aren’t isn’t cut and dry; it isn’t that proficiency at certain video games just comes more naturally to some people, while other find it difficult. The fact of the matter is, when you become a gamer, you do more than learn to play a certain video game, you learn how to play video games in GENERAL. You learn the skills to adapt you to any virtual situation the limits of the game system can throw at you. Except “Katamari Damacy.” Jeez, that game was weird. The least lame flash version is below. Naaaa-nanananana-na-na Katamari Damacy!
P.S. I say crap a lot, apparently. It’s a very versatile word.