The Redemption of the Almost-Gamer

A few years ago (Jesus – has it been that long?), I wrote a blog post about being an “ almost gamer”, in which I discussed something that John Siracusa brought up on Hypercritical. In his followup on the subsequent episode, he actually read my post, in part, and replied on air.

Basically, the idea is this: if you accept that video games are an art form, then it follows that they can be appreciated. However, due to limits skills necessary to gaming (like having good hand-eye coordination and a finely-developed 3D visuospatial sketchpad), there are many people in the world who can never appreciate this form of art. With practice, one can become a connoisseur of wines or films, because the skills necessary to appreciate those things – taste and sightedness/hearing – are very common.

Anyway, I wrote the following.

John touches on this in the second part of his discussion; he describes how some games, such as Zelda, have a soft ramp-up to get players familiar with the game mechanics. He considers this, in some ways, to be cruel because players of the games who don’t have the skills necessary to beat them are tricked into believing they do. Eventually, the game gets too hard; he said he didn’t know how someone would feel once they get to the part of the game where it’s too hard because he’s never had that experience. Well I have, and it kind of sucks. In fact, it’s why I stopped playing video games.

I stopped playing video games in my early teens. I mean, I’ve played a few games in the years since then – Portal, Super Smash Bros, Guitar Hero, and Journey – but I would not call myself a gamer by any stretch.

Take one of my favourite childhood games, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. I must’ve started new files on that game more than a dozen times, always giving up once I got past the first three, easy dungeons. I still enjoyed playing, but would always dread the inevitable “this game is too hard and I hate playing it now” phase. Pretty anticlimactic.

Flash-forward to today. I, a 26-year old, university-educated adult, purchased a Nintendo 3DS and Pokémon Y (Rated 7 and up) so that I could play with my friends online. While I had beaten another game in the series as a kid, doing so had been a real struggle. Not so, this time. This time, I played the whole way through without breaking a sweat. Huh.

Then I heard about The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, which is a sequel to A Link to the Past. Nostalgia took over and I had to have that game.

Well, tonight, I’ve beaten it, stumbling only at the final boss.

I don’t know what’s happened – two video games beaten in a row. Maybe John Siracusa was right when he insisted that I am a gamer. Maybe I had the skills all along, but my childhood self’s short attention span or aversion to being defeated spoiled games for me at the time. Now as an adult, I’m finally able to keep going, even through the difficult parts, and complete them. On the other hand, though, maybe games have gotten easier. I retract that – games definitely have gotten easier. What I mean to say is that maybe I’m able to enjoy – and complete – video games now because they’re easier. I don’t know.

So that’s it. Two video games beaten on a brand-new gameboy. I don’t know what I’ll play next. Maybe it’ll be super-difficult and crush my spirits again, or maybe it’ll be like Pokémon Y and A Link Between Worlds – not particularly difficult, but still enjoyable. We’ll have to wait and see.


Posted on July 29, 2014