What's Your Secret Gaming Shame?
It's time to shed some baggage.
Australia, April 2, 2012
by Sam Prescott
We all have our stuff. "Baggage" is the trendy term for it. And it stands to reason that given the amount of time you spend on it, some of that baggage is bound up in your favourite hobby.
I am talking secrets, here. Dirty little secrets, tied to the games you play. Or don't play. You have one or two, right? Or five. Sometimes it's good to shine a light on them. They might scuttle away into the darkness like Hemigrapsus sexdentatus, achieving relative deniability. But not always.
With a cavalier disregard for the sanctity of my own heretofore protected gaming secrets, I'm about to find out whether presenting this baggage for inspection is actually any good for the soul.
Then we want to hear about yours.
I never played Final Fantasy VII
Oh... no... he... dih-int!
Is that even how you spell that? Anyway, an abominable perversion of the English language it may be, but it's true. I didn't. I haven't.
Who was this guy again? Wind? Storm? Um, Keith?
I have played a couple of Final Fantasy games and I really liked one of them (that was Final Fantasy III for DS). But in fact, I have never played what is arguably the king of them all.
I am led to believe I am missing out on a lot – wondrous story, memorable gameplay mechanics, a cast of lovable characters. But there is something indefinable keeping me from going back and trying it out. My fellows are often telling me I should take some time and work my way through it. Sometimes they do that politely. Often they do it derisively. I have known people that flip tables and scream obscenities at the mere mention that I can write about games at the same time as having not played this one.
Some of this goes to my 16-year-old-self's views on the PlayStation. I spent most of the late '90s lambasting that machine, secure in the knowledge that the only console I would ever need was the Nintendo 64. So there it is.
I almost bought a PlayStation instead of a Nintendo 64
This is especially hard to admit. It sets my teeth on edge and as I am not yet at the point where I feel like I can actually speak the words aloud, my urge is to glance now at my neatly boxed system of yore to make sure it hasn't melted at my ungratefulness.
A friend of mine had a PlayStation, and I admit that I had some fun with it. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater comes to mind, and of course Gran Turismo. I didn't realise what a dangerous path they had put me on. I was PC gamer back then, and the allure of the console was strong. It took me back to a far simpler time: a time without deficient hardware. A time when you put a cartridge or a disk into something and it actually worked.
It was a simpler time, wasn't it Bill Cosby?
Things could have gone badly for me.
Then, miraculous: another friend, a different console. Mario Kart 64 and WCW vs. nWo: World Tour. Later, GoldenEye. A redirection of intent (and funds earmarked for the coffers of Sony). A fresh and exciting trajectory. A belief in the enduring superiority of the game cartridge. Rescue.
I can't seem to get any better at Battlefield 3
This isn't all that easy to explain and I feel appropriately redfaced about the whole affair. I have been trying to hide this for long enough. Perhaps you all have some good tips for me (even if it's putting the controller down and backing away slowly).
"Er, yeah. Guy? Maybe you can go, like, hang around at the back?"
I have put in some decent hours. I learned too late that muting my seemingly very young and shockingly foul-mouthed opponents is absolutely essential (the things they would say about my mother!) and I have since found my niche in terms of class and game type. I have made some pretty good kills. Even knifed some dudes. I have laid out ammo supplies for my team and sent out thousands of rounds in covering fire (this act in itself feels sort of mother-hen-ish, which fails to do wonders for one's sense of soldierliness).
I am always in the bottom two or three on the scoreboard. I am always getting shot from very far away. It took me a very, very long time to get the hang of the basic controls, but even now I feel as though I might be of more value thrashing and screaming among those shipping containers brandishing a rubber chicken.
False combat shouldn't be such a chore, should it?
Some of my DS games still have the plastic wrapper on
I do mean to get to these games some day, but I don't quite know what that day looks like. In a world of seemingly endless entertainment media – and so much of it of a quality that makes it worth whatever time you can shoehorn into it – it's almost daunting to think about that day. There I am in my mind's eye, mouth yellowed by cheese-flavoured corn snacks, teeth brittle from sweet energy drinks, thumbs locked at both joints and a pile of discarded cellophane at my feet, comatose.
The deliciously offending cheese-flavoured corn snacks.
It's not pretty, but at least I wouldn't have a stack of boxed, unplayed DS games. They go on multiplying to this day, even as the system enters its dotage.
There is more to this than my drive to hoard them coupled with a lack of time to play them, though. Those things exist, but this admission is really about the secret I am revealing next.
It doesn't tend to make this any less embarrassing, it just helps qualify it.
I once traded a copy of Pokemon Fire Red for $14 credit
Not my finest moment. In fact, perhaps the least fine in all my gaming life. This is why I have saved it until last. Gearing up to write all this down required some preparatory me-time: a mirror, clenched fists, narrowed eyes and the words, "You're nothing."
I played all kinds of hell out of that game when I had it, though. It was the second Pokemon game I really dropped serious time into (the first being Pokemon Silver, over two weeks of the 2001 Canadian winter) and the first Pokemon game I ever owned for myself.
It was purchased for me on a second-hand market far superior to the one in my country, where such games seldom appear for re-sale, by a close friend who is reading this revelation now with one hand clapped to his enormous forehead. (I'm sorry, man.)
That moment haunts me, still. Fire Red (no box or manual) was buried among a slew of other trash I was getting rid of, and it wasn't until I was walking away that I began to stew on my error. $14. The sum seemed so paltry. The crime I had committed was hideous. The words of the sales clerk rang in my ears like the prophetic warning of an old woman living in a ramshackle cottage at the front end of a horror movie: "Oh, man, this'll fly out the door."
I never even saw it on the shelf. Would I have bought it back? I didn't get the chance to find out.
I suspect I don't deserve it.
Let it out; what's your secret gaming shame? Air it here and perhaps we can all move on.
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