Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Heartening Encounter

Enough of the political crap for a while. It's all pretty static anyway.

One of my vices -- one of the ones you probably don't already know about, that is -- is video gaming. Over the past twenty years I've owned one each of Sony's PlayStations 1, 2, and 3. I've thoroughly enjoyed the games I've played on each of them, despite an important, seemingly insurmountable handicap.

I'm an incompetent gamer.

It seems that a Certified Galactic Intellect isn't guaranteed to be paired with dexterous fingers or the ability to keep one's cool when the simulated lead begins to fly. In my case, it definitely isn't. So I never buy a game that doesn't have an "easy mode" and an elaborate "strategy guide." But despite those limitations, I've derived a great deal of enjoyment from my gaming, and hope to do so for years to come.

I'm a particular sort of gamer, you see: I play them for the stories embedded in them. So I stick to adventures of the "Tomb Raider" or "Final Fantasy" varieties -- but again, always with the provisos that there must be a strategy guide and that the game must be playable by my thumb-fingered self without precipitating me into the Slough of Despond.

Just a few days ago, with an hour to kill before my blood pressure medications were ready for me to pick up, I strolled into my local GameStop to see what was available and to solicit recommendations from the clerk on duty. That young gentleman, whose name was (and hopefully still is) Dan, proved to be a fount of knowledge of the sort I value.

I confessed my ineptitude straight off, which made Dan chuckle. From there we veered into a wide range of topics, including several I hadn't had in mind when I entered and had hardly expected to come up.

Dan told me, nominally to the detriment of his commissions, that it wasn't yet time to buy a PlayStation 4. The available games, he opined, are nothing to write home about, and anyway, wouldn't meet my criteria for old-fart-Fran-playability. He said that the great wealth of games is still tied to the third-generation consoles, in particular PlayStation 3, which it gratified me to hear.

From there we discussed various games Dan had played that he thought might fit my criteria. Happily, used copies of two of them were in stock, and priced very low. But that wasn't the end of the conversation, which quickly transitioned to trends in modern fantasy and science fiction.

Dan is as distressed as I over those trends: the political correctness, the excessive deference to feminism, the overall sameness of the offerings, and so forth. We exchanged laments over the way theme and plot seemed to have been demoted to trivialities, far inferior to making the protagonists and their attitudes acceptable to left-leaning feminist Pub World editors. Being especially fond of cyberpunk, Dan expressed great sadness over the deterioration of that subgenre: "It's all pretend-cyberpunk now." Having read William Gibson in his early, most brilliant days, I was moved to agree.

To cut the story a mite shorter, I eventually suggested that Dan have a look at Which Art In Hope, which I allowed straight off was a goodly distance from the books he'd spoken of most warmly. He agreed readily enough -- "I'm always scouting for reading material; you can't imagine how boring this place can get" -- and declined my offer of a free copy --"$4.99? You can't even buy a decent sandwich for that!"

I left that GameStop feeling good. Dan is, like most attendants in video game shops, far younger than I: somewhere in his mid to late twenties. Yet we saw many things that matter greatly in much the same ways. (It also helped that he laughed at my jokes.) Whether he's at all representative of his generation, I cannot say. He's out there, though, and it was inexpressibly refreshing to encounter him.

Yes, America is in serious trouble of many kinds: political, economic, social, racial, and so on. Yes, individual citizens are in more danger, and more kinds of danger, than they've borne in seventy years. Yes, Left and Right can no longer communicate, but then, neither can rich and poor, men and women, young and old, and so on. Yes, the world is going to Hell, and the handbasket is fraying beneath its ass. Yes, yes, yes.

But there are still pleasures of many kinds, especially the sort that arise from unexpectedly encountering someone you can exchange thoughts with, without feeling that you need a translator. When that someone is not "of your kind" -- that is, not your age, or your race, or your sex, or your economic standing -- the pleasure of the encounter is magnified. It gives you hope that men of good will might still be able to turn things around.

And with that, allow me to get back to my interrupted session with "Metal Gear Solid 4," which I'm anxious to resume. Go, Snake! (Jeez, aiming this thing is tough.)


Guy S said...

If you have a chance, or the inclination, give Diablo 3 (and it's associated expansion pack, Reaper of Souls) a shot. Deb and I both play it (the computer versions, but it is now available for all consoles). You might like Dragon Age as well. Both have a story line and the characters are engaging

Just watch out for that arrow to the knee!!

Dystopic said...

I found a similar sort of pleasure when I was reading Tom Kratman's latest novel, and I found quotes from an obscure band's song... one that I shared an appreciation for. It never occurred to me that the authors I was reading would have similar taste in other matters.

Or the time when I was talking with a bouncer at a club I DJ for. Most clubs are filled with Left-liberals. But the bouncer was a gun enthusiast and a military man. We had a lot in common and discussed many of the things you mentioned here. To this day, he is much more vigilant than the other bouncers in keeping the drunks away from my expensive equipment.

There are a lot more of us than people would think. Perhaps we do remain as a sort of silent majority, or at least a very large plurality. I don't hold out much hope for America as a cohesive nation anymore, but a good number of American people... well let's just say I think, in the end, we'll be fine.

BabyHuey said...

I see the first responder recommended Diablo 3, I would as well. It's highly enjoyable, although the storyline is a bit repetitive. I'd also recommend the Fallout series quite highly (since you speak of MGS4) as they are VERY easy to play once you conquer the learning curve, and fun to boot! The Uncharted series can be fun as well, although aiming can be an absolute PITA on the higher difficulty levels...

It's always nice to be reminded that the current generation isn't populated entirely by overgrown children, and perhaps there is yet hope!

Elgin01 said...

Oh yes, you might REALLY enjoy the Mass Effect series if you haven't already done those. Pretty decent sci fi, also X-Com: Enemy Unknown if you're into tactical strategy that doesn't wear out your thumbs since it is turn-based.

pdwalker said...

I don't think your lack of skill with console games is because of you.

I've never been able to transition from PC gaming with keyboard/mouse controls.

Using the game controllers is a complete exercise in frustration. I cannot master the aiming using the twiddly joysticks or direction keys, even in easy mode with auto aim turned on.

Give me a keyboard and mouse, and I can accurately snap shots by reflex while moving in multiple dimensions.

I think I stopped playing most new PC games when they started "consolizing" the controls. Ugh.

MissAnthropy said...

Fran, I don't know if you count yourself among the legion of Star Wars fans or not, but if so you should really consider the Knights of the Old Republic games.

These two are not new games, they came out about 10 years ago, but are among the most satisfying games I've ever played. I think you would enjoy them since you acknowledge being interested in the storyline as much as the actual gameplay. I still go back to re-play KOTOR 1 & 2 every so often, they're just that good.

They're made by the same team that made the Mass Effect series, which were suggested by a previous commenter.