Tales of a Gaming Wannabe: Your Crash Course in Gaming from the Person Who Knows Nothing About Gaming
I’ve always kinda liked video games.
Boredom is not a word that factors in my vocabulary. I’ve got a lot of hobbies, way more than is reasonable for any human being. In no particular order, I am obsessed with and spend probably six or more hours a week on each of the following: reading, writing, knitting, fitness, music, film, cooking…We all have our vices. Being someone who’s kind of obsessed with stories in all forms, it’s a miracle I wasn’t ever obsessed with video games. Chalk it up to time – there are only so many hours in the day.
But I always kinda liked video games. My mom bought our first console in the late 80’s, a Nintendo intended as a gift for my dad, who hated it and sucked at all three games he tried (Mario Bros, Duck Hunt and Tetris) before storming off, cursing under his breath. Determined that her purchase wouldn’t go to waste, my mom started gaming and promptly kicked all three of her kids’ asses at just about every game we ever rented. That was okay with me – I had my nose too firmly in a book to really mind all that much that my Mom wouldn’t let me get a game in edgewise.
Later, we upgraded to a Nintendo 64 and bought our first family PC. I played a lot of Carmen Sandiego and Sierra games like The King’s Quest and my all-time favorite, The Colonel’s Bequest, a Lara Bow murder mystery set on the Louisiana Bayou in which you spied on people and gathered clues as the clock ticked. This appealed to the part of me that was obsessed with Harriet the Spy and writing in my notebook 24/7. Which was a huge, huge part of me, I don’t mind telling you. I may have an addiction to notebooks, but that’s another story.
In high school, I was so busy with musical theater and the forensics club (woo-hoo, public speaking, y’all!), gaming was mostly something I did with my 10-years-younger brother to amuse him. Doubling up to “kill Peach” on Super Mario Kart, just to hear my little brother cackle with laughter, was a favorite spare time activity. In college, gaming pretty much fell by the wayside as the demands of school and then real life took precedent. You know, like drinking to excess, dating people who weren’t very nice to me, gaining weight and feeling bad about myself – THE IMPORTANT THINGS IN LIFE.
But here’s the deal. My best friend is obsessed with video games. I think you’re all pretty much familiar with Jen by now. In 2007, she suggested I get the free 10-day World of Warcraft trial.
“Hey, wanna try Warcraft? Sure you do, it’s fun and you won’t miss out on life at all!” The real selling point at the time was, since we lived many states apart, that we could play together, and Jen promised me hours of running around in beautiful landscapes as gnomes, giggling and slaying things. Her husband played too, so I’d have at least two friends to start. What the hell, I thought, and signed up.
Ten days later, having subsisted on a diet of mostly canned soup and box wine, hooked by a week and a half of running around as a goofy-looking gnome (Sparklesnizz!) and killing wolves with Jen, I sold my soul to Blizzard and bought the game. I remember that the first time I tried to load the entire thing on my computer, it took approximately 36 hours to download all the updates and get working. Already an addict, I paced my little house in North Carolina cursing at my PC as my husband (an even more casual gamer than myself) looked on with mounting resignation.
“It’s not gonna be done any faster if you keep checking on it,” he said, exasperated.
“SHUT UP YOU DON’T KNOW ANYTHING OH MY GOD YOU DON’T KNOW!” I hissed, wondering if Kissyboots (Jen) was wandering around Dun Morogh looking for me, irritated at all the loot she was probably getting without me around to split it.
It’s been six years since I started playing World of Warcraft, and every month I’ve sent my $15 to Blizzard. Even the months (and there were many) I didn’t open up the game at all. Sometimes I don’t play for four or five months at a time, but I can’t cancel my subscription. I own an Xbox now and use Apple computers, but I keep a PC just so I can play Warcraft. It’s comforting, somehow, to know it’s there waiting for me whenever I’m ready. Even though I never made it through all the games – I’ve always been a “late to the party” gamer, so by the time I started playing, there were already several expansions, all of which I had to load on my PC to make the blasted thing work. And about a year ago, I logged in and waited dutifully for the update, only to find that there are pandas now. I can’t see them yet, but oh okay, pandas. I’ll catch up someday. Maybe. I think I have four WoW characters and none of them is past level 45. BUT THAT’S OKAY DON’T YOU JUDGE ME.
The games I like are big games. The ones with a great story that stretches on and on and takes 175 million hours to complete. Like Skyrim (unfinished) and Dragon Age: Origins (just started) and Mass Effect (ready to start #3, no spoilers, please). And so I think you can see the problem here. I’m the slowest, latest, worst gamer on the planet and I like the games that take the most time and commitment to get through. It takes me so long to play a game, I never learn my way around or remember any of the details. Jen made endless fun of me in Mass Effect 2 because I never learned the layout of my ship. I’m a mess. But I’m hooked.
So this is for all of you gamers out there who love games, but suck at playing them and maybe never finish them. I just want you to know, you are not alone. We can be late, sucky and totally entertained together.