What Modern Games Are Like If You Haven't Played Since Atari
In my time here at Cracked, I've posted 50 videos and published roughly 200 articles, which makes the following statement all the more difficult to believe: I am your real father. Sorry. My brain doesn't allow me to pass up stupid setups like that. While it's true that you are all my children (in the sense that I've had a scarring effect on you), that's not what I actually wanted to say. My point was that despite all my freelancing here, at absolutely no time have I ever written about gaming.
I can hear you now: "But why, Daddy?"
Quit it. Again, I'm not actually your father. Still, there may be a bit of the answer in your question. Y'see, to some extent, age and timing are to blame. When I was a kid, Atari and then ColecoVision were all the rage, but my parents weren't down with that because they'd heard that those gaming systems destroyed the TV you played them through. That's why they got me one of the greatest presents ever:
Vectrex was its own self-contained unit and promptly went out of business in nine seconds, allowing me to buy every game for like five bucks -- with the exception of the 3-D imager that I really, really, really wanted, and if you somehow own one, you should contact me with a reasonable offer to sell. Anyway, I grew up, and when the new gaming systems like Nintendo and Sega Genesis came out, it seemed like kid stuff. I was busy doing my best to have sex. Then, by the time today's generation of gaming came along, I was super busy. Husband, father, career. I was pretty sure that if I got into gaming, I'd never write my movies or novels or, y'know, eat meals.
My oldest son never cared for the Nintendo DSi he got at 5, so I forgot about it. Wong and Cheese and Brockway would write their gaming articles and I'd skip over them -- not because I hate them for losing my venture capital in their Internet Men of Gaming calendar -- but because the subject was just lost on me. To me, Skyrim sounded more like what that stewardess did to me once at 50,000 feet.
Can you believe that this is the hottest pic of a stewardess Getty had? I mean, the best picture I could find of her?
But then came last Hanukkah (or as you gentiles call it, "'Hanukkah' -- am I spelling that right?"), and our three kids were suddenly all clamoring for gaming systems. My wife went to a midnight doorbuster sale at Target on Thanksgiving and secured the last Nintendo Wii for the little one who was jonesing for Skylanders, an Xbox 360 for the oldest who had to have Assassin's Creed 3, and Dance Central 2 for our daughter. And she did it all simply by stabbing several other greedy customers in the eye with pointy Christmas ornaments. Two days later, I bravely went to GameStop alone to heroically buy myself a used copy of Left 4 Dead. It was a Hanukkah miracle. After over 20 years, gaming was back in my home. What follows are the details of my inspiring exploration.
Assassin's Creed 3
Um, assume the memories of your forefathers in 18th century America to save humanity pursuant to some alien plan? Killing redcoats and stuff.
The night before we gave our 10-year-old son this game, I sat down to play it. After all, it was rated M, and I wanted to make sure there were no weird colonial sex orgies. I also wanted to see just how graphic the violence was.
The game spread out before me in cinematic fashion. I knew that gaming and movies had become closer than ever in the last 10 years, but I had never experienced it before. The only thing I can compare it to was being 14 and seeing a porn video for the first time. Finally, I was part of a world that had been shut off to me. (Side note: While that first pornographic experience blossomed into a five-year career 1992-1997, where I performed under the name Gladbone, I don't think I'll become a professional game designer any time soon. LULZ! Gladbone! No, but seriously, I made a lot of porn.)
The game began, and I started learning the Xbox controller as I went through the training part. Finally, I was on my journey, which starts in a playhouse. The object is to find a man in a theater box and then navigate a way through the theater to kill him. I walked to my seat and then ... spent the next 30 minutes in a chair while the same five lines of play dialogue repeated on a loop. I could not get out of the damn chair. I asked my Twitter followers to help me like a noob and finally (doing everything I thought I was doing before) locked in on the guy, which allowed me out of my seat to start climbing. Then I picked a lock and stabbed the guy in the back. I went up to my wife and informed her that the game was safe for the boy. I assumed that later levels of the game grew more violent, but after spending 30 minutes in a theater seat, I was pretty sure our son would be 16 by the time he got there.
Also, the violence, while graphic, didn't feel violent, because rather than machine gunning someone's head off, you just push the "X" button, setting a murder into motion. It's a strange disconnect from the action for a kid who was used to zapping space invaders. Here's a bit of the game with some English pud narrating it:
For weeks now, I have been mumbling "X!" in the direction of anyone who has annoyed me. I've also been making up terrible James Bond-esque murder puns, like, "Could I get this in an ... X-TRA LARGE!" and "I normally don't kill slow pedestrians, but for you I'll make an X-CEPTION!"
Dance Central 2
To dance like a real live hip-hop person.
This is an Xbox Kinect game, so it actually sees you and watches your movements. Kind of a thrill. Like most dance games, you follow the moves on the screen, and you get more points depending on how well you follow. The characters also talk really bad smack at each other.
"I'm gonna dance out your eyeballs and dance piss on your dance brain." -Not an actual quote.
It's a pretty great game. It will actually teach you how to dance and it will get your heart going and give you genuine exercise if you play enough. That's pretty impressive for a video game. During the whole time, however, I couldn't shake the feeling that there were 14-year-old boys out there masturbating while watching the sexier characters of the dance crew. Busting a nut while gangsta Jessica Rabbit busted a move. Idea for video: kid gets points for jerking off to Dance Central when his masturbatory movements resemble the motions he's supposed to copy onscreen.
I made a resolution to play every day instead of doing the elliptical. Hasn't happened yet.
Make your action figures come to life while doing some sort of stuff that I'm not sure about.
Skylanders Giants is a really great game. Totally appropriate for kids, but still fun for all ages. Or at least all ages as long as no one's watching you make your sparkly robot dragon rescue singing geckos by bouncing on trampoline spaces. It's a big, beautiful world, and I'm pretty sure our 5-year-old won't make it to the end of the game for years.
"I did it, Dad!"
It took a while to get used to the two-pronged Nintendo controller with the Nunchuk motion-sensor part, but that's fun, and I got to play with the boy by having me steer while he hit "A" and zapped the bad guys.
Having to buy lots more Skylanders figures and merchandise.
Left 4 Dead
To kill as many zombies as possible while heading to an evacuation site. Incidentally, this should be the point to every video game ever.
I opted for the first in the Left 4 Dead series, as that was the only used zombie game at my local GameStop, and my only purpose in gaming is to kill zombies. I can't compare Left 4 Dead to those that followed or any other shoot-'em-up game like Halo or Tour of Duty or whatever, but I do know that I like killing zombies. The Left 4 Dead zombies are weird, though. One dude pukes on you, another boa-constricts you with his super tongue, and most are 28 Days Later fast. But none of them bite you. They just want to beat you up. They literally punch you. Especially the mutated one that looks like the Hulk. I guess that makes sense because you can get punched a lot, but bitten only once, so ...
Yes, he vomits on you. Congrats, Xbox, for finding a way to make zombies grosser.
Zombies typically scare me -- not because they're so strong, but because they still have some humanity, and in most movies you have to get really close to them to destroy the brain. It's sad. Taps into a fear of only making something suffer more by attempting to put it out of its misery. Anyway, I don't have that problem with Left 4 Dead because you're usually machine gunning at long range. It does, however, tap into another fear -- not knowing whether to look in front of you or behind you in the dark. That's what makes those real walk-through haunted houses scary. It's a heightened sensory feeling with an adrenaline rush.
Oh, by the way, I played for a week before knowing how to use the D-pad, or what I like to call the plus button in a circle. Now I can say that one of the greatest moments in my life is setting the Hulk zombie on fire with a Molotov cocktail, bringing it to its knees, and machine gunning its flaming head at close range. THANKS, LEFT 4 DEAD!
I wanted to get a good video of this but I couldn't find it, because apparently I'm more awesome than everyone.
The game, no joke, gave me low-level post-traumatic stress disorder and nightmares. When I drive down dark streets in my zombie slayer (minivan), I instantly seek out dark corners, looking for surprise zombie attacks. THANKS, LEFT 4 DEAD!
A new season of HATE BY NUMBERS is almost here. Also, be sure to follow Gladstone on Twitter and stay up-to-date on the latest regarding Notes from the Internet Apocalypse. And then there's his website and Tumblr, too.