rambling

Initial Discomfort in Gaming: Searching for That Sweet Spot

Have you ever been reluctant to play a video game for any reason? Sometimes you convince yourself a game may be too stressful, or not to your liking, or not worth your time. Yet the desire to give it a chance plinks away at your resistance’s health meter until BAM, you can’t hold back anymore: the controller is in your hand and your eyes are filling with sweet new pixels.

I know the feeling of such reluctance. I’ve been resistant to certain games. Here’s an example: a few years ago, right around this time of year, I downloaded Fallout. Okay, full disclosure: my awesome girlfriend bought me Fallout. It was on sale for five bucks and I was at a low point in my life; I think she sensed this and did what she could to keep me happy. Anyway, don’t get me wrong: Fallout is a well-crafted and highly praised game. Here’s my confession: I’d never played a hardcore crpg (computer role-playing game) before. I’d played Fallout 3 on my Xbox 360 (hell, it was pretty much my sole reason for getting my own Xbox 360. That and Oblivion – damn you, Bethesda!) but according to my internet research, Fallout 3 created a rift in the Fallout fan community, mostly due to it being not in the exact same vein as the original game (I’m paraphrasing here).

Anyway, to cut back on a lot of hemming and hawing, most gamers throwing their opinions into the interwebz agree that the first two Fallout games made by Black Isle Studios are among the best PC games out there, and despite my lack of experience with computer games, I really wanted to see what awesome origins gave rise to Fallout 3. That’s how I tend to progress in my gaming life: I play a game that is usually around the middle or the end of a series and I become interested enough to look into that series’ origins. This is what I did with Fallout.

And lemme tell ya, it was damn weird at first. I recall some of my first thoughts being “Whaddaya mean I can’t move with the arrow keys? How the hell do I shoot that critter? How do people play without a controller?” Oh my, I had a lot of gripes aimed at the game – the learning curve was steep for me and my resistance to trying a new thing was only making things worse.

Then, while my girlfriend and I house-sat at her sister’s place, a big ol’ snowstorm blanketed the neighborhood with pristine flakes of snow. The house we were watching/enjoying was nestled in a cookie-cutter neighborhood near the foot of some mountains, and while the snow wasn’t too crazy it was enough to trap my girlfriend’s car in the driveway. We spent an hour or two digging a path down to the street; once we were done, it was late and my girlfriend wanted to sleep.

I don’t go to bed at “normal” hours, though – I game. So I jumped back on the Fallout wagon to see if I’d stay in it willingly, and oh man, that’s when I found the sweet spot.

While my girlfriend slept peacefully, I became absorbed in a world that is far different from my own. Radioactive winds cut across blasted deserts to bring death and mutation in their wake. Bloodthirsty raiders bartered in bullets and bad words. Most folks struggled mightily just to find a decent snack, let alone a full meal.

I trudged through that apathetic desert and I loved it.

I took on every quest I could, I searched every container, I tried to pick every virtual lock and pickpocket every virtual person, I lived and died and reloaded my save file again and again in a sand-eaten wasteland of gray morality and blood-red arguments. I wanted to keep on exploring that wasteland, even when three A.M. grinned from darkened hallways and my hands ached from hours-long dances across my keyboard. I’d found the gaming sweet spot and let it consume me.

To those who know what it’s like to feel anxious or apprehensive about playing a particular style or genre of game: don’t let your lack of expertise prevent you from at least trying out a new thing. Sometimes, when the planets align and interstellar dust mixes with our atmosphere to tinge the sky a deep strange orange, or when radioactivity threatens to eat away the very fabric of human existence, you find that sweet spot. You don’t want to stop enjoying yourself.

Sometimes, a game is just too good not to play.

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One thought on “Initial Discomfort in Gaming: Searching for That Sweet Spot

  1. Prof.mcstevie says:

    The only anxiety of any sort I have to getting into a game is one that would require a massive investment of time to get to “the good parts”.

    Like

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