Hi! Welcome to my very own column about video games! I hope you enjoy it. Ahem —
Admittedly, I have long been out of the video game loop, having more or less jumped ship as soon as I lost track of the number of “bits” in my games. The first system I ever owned was, of course, the old 8-bit Nintendo. Soon, I had to take that old dog out back and shoot her, ushering in the age of the 16-bit Super Nintendo puppy. Nintendo 64 (with 64 bits, true to its name) was my next and last system. I have no idea how many bits fill a Game Cube, though I assume it’s a number that would cause me to have an aneurysm if I tried to write it.
My love affair with video games ended with my childhood as the so-called “next generation” of game consoles began — and I’ve never really regretted losing track of the technology and terminology. Sega Genesis was fine for my tastes. Sega Exodus, or Sega Corinthians or whatever it is they’re on now — leaves me cold.
For one thing, these new systems — X-Box, Game Cube, Playstation 2 — have too many buttons. Video games are not — repeat NOT — fun if one is not properly inebriated. (I would argue that the entire state of childhood is essentially one prolonged state of inebriation. Your brain’s half-developed, sugar-shocked and easily amused.) When there are more buttons on a controller than fingers on your hand, this spells trouble for any garden-variety stoner. I can barely remember my parents’ birthdays, let alone which tiny, tiny button reloads, which changes views, and which switches weapons — not to mention the impossible task of juggling a cigarette, a bottle of beer, and a controller at once. Playing PS-2 high is harder than playing the French horn — and a LOT harder than playing the French horn high. Talk about cotton mouth. True story, true story.
And while I’m griping, let me air a little dirty laundry about a game called “Halo” for the X-Box system — a fine cartridge, to be sure — unless you choose the ‘multiplayer’ option and are clueless enough to be quickly dispatched by some irate alien. If you are so unfortunate, as I always am, this game actually penalizes you. It makes you wait — for what seems like a very, very long time — until it deems you fit to rejoin the action. Who told it it could do that?! I sit there on the couch, helpless, at the mercy of the machine, like I’m in my own personal Space Odyssey: “Open the pod bay doors, Hal. Hal? Let me back in. Let me back in, Hal! Jesus Christ, Hal, I paid $169.95 for this hunk of crap, let me back in the game!”
Complaints aside, it is nearly impossible to deny just how impressive the technology of some of these games has become — specifically in the field of boob-rendering. For years, video game designers have attempted to build aesthetically pleasing, if anatomically hyperbolic female characters, but have historically been held back by the inability to construct realistically voluptuous boobs. Take my favorite Nintendo game, for example: Metroid. The main character, Samus, was a woman. Yet due to the archaic bit-based boob-rendering technology that was at the time state-of-the-art, Samus was forced to shamefully shroud herself in an amorphous spacesuit for the duration of the game, rather than letting her natural beauty jiggle and bounce across the screen in her search for the mysterious metroid.
My friends, now is the future of digital boobery! Finally, we have reached an age in which America’s pubescent males can combine their two primary pastimes — video games and masturbation — in one grand enterprise. Imagine the saved couch space.
Of course, there are those who consider any step towards making video games more realistic a step in the wrong direction. “Next generation” video game systems have recently been faced with increasingly ardent opposition from “family interest” groups and “concerned parents” nationwide. It’s a silly argument, one we’ve heard before: the more realistic these games get, the more detached the players get from reality. The line twixt truth and game is blurred, and we see a generation that begins to think that it is socially acceptable to treat their friends and parents like Max Payne treats his friends and parents — namely, killing them.
But no one bitched in the 1950s when the classic board game Battleship was released and a generation of young men discovered how much fun it must have been for their fathers to blow U-Boats out of the water. Here’s a game where “men” are killed off by the boatload; aircraft carriers the size of 50-cent pieces, which in reality would hold thousands of men, are flicked off the board without any regard to the “human life” contained within.
THIS is a game that blurs the lines of reality and game. It makes killing a bloodless, insignificant act. To be sure, Electronic Battleship got significantly closer to vividly depicting the horror of a sailor’s death, but the fact that all these “concerned parents” have missed remains: a disconnect between reality and game is not the product of a game being TOO realistically violent, rather it is the product of just the opposite — a game whose violence doesn’t factor reality in at all.
When, in the course of a game of “Grand Theft Auto,” you beat up an old lady with a baseball bat, does she not bleed?
I say these next-generation games are doing a great service to our nation’s youth and our nation’s unemployed stoners — teaching them about the randomness and fragility that is life. Tomorrow, you could be tooling down the street, happy as the king of France, someone could run up to you, chop you up with his or her samurai sword and make off with your motorcycle. That’s not a game, jack. That’s life.
Gregory College is a junior in Pierson Yolen.