Sucking is Greater Than Not Sucking

When I started this blog I did it because I wanted an excuse to replay the games I grew up with.  Not that I needed an excuse, but it’s nice to have one anyway.  For the past few months, I’ve been looking through my collection and grabbing games that I either loved as a kid or I never beat as a kid.  So far, it’s been a lot of fun, but I’ve been noticing something about the games I’ve been replaying: I’m killing them.  Really.  I’m popping in these old games that used to hand my ass to me, and I’m destroying them.  It feels vindicating, but it doesn’t at all feel like what I remember beating games to feel like.

Above: Interpretation of that feeling.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m really good at video games; I always have been.  But I remember playing games as a kid and getting completely crushed, especially by games on the NES.  I remember struggling with games on the SNES and Genesis, too, but I actually beat a majority of the 16-bit games I played, mostly through sheer tenacity.  I remember stubbornly trudging through games until I finally beat them, and it was one of the greatest feelings in the world whenever I did, watching all that hard work and dedication coming to fruition before my very eyes in the form of rolling credits.  It may not sound like much, but it meant a hell of a lot back then.

Great job, Faw!

Fast forward to today, and here I am playing games, both retro and modern, and I’m cranking them out like it’s just what I do, like I’m going through the motions.  Beating a game is just what happens at the end of it.  I don’t think I’ve beaten a game recently and felt that “magic” I used to feel when I was younger.  It may just be because I’m older and my imagination and attention aren’t as attached to games’ plots as they used to be.  Regardless of the reason, I miss that magic.  I miss wanting, needing to stay up late to beat a game.  I miss that feeling of finally defeating a difficult boss and jumping up and down, furiously punching the air with victory air punches.  I miss faking being sick so I could stay home from school in order to devote the entire day to a game because it had to be returned to the video store tomorrow.  Most of all, I miss the struggle of beating a game.

I’ve never been happier!

It may sound like I’m bitching about being good at video games, and I kind of am.  I wish I sucked at games as much as I did when I was a kid because it’d make beating games and difficult bosses that much sweeter. One of the fondest video game memories I have is beating the Fire Fiend Rubicante in Final Fantasy II.  It was like 2 in the morning, and I was maybe 9 years old.  A friend and I rented FFII on the SNES with the hopes of beating it that weekend, which was the ambitious goal we had had for the past 10 weekends.  I brought the game home that night and set my SNES up on my grandma’s huge 40″ TV.  By 1am, Rubicante had kicked my ass like a dozen times.  But I couldn’t get mad at the bastard because he always healed my guys before the fight.  He kept beating me fair and square.

A true gentleman gracefully flaunts his leg before flashing his wang.

I’d prepare for the fight, go at him full force, and get smacked down like the candy ass I was.  I eventually decided to go and grind, something I had never done in my life until that point.  After gaining a few levels, I readied my troops and went back at him.  It wasn’t pretty.  I was still struggling to take him down, but I was surviving.  He didn’t have me against the ropes so easily this time.  We fought and fought and fought, healing and defending and attacking and watching out for his stupid cape that drained Ice magic.  We fought an epic battle until, miraculously, he started fading away and that ever-so-beautiful and familiar victory music filled my grandmother’s den.  I immediately went apeshit, yelling and jumping and air punching like a mad man.  I had never been happier in my life.

This is alright, but slaying a Fire Demon would make it better.

God!  To struggle again to beat games would be divine!  I will probably never come across a video game that will have me celebrating like that ever again!  That feeling of accomplishment over something so trivial may look and sound ridiculous, but, to me, it’s endearing.  I may be lamenting the days when gaming was fresh and I wasn’t very good at them, but it was me sucking that made me the awesome gamer I am today, and, by extension, perhaps this kind of mastery-oriented behavior I showed for video games helped in other aspects of my life.  Who knows.  As the great and infallible Oprah Winfrey once said:  “Where there is no struggle, there is no strength.”  Or, to put it in another way, one of my grad school professors told me this about struggling:

“Italy was a country constantly at war, struggling to survive.  They’ve brought to the world some of our most revered art, best inventors, and greatest foods.  Switzerland is known for its neutrality.  They’ve given the world the cuckoo clock.”

I may never be able to relive those days when beating a game meant something special to me, but that’s okay.  It’s a part of growing up, I suppose.  At least I still have the great memories of all the epic struggles I digitally had against demons and dragons and whoever the asshole was that picked Oddjob, even though he was clearly banned by the self-imposed rules we had all agreed to during Algebra earlier that day!

You son of a bitch!

Of course, I’m going to continue playing video games.  I just wish they were as awesome to me as they were when I was a kid.  And, though I know it’s vain, the goal of this blog is to try and recapture those feelings.  Here’s to all those who endure Sisyphean efforts!  Thanks for your Playing!

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