As I’ve grown older I’ve noticed an odd phenomenon occurring as I’ve been playing games.
You see when I was a younger lad I would game like a fanatic. I would pound my head for hours at a challenge until I bested it. I would study religiously, the secrets of a title and ponder the precise button movements required to see me to victory. I’d waste hours and hours researching a game and enemy boss strategies and this was before youtube where I was the victim of Geocities pages and their poor grammar. Then, when I had all my printouts and game books lined up, reviewed all my hints and tactics, I would sum up my courage and fail miserably.
Like badly, so badly. I’d get my ass kicked so bad I wouldn’t just run out of lives, I’d run out of continues. You remember continues don’t you? Those things they had to give you back in the day so that you wouldn’t feel so bad about sucking after losing all of your lives?
Let me put it this way, it took me weeks to beat the final boss in Kirby’s Adventure.
Then around high school I stopped gaming for a time until I reached university and started playing with friends. By then gaming had reached the PS2 era and fighting games had reached a renaissance.
They also reached a dip with Smash Bros. Melee but that’s another thing entirely.
During that time I found myself playing with the finest gamers in the university and quickly found myself beaten and broken at every turn. Then I started learning from the players who were besting me. Soon enough I had improved drastically.
As I hung out with my fellow gamers an interesting reoccurring argument began circulating among our ranks. We all felt that modern games did not present much of a challenge as did the games of our youth which reamed us out over the rocks like a golem with a BDSM fetish. For the longest time I maintained this position holding to the theory that modern game developers didn’t want their audiences continually getting frustrated with rising prices in games and a greater online community. That was until just a few short nights ago when I was playing Mega Man X2.
In my youth I was an avid Mega Man X player to the point where I knew the game intimately (well, not intimately) and could easily speed through the game until the final stages. Then I tried playing Mega Man X2 and was sorely trounced for years and years until I started playing the game recently. Suddenly and with minimal guidance I was traipsing through the game acquiring every armour upgrade, heart capsule, sub tank, enemy weapon without much pause. In fact, I’d go through entire stage runs nary losing a life. I found myself recalling a time in my youth when this game easily bested me and broke me at every turn as it became an upward struggle to simply survive to the end of a stage!
And yet, I was winning! Not only winning but excelling! Easily traversing the stages as I rocketed through the air, easily blasting enemies, it almost hit the level of poetry in motion. I even managed to get the Shoryuken in one run and that was an item I always believed was well beyond my ability to ever acquire, held only for the gods of video games!
It was then that I realized that video games might not actually be getting easier for me. I was actually just getting a bit better as the years pressed on. The more I gamed, the more I learned and practiced and played then the better I got.
I’d come to appreciate the strength that comes with time and discipline over raw genius and talent. I had learned to adapt to all enemies and read their actions.
I’m playing Mega Man X3 now, considered one of the most challenging games in the Mega Man X line and I’m actually doing well. Dying a fair bit when taking the bosses out of order but I’m still capable, I still win in the end.
I’m tempted to abuse the old adage “Whatever doesn’t kill you…” etc. But considering that death itself does not impede the growth of a true gamer then I find myself coming up with a new adage.
“Victory is inevitable to those who keep playing.”
And so too does this work exist.