In Which 2f Isn’t Really That Good At Games

1 08 2008

Enter the ongoing frustration.

Since my earliest memories, I’ve been obsessed with video games. The mystique, the aesthetic, the excitement. I love playing them, I love reading about them, I love making them, I love just thinking about them. However, I’m not really that good at playing them.

I’ll give you a case study. I picked up Soul Calibur IV yesterday. Turned the difficulty to Easy for starters, read the manual, learned about guarding and Just Impact and counters and such. I actually dive in, and I’m doing okay, but I know that’s largely because the game isn’t putting up much of a fight. I make a character, I ooh and aah, I have a good time.

Then I decide to unlock the Apprentice by taking my Dark Lord of the Sith through Arcade mode and the game unrelentingly destroys me. I don’t have the reflexes to properly block; by the time I notice they’re attacking the attack has landed, as the various fashion victims with their overly complicated outfits are hardly the clean and clear sprites of my SF2 days. (Plus I can’t instinctively hold BACK to block, it’s a button now.) I can’t parry or counter to save my life. I get beat down while I’m still on the ground. And when I finally do get to the last boss by luck and constant retries, I can’t defeat him.

Now, some of this may be disability. As much as video games tout the ability to improve hand-eye coordination, there reaches a point where my hands just won’t react and move fast enough or reach far enough to manipulate controls and save my ass. But by and large, it’s just a sluggish mental response. Too much on-screen chaos, the need to react too fast, and having eighteen different game systems baked together from which you need to choose the exact one to deal with the situation within 3 frames of animation… and I’m toast. Hell, even in something turn based, if there’s too much to track at any given point I lose focus of the minutae and get whomped. It’s why I haven’t played much Smash Bros Brawl since I bought it, it’s why I can’t get past Medium on GH/RB, and most RTSes just perplex me.

This is a source of ongoing depression for me, because as mentioned, I really love the concept of video games. I don’t even mind not being that good… if I’m playing solo, or if I can get a cheat code so I can still “experience” the game. But when you enter the MODERN era of gaming, with no cheats, and with heavy emphasis on online competition, then it gets turned up a notch. I don’t like the fact that I’m competitive, but I am, and when I do my best effort and it’s not good enough, it’s frustrating.

There’s no really a “solution” here. To quote They Might Be Giants, I’m older than I’ve ever been and now I’m even older, and gamer skillz only go downhill. I focus on the things I am good at… by and large RB singing, which doesn’t require crackerjack timing, mouse+keyboard games since I can fumble those easier than I fumble a 360 controller, and of course CREATING things which I do at my own pace and can mentally work through the process in my own time. But that’s a series of niches. I hope there doesn’t come a time when I don’t fit any niche.

…this is what happens when I sit down one night and think “I’ll go review SC4 for my blog!”. *sigh*

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12 responses

1 08 2008
pogona

This is something that always put me off games when I was younger. It’s not that it takes a lot of practice to get to high levels, I can cope with having to practice. It’s the fact that, to make it challenging enough for fast reactioned obsessively dedicated teenagers, it means that many of us can’t expect to get through even half the game.
However, then came along roleplaying games; Balder’s Gate, NWN, Knights of the Old Republic, and my current obsession, and one that I think will stay so for many moons to come, Lord of the Rings Online. There are bits of the game which are sufficiently challenging to be almost impossible. However they are optional. You can avoid them without losing any enjoyment. And when you do take on the almost-impossible bosses, they are overcome with teamwork and preparation as well as luck.
As a result, I think the chances of me ever returning to a game limited by arcade style levels is very unlikely.
So, on the one hand, I feel your pain.
But then, on the other hand, it was partly you that wooed me into PC RPG’s in the first place, so at least you can take comfort in the fact that you saved one of us from that same pain.

1 08 2008
lirazel

It isn’t for sissies, is it?
I found out I was too old to play most video games way back with the original Nintendo. I mean, yes, I can play the piano very badly, and that requires coordination and dexterity, but I don’t have to play it any faster than I can play. (Bach sound pretty good when you give up trying to play at Xtreme Harpsicord speed.)
Never going to game on line, ever, ever, ever.

1 08 2008
pockyman

I know the feeling. As things have changed, my ability to play certain games has waned.
My problem with getting sick while I play FPS games, for example. :/
I sometimes joke that I will continue to add genres to my ‘sick list’, until all I can play are visual novels… and even then, text only ones. ^_^;

1 08 2008
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

And then you shall forever be known as “BAD END” instead of Pocky.

1 08 2008
lirazel

My kind of game!

1 08 2008
katthepoet

Hey, Twoflower. Strictly on the disability part, have you thought/given a try to arcade sticks? Depending on your personal factors, they might offer a firmer grip, bigger and more acesible buttons, and the like, specially if you make your own/get someone who knows about them to make you one, with customised specs to your liking.
Anyway, suggestion.

2 08 2008
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

Actually, gamepads work MUCH better for me. A stick, I’m more likely to accidentally hit a diagonal when I really wanna go right. More likely to jump when I’m trying to do a dragon punch motion. Etc.
Hands down the best gamepad I’ve ever used was for the Sega Saturn. Why? It’s all right there on the surface! Six buttons, perfect for SF2 games, along with two triggers which aren’t really triggers, they’re sorta hybrids I can reach fine. And the dpad! It was GREAT! What’s more, the whole thing pressed flat against a table. Perfect!
But nowadays, Microsoft and Sony don’t really allow much leeway for their 3rd party controllers. It’s GOTTA have everything in the same configuration as the normal controllers, which makes me wonder why anybody bothers making 3rd party controllers at all. Just to pawn off cheaper crap for cheaper prices? It feels and looks identical — just more likely to break. Joy.
Since the 360 especially uses encrypted controller standards, there’s also not likely to be a homebrew solution. Plus, many games nowadays rely on using two analog sticks PLUS two triggers simultaneously with a heaping helping with the shoulder bumpers. Triggers present serious issues, especially when I gotta be fumbling two thumbsticks around. Not happening.

2 08 2008
raigne

I doubt your disability is the only thing preventing you from playing that type of game well. Not saying it’s not a factor, only you can know that for sure, but not the only one.
I absolutely suck at arcade anything. I loath “puzzles” that are really just arcade sequences. (I finished Mass Effect with a few hundred units of gel, which I started making EVERYTHING into after failing to open an easy decryption container for the umpteenth time….) A game like soul caliber comes along and my only hope of being successful is to cheese it up big time. Find that one really good move I can pull off all the time and spam the shit out of it. Bonus if it happens to be some kind of grab and I can throw my opponent out of the ring.
I enjoy rts games but I have to play by myself. My friends have built a massive cavalry and conquered half the map while I’m struggling to fend off puny raid teams the computer is sending at me.
I am aware of how I perform in these types of games, and so once I know, i avoid them unless I’m in the mood. Tomb Raider is one that I didn’t know until after it had been bought that I couldn’t play. I know now and will avoid the franchise in the future. I also know why and look for mentions of how the camera works in reviews, since camera angles were the main cause of my anxiety.

2 08 2008
jssaxon

I have to disagree that disability plays a major part in this. In truth the video games that are simple arcade fighters have become so convoluted in their counters and general gameplay that even someone with lightning fast reflexes within the game find themselves frustrated. I have always liked the arcade fighters but there did come a point where I had to admit to myself that I didn’t feel like spending the time needed to learn all of the 1,534,794,389 exact counter responses to an attack. I liked mashing the buttons and landing a blow and laughing at the result.
It feels like now, in an effort to make the games more immersive, they are simply making the amount of responses to an attack infinite. This is why I don’t play them anymore. To play the game effectively you literally have to “train” with each character in the game and THEN go play. I want something that I can start and immediately see a challenge but not one that requires me to learn the gaming team’s entire drawing board process in order to play it.
Just my two cents.

2 08 2008
jengagne

I must agree there… sooo complex, it’s hardly worth it IMO. I can barely handle City of Heroes.
Which, I expect, is why the only arcades you see around nowadays are the ones with the pick up and play games like shooters and driving games.

3 08 2008
sscougall

I remember seeing a documentary a while back about videogames. One of the segments was talking about just how massive Starcraft is in South Korea, and followed the lives of the twentysomething rock gods that were the national champions.
Unfortunately, one of them was starting to get old, with slowing reflexes, and he could no longer play the level required. He was going to have to quit.
His age? Still twentysomething. Heck, I don’t even think he was in his upper twenties.

On fighting games, these are well into the twilight of their lifecycle. This might sound obvious, but what I mean by this is that there’s a documented lifecycle for videogame genres.
The link has been long lost to the saga of history, but the stages were roughly as follows:
1. A new idea takes the world by storm
2. Expansion and Innovation – People copy the original idea and add their own ideas.
3. Plateau/Saturation – Things are somewhat stable. No radically new ideas are being introduced. Minor new ideas and features creep in.
4. Contraction – Things are now too complex for the casual player, and old hardcore players start to lose interest and drift away. No new players means too much supply, not enough demand, and companies start to go bust. Their market share might be exactly the same, but the market overall is a whole lot smaller.
5. Fringe market catered to by very few companies who have honed their craft to a fine degree, but with so many features as standard that casual play is alienated.
Which is all really obvious, but interesting nonetheless.
Genres can be revived – that’s what SF2 did, back in the day.

4 08 2008
sscougall

Addendum
> Genres can be revived – that’s what SF2 did, back in the day.
Something else, while I’m thinking of it: While genres can be revived, they typically can’t be revived exactly as they were. After all, the genre died out in the first place for a reason.
Witness SF2, again. Head-to-head fighting games became big again, but with extremely different gameplay models, ideas, and controls. Not to mention a popularisation of special moves, the like of which had been very rarely seen up to that point. SF1, a few years previous, had them, but I don’t remember seeing movelists on SF1 machines, or used in gameplay very often.
Sadly, what this means is that if the fighting game genre does get popularised and goes through another cycle, the games will be quite different to the SF2 model. Which raises an interesting question about SF4. We’d all like it to succeed, but how well will it really do?

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