The Day I Learned to Game
At the end of January, our glorious leader, author Emmie Mears announced that Searching for SuperWomen’s February theme would be gaming.
Because, gentle reader, I am ashamed to confess that I have never played a video game. Damn, they’re probably not even called video games any more. Not since the heady days of playing Harrier Attack and Animal, Vegetable, Mineral on my Dad’s Amstrad (the kind with the green monitor screen, on which games loaded noisily from a tape cassette) have I gamed.
Mario brothers? Nah. Sonic the Hedgehog? Passed me by. Even Pac-Man didn’t get a look in. I was too lofty for these things, my friend. So as the rest of the world progressed on the likes of Grand Theft Auto and Assassin’s Creed, I stayed in my ivory tower with my fingers in my ears.
Until now. Because this week, I sat down for a gaming tutorial with my very patient 15 year old nephew and my 6 year old daughter, Morg. We’ve dressed the part. I’ve even got a hoodie. It’s an induction for us both and I suspect, worryingly, she’ll be better at it than me.
In deference to my daughter’s youth, my nephew starts us on Scribblenauts. It’s aimed at fairly young kids, and it’s like a puzzle. You’re set a mission – let’s say a farmer needs help to make his pig into a prize porker. Your job is to grow, clean and fly the pig there. Me, I was pretty A-B about it. Pig needs cleaned, get a cloth.
“No, no,” my nephew says. “You can write anything.”
I considered that. “So what would happen if I wrote ‘giant purple vacuum cleaner.”
“You’d get a giant purple vacuum cleaner and you could vacuum the pig.”
“Cool!” I said, considering the possibility. Until Morg stomped on my dreams. “You can’t vacuum a pig. It would die and that would be bad.” I’m not convinced of this, but I’m willing to let it slide. Besides which, we’ve moved from cleaning to flying.
Now we’re motoring. What would help the pig fly? A jet pack? Wings? My daughter plumps for a hot air balloon. Once again my nephew tries to get us to think outside the box. “You could make it a colour – or anything. How about a zombie air balloon? I once created a whole epidemic with a zombie air balloon,” he says, dreamily. “That was fun.” I look at him with new respect.
“An ENORMOUS hot air balloon,” my daughter says firmly, quashing my dreams of zombies raining fire. Sadly, the programme rejects our hot air balloon and we’re forced to opt for giant purple wings instead. Our Pegasus Pig wins the prize and the level is over. Success.
Moderately fun. Then Adam takes over the controls. “Let’s get some transport,” he says, and types in ‘small ridable tame cthulhu’. As IF, I think. As IF it’ll have cthulhu when it rejected air balloons.
I’m wrong. As if by magic a small ridable cthulhu appears and we hop on.
Suddenly, we begin to see the potential.
“A flying horse,” I suggest. “Pegasus.” “A Pegacorn!” My My Little Pony loving child chips in. Adam has already summoned up flying horse, so he suggests summoning a horn separately and then summons sticky tape to attach it to our horse.
It’ll never work, I think.
This is imagination unlimited. Suddenly, I’m excited.
Our next mission is to entertain a boy. I summon a zombie clown. Unfortunately, it turns rogue and starts to infect everyone and to eat the boy it should be entertaining. “Quick! Summon a Warrior Princess!” I shout. So we do. Unfortunately, we forgot to make her brave and she runs away. Then she gets infected by the zombie and starts killing everyone.
So we jump on the Pegasus with its sellotaped on horn and fly away.
By this point, Morg and I are so engrossed we don’t notice Adam slip away. Until we get to a level which involves walking in and out of doors and going upstairs. Not having been trained in the basics of controlling an avatar, I fail at this simplest of tasks. “AAAAADDDAAAAM,” we wail. “We’re stuck in the fire station!” So he comes and rescues us, and helps us stave off a zombie invasion by building a mech.
I didn’t know what a mech was (science fiction #FAIL). There is SO MUCH I DON’T KNOW.
I feel like I’ve missed out on so many things. Basic motor skills being one such thing (my ineptitude at avatar-control was staggering).
I used to be a bit dismissive of gaming, but I suspect in actual fact it was self defence. Being the type of person who can sit and read a whole series of books back to back, slowly getting more dehydrated and hungry, until I suddenly sit up wild eyed and realise a day has passed, immersion in a world of the imagination is a dangerous drug.
I’m astonished that something so retro looking (think Wreck It Ralph retro) and simple can be so engrossing, and I’m thrilled at what a trip of the imagination it can be. It trains you to think outside the box. The only limits in this pixelated world are the ones you set with your own pedestrian thinking.
In that way it’s like writing a novel. It’s not about A-B. It’s not about picking a cloth to clean a pig. It’s about asking yourself “What if?” and finding just how exciting and unexpected a world you can create.
Yes, this week I became Megatrix Northborn, Dark Elf, Mage and Thief. But that’s a story for another day….
Meg AKA The Dark Elf