Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Resurrected Post: Video Game Lessons

It's November 7th.  Therefore, here is my entry for Mina's blogging contest.  The rules were simple: resurrect an old post that you really liked.  This is one of my earliest posts, still one of my favorites, and is an absolutely flawless example of what makes me such a raging nerd.  May it find favor with those who will decide the fate of the contest.  And stuff.

Originally published during the first month or so of the blog's existence, here is "Video Game Lessons: Five Truths and a Lie."

I have many stories I plan to tell in the course of this blog, so I wasn't sure what to pick for today's entry.  I polled my friends, tossing out a half-dozen possibilities, and the overwhelming majority of votes called for a post about things I've learned from video games, which should tell you something about the sort of people I hang out with.  To get any legalities out of the way up front, all video games and video game systems mentioned in the following narrative are the intellectual property of whoever they belong to (Nintendo, Sony, etc.) and I'm not making any copyright infringements here.  I was going to say "I don't own them," but my video game collection would tell you otherwise.

I love video games.  My first one was Pong, which I remember playing at the age of four with my grandmother.  We later graduated to an Atari 2600, then to a Nintendo Entertainment System, then a Super Nintendo.  Currently, between the two of us, my husband and I own an NES, an Atari Remix (it's a console you can plug into the television and all the games are inside it, eliminating the need for catridges), a PlayStation 2, a Wii, an old-school Game Boy, and a Nintendo DS Lite.  What constitutes a great date night for the two of us is a pizza, a 2-liter Mountain Dew, and four or five hours of Mario Party 8 or Super Smash Bros. Brawl or something along those lines.

My mother is probably rolling her eyes as she reads this, but I digress.

One thing I really like about video games is the number of things I've learned from them.  Now, granted, I've probably retained the wrong information in my lifetime; I can't remember my driver's license number (I think it's twelve) but I can tell you exactly where to find all of the treasure items from The Legend of Zelda -- that's the original one, released more than twenty years ago -- and why the Magic Book is the most useless of them all.  And while I've been known to forget the exact birthdates of many of my closest relatives, I've somehow never forgotten the famous "Konami Code," a magical sequence of buttons you could press before starting the game Contra in order to start the game with thirty lives.  My retention of this code is rendered the more implausible by the fact that I have never actually played Contra, although Wikipedia informs me that it has a few other applications these days too, including on certain websites.

Entering the Konami Code on this blog will not unlock any Easter eggs.  I'm sorry.  If I knew how to enable such a thing I would do it.

Anyway, I've learned a few life skills on account of my video game playing, so I'm going to share five of them with you at the request of my equally nerdy friends.  See whether you agree.

1)  When performing a fetch quest, maps are useful.
Fetch quests, as the name implies, are when you get sent scurrying across the landscape to fetch bottled water or a magnifying glass for the wise elder in your starting village, who will use the acquired object to power up your sword or read the mystic inscription on the tchotchke your Aunt Mabel sent you.  In the real world, these tend to be errands more along the lines of grocery shopping.  However, in both instances, it's rare to be sent on a fetch quest for just one object (especially if it's a trading sequence rather than a regular fetch quest), so consult your map.  Figure out where the best location is to get what you need.  This may require trial and error, so when you find the right spot, mark it on your map.  And in real life, when you find a gas station that charges less than $2.50 a gallon, let me know.

2)  Assemble your party with care.
The game which really taught me this one is Kingdom Hearts, where your basic party tends to consist of a kid carrying a large key, Goofy, and Donald Duck.  That's so weird that it frankly sounds like something I would encounter in real life.  But sometimes you can switch out Goofy or Donald for a guest star party member, like Tarzan or Aladdin.  The question is, which one?  You have to weigh the strengths and weaknesses of potential party members against the probable obstacles you're likely to face.  Well, that's true in the real world too.  And a universal truth, be it in a game or in the car, is that when the chips are can always count on your friends.

3)  When all else fails, try everything.
Blame Professor Layton for this being one of my rules.  I adore the top-hatted puzzle master as much as anybody, but some of those puzzles go past the point of ridiculous and crash headlong into ludicrous.  One puzzle in the first game required algebraic equation.  I have not done algebra in at least fifteen years and I would prefer to keep it that way.  Fortunately, you get an unlimited number of tries, and after three or four guesses the game stops deducting points from your score.  So narrow down the options, and then start trying everything within that parameter.  Sooner or later you'll find the solution.

Well, you can also consult a walkthrough, but so far nobody's written one of those about real life.  An instruction manual, yes, but not a walkthrough.

4)  Talk to everyone.
Okay, maybe not everyone.  But this is a big plot point in many games, including most of my favorites, so it's worth noting.  The fact is that whether you're in a game world or the real world, there are a lot of people who have knowledge to share.  Ask questions.  (Not nosy questions, mind.  Respect boundaries.  After all, even NPCs will only discuss certain subjects with you.)  It's amazing what you can learn from people.

5)  Music is magic.
That's something you learn in the course of the Legend of Zelda series.  Whether you're playing a warp whistle to take you to a hidden location or using a magic baton to conduct the wind, music has magical properties.  In the real world, music has a magic of its own too.  The right music can soothe you to sleep, give you energy when you're weak, win friends and influence people.  Well, maybe not that last one, but you never know.  Have you ever been part of a spontaneous crowd song?  It's amazing.

To conclude this list, however, I'm going to add one thing I've learned from video games that turned out to unfortunately not be true.

People do, in fact, have a problem with you walking into their houses and breaking their stuff.

Video games would have you believe that it's perfectly acceptable behavior to open someone's front door, pick up the clay pot just inside, and smash it on the floor.  Not only is this frowned upon in most societies, but it's not even a viable way to get money or items.  Most houses don't even have clay pots as part of their interior design.  Believe me when I say that this is one video game lesson which has no practical application in real life.

Don't ask how I know.  Just trust me.


  1. See? Who says RPGs aren't relevant to real life? Great resurrected post!

  2. Great post! I'm not a gamer but I enjoy watching others play, so I get to learn the same lessons without having to loose any points, or lives. ;)

  3. I have a SNES that no longer works, and it just breaks my heart that I can't play my games on it anymore ;) I even have a game or two that I've never played. Boo.

  4. "May it find favor with those who will decide the fate of the contest. And stuff." LOL! Your prayer would've been well bolstered had it been accompanied by the sacrificial offering of a virgin bottle of cabernet sauvignon. Just sayin'. ;-)

    An entertaining read, Laura - thanks for sharing those hard-learned lessons (and for participating in my blogfest!).
    Some Dark Romantic

  5. Not a gamer, but my kids love them. (Although, they're 18 and 21 now!)


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