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Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Video Game Generation

I love Pac Man. 
To start off, that's a working title, I may change it, I may not.  I will keep the next sentence the same regardless, so you know what the title was if it changes, which it may not.  Today's topin is the "TVideo Game FGeneratyion." 

All you Simpsons geeks are yelling at me
because we know that the "Any Key" comment
was said at home in a mumu.
Ok, since I promised not to change it, you can now see all my typos, which of course means you know what an incompetent typer I am.  When I took typing class in grade 9 I got a 54% passing grade.  Pretty pathetic I know, but it was on a typewriter, so there has to be marks for that right?

The truth of the matter is, I'm actually a pretty good typer when I look at my fingers, hell I can type well when I don't look at my fingers also, until I think about it, and then it's typo city!  I was even a pretty good typer back in grade 9 as well just not in that class. The reason I am such an excellent typist, is all thanks to a little company called Infocom and a video game they put out called "The HitchHiker's Guide to the Galaxy".

Stunning graphics!
This little game was a frustrating adventure where you controlled the main character 'Arthur Dent' as he galavanted around the universe searching for...  Well I'm not sure really, just doing his best to survive.  It was all texted based, and you controlled everything by typing in commands for Arthur to do.  Typing and typing and typing and typing.  Typing until your fingers bled, trying to figure out why the ship wouldn't land, only to figure our that you forgot to pick up a toothbrush 16 hours prior in the game and had to start over.  I'm suprised it didn't drive me to madness.  Maybe it did. I've often wondered if those who are crazy knew it.

Anyway, you could download the solutions on how to beat the game from BBS boards, (That's what the internet was before the internet was mainstream kids), so that probably saved me.  As well you could by hint books from the software companies, which is where I'm pretty sure they made thier money. 

If quarters spontensouly flew like this, I probably wouldn't be as
good at PacMan.
The by product of all this mind numbing video game playing was that I became a reasonably good typist, and developed a geek like interest in computers which eventually fuelled my career.  On the downside I spent less time outside, never met girls, and spent a shitload of quarters.  Depspite my parents HATING that I spent all my allowance at the local seedy video arcade, and that I got a radiation tan from the TV and computer monitors, video games influenced me and many others from my generation in ways which have developed into our society.

I mentioned before about BBS's.  For all those non-retro geeks out there, BBS stands for Bulletin Board System.  Back in the 80's computer geeks connected by hooking up their computers to their modems and dialling other geeks computers over the phone line.  This wasn't like dialling into an internet provider, these were individual computers with dedicated phone lines in people houses.  (Mostly mom's basements.)  You had to know the specific numbers to call, and if someone else had logged on at that time, you would get a busy signal and have to try again later.  On the BBS you could post comments and have conversations with people you'd never meet.  You could play simple video games, MULTIPLAYER!  (Of couse one person at a time, let's not get ridiculous.)  And you could download documents and, ummm, how do I say this....  pictures.  On my 2400 baud modem it took about an hour to download a 1 meg picture.  Of course there was no thumbnails, so you'd have to dedicate some time to download your 'pictures'.  And what's more, you'd never know what you are going to get...
1 hour for bgboobblnde.gif?  WTF!!!

While the internet did exist during these days, it wasn't well known, and frankly NOT in the least bit  mainstream.  Most people wouldn't know what to do with it at all.  As soon as the internet did go mainstream however, the BBSers recognized it for what it was, and went to work making it into the social networking, communcation mecca that it is today.  And best of all!  THUMBNAILS!

Hilarity ensued...
Girls of course were not part of the video gaming culture back in the 80's.  Oh, they were there of course.  The ratio of girls to guys mind you was about 1 for every 100, and let's just say they weren't the 'choicest' of the species.  Don't get me wrong, I met some very nice and smart women via the BBS, but let's just say they weren't super models.  (And sometimes guys posing as girls, but that's a whole different blog.)  The truth is, I learned almost everything I know about meeting the fairer sex from Leisure Suit Larry. (Maybe the funniest video games of all time.)  Larry was awesome, and taught me that a little cheese can go a long way.  Also that if you can make a girl laugh with it, then she'd love to be your friend.  (And that's about it.)

By the way, if your under the age of 25 and the only time you've been exposed to Lesuire Suit Larry was those two pathetic video games Magna Cum Laude and Box Office Bust, please do yourself a favour and grab a copy of the old ones.  The genius behind the humour, Al Lowe, had nothing to do with those and it shows.  The originals were witty, smart, fun, with a sprinking of teasing smut.  The newer ones were an excuse to draw slutty women, with humour equivelent to a bad fart joke.

Even better you can order a copy of Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded by Replay Games, an HD remake of the original with Al Lowe on board.  I normally don't shill for companies, but I support what these guys are doing.  It comes out hopefully at the end of May, and looks gorgeous so far.  If only they'd make it for BlackBerry as well, then it might be perfect.

For the last time, I don't want to see your dick picture!
Today, it seems like video games have started to try and include those who don't have a Y-chromosone.  While some of these attempts are borderline offensive at trying to entice women, (Diner Dash, a game which lets you live all the glory of being a waitress), some seem to have hit the mark.  The Sims is the first example which comes to mind.  For those of you who don't know, The Sims is a game where you design your house, foster relationships with others, and do housework..  Ummm, fun?  Actually, it's not that bad.   Also games where you raise cute pets seem to be popular with the ladies.  Not to mention more gender neutral games like Farmville, Rock Band, Wii Fit, and Boobfest 9000 all prove that our society is trying to include them in our world, and hopefully maybe one day gamers might get a date.

Finally I want to touch on something that bothers me a lot.    Kids today take a lot of slack for playing video games all the time and getting obese.

Playing outside and promoting racism
The point is something along the lines of...  "Back in my day, kids went outside and ran around playing 'Cowboys and Indians' and made social connections, got exercise, and learned not to be such pussies!  Kids today sit in front of that blasted computer get fat and shoot each other while trash talking each other in a way that would make Chris Rock blush."

Here's the point...  I come from the generation who played outside.  We grabbed sticks and made pretend guns, and shot each other with our imaginations.  If you were the guy who got shot, you'd immediately come back with the poignant argument that the other guy missed, or perhaps you had a bulletproof shield.  This would lead to the argument that there were no bulletproof shields allowed, and that it was double stamped with no erasies.  And as we all know, you can't triple stamp a double stamp.  This would sometimes lead to blows and broken up friendships, but that was rare. 
I've also played Call of Duty, where I can meet my friends to play a game of shoot 'em up.  My sticks are now rocket launchers, my neighbourhood is now a graphically detailed warzone with friends from all over the world, there is now an impartial referee to call hit or miss, and the bullet proof shields can still be used, but have to be earned and deplete quickly if you suck. IT'S LIKE A MILLION TIMES BETTER THEN SHOOTING YOUR FRIEND WITH A STICK!  Can you blame kids for not wanting to go back to the old way?

On top of that with the wide spread information overload that we take on, parents are too paranoid to let their kids out of their site for even a moment.  We hear about missing kids all day on the news, and even though it's one in a million, it's all you hear about.  As a result, neighbourhoods are no longer teaming with miscreant kids just milling around like the used to be.  Even if you are enlightened to the fear mongering media and know that your kid won't die if they look at a peanut, other parents aren't, so now your kid is the only target out there.

To solution of course is to let your kids outside, but if you can't bring yourself to that, get them a treadmill, and make them run as they play video games.  I have to admit, I played a round of golf yesterday and the walking to get the ball was a heck of a lot more tiring than the simulated swing you have to do on the Wii.  (Also the walking through the woods and swamps is a good workout, which is why I hit the ball there.) The point is kids need exercise, and maybe more sun.  Video games provide good entertainment and social interaction.  (Especially now that the ratio of girls to guys is down to 1 in 75).  It also still fosters a geek interest in computers, which can lead to some pretty good job prospects if you develop it.

The video game culture is now part of our society, more than it ever was.  It's moved out of the dingy arcades to the dingy basements of mothers, true, but it's adopting more and more disciples into its folds.  The people who grew up on it, are now shaping your society, and the generation that follows will only increase that.  Mind you, they don't only have 3 lives now so they have some things to learn still about conservation, but we'll work on that too.

P.S.  I'm keeping the title.