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Welcome Back to the West
By oneshotstop
Posted on 08/01/16
The only thing that stops the dust is the rain. It’s a sweet reprieve, but there is no middle ground. The land is either as dry as the Betty Ford clinic, or as wet as the ocean floor. Everything can be seen from the ridge overlooking Armadillo as John Marston gently bounces along atop...

And I Come Back to This?

Posted on Sunday, August 12 @ 07:47:28 PST by Heath_Hindman
I forget how to even do this. Um...oh yeah:
I don't always skip a month, but when I do, I miss everything.

I took about a month off to travel to America, yell at my family about all of the things they do wrong, and empty my storage by way of Goodwill, friends, the garbage can, bonfires, eBay, and the postal service. During this time, I began writing an article about Trophies and Achievements, which was timely because of how often I saw people craving a trophy patch for Metal Gear Solid 4. That patch actually getting announced was just one thing that made July the wrong month to leave the office. Welp, here's me musing old-manishly about games and "The Games".

I didn't even realize the Olympics had begun until I was in the middle of teaching a class, meaning of course the rest of that lesson became "How to Stream International TV Shows Online". Also when did the Olympics become so awesome? Somehow, flag-based competition makes the most boring crap into something ferociously exciting. I spend just over three years not being capable of caring about gymnastics, pole vaulting, or swimming, and then the Olympics roll around and somehow, magically, I want to see all of these generally boring sports.

Except Judo is teeerrrrrrible television. From what I have been able to understand, two people hesitate for about 20 minutes, they both fall down, and then the judges pick a winner. Unless, like, I guess you somehow lure the other guy do an irresistible diveroll overtop of you? Fuck, I would lose every time because I would volunteer that shit. But still, on TV, what a snoozefest. Yet I cannot turn it off. I find myself not having any idea what I'm going to watch now that they're over.

Life really dealt us a great hand putting the World Cup and Summer Olympics in alternating cycles, set up so that the two quadrennial competitions give us a big soccer tournament every two years. That's about good for me. By the end of either event, I've had about all I can handle and am ready to go back into my two-year soccer hibernation.

Even though ice hockey is my favorite sport, I've gotta give the nod to the Summer Olympics as being a little more fun to watch overall, when inevitably compared to the wintertime counterpart. I think it's because with these summer events, they're things a normal person can actually try to do. If I want to run, I can. Same thing with throwing a spear, diving into a pool, swimming laps, lifting weights, shooting a bow, and so on. With the Winter Olympics, I find great pleasure in watching the competition, but there's the slight disadvantage in that not only have I never done most of those sports, but I would be completely lost on how and where to begin. I'm not sure if I've ever been near a bobsled track in my life. I enjoy both sets of games, but I give the slight edge to the summer sports because I can relate to them a little more.

It's fun watching these in a completely patriarchal society, too; the kind that flew its men's soccer team to London in first class while it made the women ride coach. Yes, Japan made the defending Women's World Cup Champion soccer team (eventual Olympic silver medalists) ride coach while it flew the dudes out there in first class luxury. Hang around with enough businessmen, and soon it'll make perfect sense to you, too. This same mentality made explaining my family's recent trials to adult students very difficult, though. I'd say "So my mom is really angry at my dad staying out late all the time and not coming home some nights". So many of the dudes in suits look befuddled as if to say, "Yeah, um, I'm waiting to hear the problem. You... you said there was a problem somewhere". I couldn't get any empathy.

All this fun and yet, I've never enjoyed an Olympic video game. They just haven't done it for me. I remember liking that one about the Winter Games in '94 for SNES, but only in short bursts, and um, I was like 12 so my opinions from that time are irrelevant, as are the opinions of most people under 25.

When I wasn't playing family psychiatrist or unloading piles of Godknowswhat, I spent a lot of my time off in the woods, sitting around in the middle of nature connecting with spirits and shit. I didn't realize until after, but during my whole, like, five weeks that I was away from this column, I didn't play any video games. On the plane ride to Murica, I did some minor shopping and preparation in good old Final Fantasy IV, and on the plane back, I logged a few hours of Persona 3 Portable, but in the middle? Nothing but a night of Dreamcast nostalgia (Cannon Spike, Bomberman Online) with my brother. It reinforced my thought that I can quit any time I want. I realize that alcoholics and cokeheads will tell you the same thing, but let's see them try and do the same thing without spazzing out.

Well, being more honest with myself, perhaps I should more accurately say that I can quit (or at least majorly cut down) any time I want. This inner monologue got me thinking about why I play games at all. I hate to go with a cliché, but the common answer of "to escape reality" hit pretty close. Not so much as some kind of savior that I'd ever need to depend onI think that would be an indication of addiction, which is another topic for another timebut similar to getting a massage, it helps iron out the kinks that pop up once in a while.

As a kid, I never questioned this; games were essentially scratching an itch for stimulation or providing a type of sugar rush. As an adult with someone constantly breathing down your neck and every minute being a lot more critical to life in general, one needs to be more careful with time. One is also hampered with having to meet others' expectations, meet goals, achieve certain milestones and so on; there is more of a real-life need for a sense of completion or progress. We don't need more stimulation or extra problems to solve as adults. We get plenty of that from our bosses, our clients, our kids, that guy who cut us off on the way to the store, that funny sound the air conditioner is making, the error message from the printer, the dumb shit some game journalist said, and politicians.

There are at least 99 problemsexcluding those associated with bitchesand not all of them can be adequately solved. The games are serving a need that already exists rather than creating it and then satisfying it at the same time, as I see it. A good game provides a place where shit can get done; where goals can be met (or scored, as the case may be); where impossible is made possible. I theorize that this is why notorious level grinds like Dragon Quest resonate with Asian audiences more than Western audiencesthere's a much bigger sense of accomplishment, and advancement comes very quickly by comparison. Worms, man. Cans of worms.

So I had a good little break there and am looking forward to getting back into routine of writing columns here, preferably on the weekends. Thanks for sticking with me while I uploaded what was in my head.

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