Archive for the ‘Happiness is: A Mashed Button’ Category

“Happiness is: A Mashed Button”

I’ve often considered myself a “closet gamer with the neurotic ‘gift’ of having to be better than anyone else in the room, or not picking up a controller in the first place”.  When it comes to playing video games, I tend to stick with the classics; a blueprint to the game I play and the way I set out to play it.  The general ingredients which make up most of my game-buying & subsequent game-playing decisions are:

  • 1 part Legend of Zelda
  • 1 part Mario
  • 1 part Final Fantasy.

Not that my formula really needs a fourth part, but if there was a gun pointed at my face demanding that I pick a fourth, then I’d kindly say, “The game just has to kick ass, so get that gun out of my face.”  There are also several neurotic rules which hide out in the shadowy, spider-webbery category of the ambiguous ‘sub-conscious’ which I secretly adhere to.  They are dynamic guidelines set in place to ensure that:

a)      The game will contain a gripping storyline, majestic artwork, and action that’ll engage the people I’m forcing to sit on the couch and watch me while I play each level out until 3am.

b)      The game must be of epic length.  This ensures that I’ll essentially lock down ownership of the TV for the next 6 months to a year as I try to beat it without the use of Google.

  1. When immense frustration caused by not being able to find a particular treasure, beat a boss, or know where the hell to go next, and Google must be used, I also Google all of the side quests and mini-games while I’m Googling things anyway.  This is guaranteed to add an additional 2 months to the egg timer.  If all of that fails, then I Google porn and call it a night.

c)      Most Important Rule:  No one is supposed to beat MY game before I do.  No one.

This is a great time to emphasize the Buddhist theory of, “Question everything” (or was that Timothy Leary…?)

On my 37th birthday, last May, my darling wife purchased the gift of gifts for a nerdy role playing video game aficionado: Final Fantasy VIII.  I’m quite sure the shrill of my excitement was on par with a female 13 year old Miley Cyrus fanatic backstage at a Hannah Montana concert after just being handed an autographed guitar.  I popped the game in the Playstation3 and played religiously each evening for two months before the momentum fizzled out.  At that point I got to a tough spot in the game, summer happened and lawns needed to be mowed, BBQ’s needed BBQ’ing, kids needed tending, and Final Fantasy thus found itself in the dusty bottom drawer of our movie collection.

Lost, only to be resurrected in the fall after weeks of casual reminders from Sarah:

  • “You still haven’t finished Final Fantasy yet.”
  • “Are you ever going to play Final Fantasy again?”
  • “Dude, I like watching you play Final Fantasy.  Play it”
  • “Do I need to put it in the PS3 myself and glue a controller to your hand??  Play it!”
  • “If you don’t play Final Fantasy right now, I’m divorcing you.”

“Fine, sheesh, I’ll play it.  You don’t have to resort to assaulting with a deadly glue gun.  Put down those court papers and pop some damn corn.  It’s time for a Final Fantasy marathon, people.”

Three months, and about 8,000 gaming hours, swooshed by.  The storyline whisked us (kids and all) into an insatiable curiosity.  The end was nigh.  I was pacing myself because, in a weird way, I’d gotten attached to the characters (no, not just the slutty-looking redhead) and didn’t want things to end quite yet.  There were mini-games to win, treasures to find, and weapons to beef up in order to make certain I’d have no trouble slaying the final boss.

With the largest chunk of the game finished and secured behind me, I found no reason to object to Sarah’s request to start her own campaign and kill some time during her afternoons off while kids were at school and no other adults (not even slutty redheads) were there to talk to.  Her questions such as, “What does the X-button do again?  How do I shift those Paradigm thingy’s?  Why do these Japanese cartoon characters always make noises like they just finished the best orgasm of their lives?” provided me with the confidence to shrug off any dreams she might have for beating me at my own game.  Besides, she had heard my whining enough to know the Most Important Rule… (see above).

Confucius say: He who masters the technique of “Up, Down, Up, Up, Back, Right, Up, Up, Back, Kick, Punch, Right, Right, Left…” will inevitably be beat down severely by someone who mashes all buttons at once.

Enter:  Crouching Tiger, Hidden Sarah.

The disease of video game obsession quickly ransacked Sarah’s poor, unsuspecting mind.

  • Hey, babe.  What’d you do today?   “Played Final Fantasy”
  • So, babe, what’s for dinner tonight?  “Final Fantasy”
  • Yo, babe, how’s about we have a little fun tonight?  Wine, candles, soft music, a feather, and s… “Nah, I’m going to play Final Fantasy.”

Within a month she’d almost caught up to the point I had previously stopped playing in order to let her play.  Her right thumb had evolved into an X-BUTTON mashing machine; red, swollen, pulsating as the muscles contracted and expanded.  We’d already burned through 7 controllers and this new one was beginning to smoke.  Now, if this isn’t a trick pulled from the tool bag of a conman then please explain to me what this means.  Could it be that this miracle achievement was a bi-product of her MUST…MASH…BUTTON! game-play-style?  Or was my mind refusing to admit that a ‘girl’ just might be better…. than……   oh, I just can’t bear to say it.  However, the nerdiness of my lady playing this nerdy game while rocketing at breakneck speed to the point I’d taken my sweet time to get to, was exceptionally, and perversely, arousing…

But still, quite upsetting…

Then, the night of inevitable nights came forth; the prophecy sang true; the non-kosher salt poured into the gaping wound of my irrational ego; the grapefruit juice gushed in my eye; the stark, jaw-dropping reality that girls can kick ass at games too.

I walked merrily through the door to my house after spending a ritual bi-weekly bro-mantic evening at Kyle’s place, to find my sweet, darling, innocent wife, coddling the sweaty buttons of the PS3 controller that had just led her to the ending scene of Final Fantasy after beating the last boss.

And, as fast as you can say, “MASH THAT BUTTON, BABY!” her thumbtip pounced on the pause button as she simultaneously spun around to witness to  my eyes popping from my skull and my chin slapping the linoleum.

“Um…… you probably don’t want to see this yet.  Sorry, I wasn’t expecting to beat it.  It just…happened.”

“Bu…uh….you… it was…my… how could…??”

“I’m really sorry, hunny.  I didn’t mean to!  I didn’t know I was at the end!

“How could you do this to me?!  I thought I could trust you!!  I don’t think I can look at you right now.  You’ve broken my heart into teeny shards of irrelevant despair.  I’m going to need counseling now.”

“Wow.  Really?  It’s like that?”

“Yeah.  Now, if you’d please excuse me, I’m going to go lie in the bathtub and make a career change.”

“What career change?”

“Professional Cutter” I said.  “Have a nice night!  Hope it was worth it!!”  I stomped upstairs and cried myself to sleep..

“Whatever, dude” She replied.  “Go screw yourself.”

It took about three days before the tears stopped carving lines in my cheeks.  It took that many days before her and I spoke about anything non-kid related.  Replies were kept shorter than a suicide bombers retirement plan.  She’d exhausted her apologies and had thus moved onto threats of bodily harm if I didn’t quickly grow back my pair of “family jewels” and accept the fact that I just got beat at my own game… with my birthday present… by a button mashing girl.  Good gravy, what was coming over me?

A short time went by and it felt as though my wounds had healed.  I was eating again.  The doctors were kind and sent me home with some anger management VHS tapes, a small chunk of foam from the padded cell for a souvenir, and a coupon for Sizzler.  I’d be able to get through this tough time of nursing my ego back to health, but my support system (Aka: wife) was tainted.   Sarah had already sworn to never, ever, ever, ever play another game at the same time as me playing said game for fear of my “childish and completely irrationally ridiculously stupid” response to the ordeal.

So, as a gesture of good faith, I agreed to sit down with her a few afternoons ago in order to beat the game myself as she watched (per her request).  As perverse as the prospect of this sounded, the sad truth was that, no matter what I did with the game at this point, I’d only be 2nd best.  The idea tasted like grandma’s leftover meatloaf.  However, after a few passive-aggressive threats of genital harm, I finally succumbed to battle the end boss that she’d (so kindly) cued up for me ahead of time.

I sat on the couch in a brood, mashing buttons with a smug confidence that reeked of hairy chests, gold necklaces, cheap cigars, and brandy glasses.  I ignored her helpful tips and subtle nudges to inform me that ‘how I was playing wasn’t the way to win’.  This infuriated me more.  Of course I’m going to win. And, I’m going to win it my way… SO NEENER!

Halfway into the battle, I met my doom and was smitten by the ending bad guy.

“You can do it.  Try it again.”  She was peddling video game heroin.

At that point, I did what any self-respecting, mature, voyeuristic adult would do:  Tossed the controller to Sarah and told her to beat it while I watched.  And, like the professional game hustler she is, she beat it as if she wrote the Book of Beatin’s.  She tossed the controller back moments later and informed me with an expressionless look of a dangerous killer, “You’d better fight the VERY LAST (and extremely easy) guy… or else I’ll be most unpleasant to be around”.

So, I did.  And, I can truthfully say, Final Fantasy VIII is a superb game which teaches many valuable lessons.  Most of these lessons revolve around

  • why Japanese cartoons insist on integrating sex noises into every facet of physical activity (cue teenage boy with no friends)
  • ‘I wish I would’ve gone into the rewarding career of computer graphics’
  • and, above all: Manga.

Ok, so there’s a little humility sprinkled in there, too.  Never second guess or underestimate the power of a mutated button masher.