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So My Wife Wants to Play Fallout 3...

Hello. My name is Eric, and I am a video game addict. It has been twelve hours since I last indulged.

Fallout 3
Is this what my wife's future looks like?
I am lucky that my wife, Amelia, has never judged me for this. She allows me to maintain my habit with few restrictions--as long as I am able to function in my day-to-day life--even though it is well within her right to nag me about how it bleeds time away from more important things like writing, housecleaning, and bathing. Sometimes, she even watches me play and tells me which games she likes watching and which ones she does not. Little did I realize that she was thinking about playing these games herself, that this addiction can be contageous. A few weeks ago, she told me she wants to learn how to play the Xbox 360 so that she can play Fallout 3, and she wants me to find a few simpler games she can play that will train her for it.

It was then that I knew: my curse has been passed on to the woman I love. It started out gradually enough, building on habits she had already formed, like playing Solitaire, Soduko, and Nonograms on the computer. Then, one year, she asked for a Nintendo DS for her birthday, and I, the dutiful husband, obliged. On that, she plays various puzzle games that are only slightly more advanced than the games she plays on the computer. But it grew beyond that, too, as one day she picked up my Wiimote to play Elebits, de Blob, and Wii Sports Resort on the Wii, allowing her to cross that line into console gaming (albeit on a casual level).

Still, I thought this was harmless. Sure, she can spend a few hours playing puzzle games on her DS (or my iPhone), but that's nothing compared to the urge to play Bioshock 2 until three in the morning, the expensive desire to buy every DLC pack for Mass Effect 2 so that I can get every possible achievement point, or the need to live stream E3 in order to melt with anticipation over footage from Halo: Reach and Dead Space 2. Could she be on the path towards this kind of madness? Probably not, but still, how can I justify giving her a taste of hardcore gaming, knowing that it could be the gateway to something far more extreme, possibly even leading to the most terminal of cancers, MMO? More importantly, what will I do if she starts cutting into my time with the Xbox?

Though it is potentially dangerous to give her that first, free sample, it is probably more dangerous to say no. After all, she is my wife. So, with that in mind, here is a lesson plan containing a handful of games I own that can teach her how to play a hardcore game like Fallout 3. While I am a fan of immersion (just jumping in feet-first), I will let my wife get into this pool gradually, dipping her toes in before stepping up to her knees, waist, chest, etc.

[Please note that this lesson plan does not incorporate a lesson on online gaming, which is arguably an important lesson for any budding hardcore gamer. If you wish to take a newbie gamer and use this lesson plan, add a lesson at the end whereby you paste a "KICK ME" sign on your gamer, bound and gag them tightly, and then throw them in a room full of sugared-up eight-year-old delinquent boys for thirty minutes. That should teach the gamer all he or she needs to know about online gaming.]


Hexic HD Screenshot
LESSON #1:
HEXIC HD

Hexic HD is a relatively simple puzzle game, similar to obligatory phone games like Bejeweled and Falling Gems. Amelia should start her Xbox 360 experience with this because it uses few buttons and is extremely intuitive. Besides, it's similar enough to games she's played before that she will already understand how to play it. All this lesson is designed to teach her is a familiarity with the Xbox controller and interface. She can pass this lesson once she's played the game for over 90 minutes.


Fable II Pub Games Screenshot
LESSON #2:
FABLE II PUB GAMES

While arguably an even simpler game than Hexic HD, Fable II Pub Games can teach Amelia a valuable lesson: hardcore video games don't always like you. Fable II Pub Games is a collection of three mini-games that are each built on simple gambling. There's "Spinnerbox," which is essentially just a slot machine simulator; there's "Fortune's Tower," which is a solitaire-esque card game; and there's "Keystone," easily the best of the three, which is an interesting cross between Roulette and Craps. All three of these games are built with realistic odds, meaning that the house always wins and you will usually wind up with mountains of debt (thankfully, the game does not use real money). In other words, the only way to "beat" this game is through luck and attrition. I should force Amelia to play this game until she wants to throw the controller but continues playing nontheless (or until she collects all the prizes, if that's even possible), because it is important for any hardcore gamer to learn how to control their anger.


Braid Screenshot
LESSON #3:
BRAID

When not being touted by fanboys as one of the greatest games ever created or evidence that Roger Ebert is a total fuckwad idiot loser when it comes to understanding video games (which he is), Braid is a valuable tool for teaching lateral thinking. It presents itself and plays like a basic platformer, like old-school Super Mario Bros., but it quickly becomes apparent that the rules of this game universe are extremely off-kilter. In some levels, moving left reverses time while moving right moves it forward, and in other levels, you can reverse time with a push of a button and create a clone of yourself. One must master these strange gameplay anomalies in order to reach the end of each level and collect puzzle pieces scattered about in seemingly impossible-to-reach locations. While this game can get pretty difficult for a casual gamer, Amelia should have learned from the last lesson how to center herself against out-of-control frustration. Meanwhile, this lesson will teach her how to think around a problem, and could give her skills that extend beyond gaming. She doesn't have to beat this game to move on, so I'll say she has passed the lesson when she beats the third world.


Lego Star Wars Screenshot
LESSON #4:
LEGO STAR WARS: THE COMPLETE SAGA

After the previous two lessons, it is important to show Amelia that hardcore games can still be fun. Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga is considered a casual game--mostly because of its cutesy presentation and the fact that you can't really lose the game--but it does contain several important conventions of more hardcore games, such as a 3-D environment, unlockables, and shooter mechanics. This lesson should be a breeze for Amelia, but it is still an incredibly important step in her development. Surprisingly, Lego Star Wars contains RPG mechanics, where you can buy upgrades, collectables, and new characters using studs that you collect in every level. In addition, different characters have different skills, so you have to pick and choose the right character for the right job, which sometimes requires a careful examination of the environment. Don't underestimate this game, because beneath the veneer of a fun casual game lies a toolkit for more hardcore gaming. Besides, I could pick up a second controller and teach her some valuable lessons about the harshness of multiplayer (and could, in the process, get the last two achievements I need). The passing condition for this lesson is that she makes it through two of the six movies and collects at least twelve gold bricks.


Portal Screenshot
LESSON #5:
PORTAL: STILL ALIVE

The fifth and final lesson is the closest you can get to playing a shooter like Fallout 3 without actually playing one. Portal: Still Alive incorporates several of the previous lessons, including the mercilessness of Fable II Pub Games and the lateral thinking of Braid. It is also the first game on this list to be a first-person shooter, which is what nearly all hardcore games are these days. However, Portal is not the type of shooter where you play a space marine shooting aliens all day. It is, instead, a puzzle game where your gun is actually a tool. For those who don't know, the game involves you taking part in a series of challenges using an experimental gun that creates portals, doorways you can walk through that lead from one wall to another. The game starts out simple, getting more and more complex and difficult as it goes, eventually forcing you to face deadly drops, hostile turrets, fire, and even an end boss. You can't get very far without some sophisticated three-dimensional thinking, quick reflexes, and the ability to aim. The game is also relatively short (depending on how quickly you learn these skills), so this final lesson can be treated like a final test; Amelia can play Fallout 3 only when she is able to beat Portal.



For better or for worse, if Amelia can pass the above five lessons, she can be certified as a new hardcore gamer. There is no guarantee that getting through this lesson plan will lead to my wife selling her body on the street to afford Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, but I remain cautious. If she starts asking about E3, spending over an hour looking up information on Portal 2, and starts fiendishly adding Xbox 360 games to her Amazon wish list, I may have to consider putting her in detox. This house simply isn't big enough for two addicts, and I certainly have no intention of getting clean.



-e. magill 6/15/2010








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Copyright 2010 e. magill. All rights reserved.