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Monday, September 24, 2012

Legend of Dragoon - The FAQs of Life

In my last post I had lamented a conundrum that I came up against while playing Legend of Dragoon, and even as I was writing it I could hear the collective throngs of the internet (yes, I'm assuming the entire internet reads my ramblings... my analytics is just broken is all... broken from all the traffic.  Yeah, that's why it's not reflecting those numbers,) yelling at their monitors "Why don't you just use the FAQs you fucking idiot?!" (Interrobangs for the win).

Well, for starters... language... is an awesome tool and your use of an f-bomb to accentuate your frustration is fine by me.  Second, yelling at your monitor does nothing, you have to type it into an e-mail or comment for me to receive it.  Okay?  Now that that's all cleared up, I will continue my (unofficial) dissertation on the subject of FAQs and walkthroughs.

I will of course say that I have no problem with walkthroughs in general (other than the fact that most game stores won't stop trying to ram them into any orifice they see as open and then charge me for it,) and no problems with anyone who uses them.  I myself of course have referred to them now and again to gain the advantage in a losing situation, so I am in no way taking a steadfast standpoint against them.

I think where I am coming from however, is an era in which these materials were not at all readily available.  Growing up, most of what I knew about video games was either hearsay or due to one of my friends sitting me down and showing me the latest secret or code.  The internet did not exist for a long time, and once it did, there wasn't a whole lot of useful stuff on there to start with (there were a lot of gifs and MIDI sound effects... I specifically remember there being a lot of those).  So I basically had to reside to compiling useless videogame knowledge (I can still play the first few levels of Sonic from muscle memory... not bragging or anything) along with all the other supposedly useful knowledge everyone was trying to teach me at the time.

Once the internet did roll around, it really wasn't a whole lot better than listening to the insane ramblings of my friends.  I specifically remember back in high school, playing through Final Fantasy VII was a two player task, one that was taken up by myself and my friend Bill (previously mentioned as my friend now working for Nickelodeon,).  The roles of these two players basically boiled down to the one person scouring the internet and trying to cobble together a list of all the secrets and game winning strategies while simultaneously sifting through all the bogus nudity codes (oh dear lord people loved even the slightest possibility that a nudity code could exist in anything back then,) or revival techniques.  The second player was simply the one who would execute said secrets and strategies by playing the game itself... and looking back it is hard to say which role was more fun to fill.

Spending my impressionable gaming years in that manor probably preconditioned me towards playing video games a certain way, that being to do my best to suss out where I am going on my own, and then hunt down the answer once I finally admit that I am stuck.  If I'm being honest with myself, that is probably a lot like how I am whenever real life hands me a conundrum as well.  I very much so prefer to try and find the answer myself, rather than to refer elsewhere for help.  This is less a matter of thick headed machismo, than it is the fact that I love to puzzle things out.  I love to tinker and take things apart, find out how they worked, something that I know I get from my grandfather who had passed a few years back.

I remember once I was in college seeing friends of mine who would play games in an entirely different manor.  They would be sitting there, controller in hand, stealing glances between the television and their computer screen where they would read a step from the FAQ they had pulled up, and then execute it on the television.  Rinse, repeat ad nauseum (my spell check doesn't recognize that as a word... which obviously means I am smarter than my computer and therefore I will be fine in the impending human/robot war).  This was a style of gaming that I didn't get at all, and even irked me at the time.  I didn't get what was fun about playing games that way?  Why not just read a book or watch a movie if you were looking for a completely guided entertainment experience?

I realize now that the people playing games like this, more often than not, tended to be a certain personality type.  A personality type that is afraid of failure, nay, beyond that, a personality type that is afraid of mistakes and their own ability to make them.  They like the sense of adventure and escapism that playing a game provides, but they lacked the confidence to plunge into them head first, needing instead to be reassured that they were doing everything correctly.  Knowing this, I do not begrudge them their guided experience in the world of gaming, because I know now that the way in which we spend our leisure can reflect a lot about the way we live our lives in general, and so long as you are able to enjoy yourself, there is no way for one to "play wrong," even if it's not what the creators or designers had intended.

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