Friday, November 19, 2010

QOTW: Victory is Ours

When it comes to videogames, many of us don't always finish what we start. Some games become too cheap or challenging, some games are too easy. Sometimes we are lured away by the promise of something new, sometimes we're only in it for the multiplayer, and sometimes we simply don't have the time.

But all of us have that one game, the nigh-impossible challenge that we finally dragged across the finish line. Hence this week's question: What game are you proudest to have beaten?

Annie:  I'm going to have to go with Quake. This was way back in high school, and my family has just gotten a shiny new PC. I initially was spending most of my quality computing time either writing overly dramatic literary analysis for Mr. Hayes' AP English class, or doing naughty things involving the modem. Quake has been out for a while already when my dad picked it up. We'd both been big fans of Wolfenstein and Doom, so when he said he'd found a new one that appeared to be partially based on Lovecraftian stuff, I was completely prepared to chuck my extra credit critique on Robert Browning's "Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister" and slack right the fuck off, instead. My dad was unique among the parents that I knew in that he was my primary gaming rival, as opposed to the person telling me that I should stop spending so much time in front of the computer and go date a boy or something. He set the bar for me in terms of being awesome at first person shooters, so when I finally beat Shub-Niggurath, it was at least as satisfying as knowing I was getting college credit for writing long-winded papers and using Courier New to increase the page count.

Dan:  When I was a wee lad, I spent countless hours playing the various volumes of the Infocom text adventure catalogue. I funneled time into nearly every title they released, but easily dedicated the most time into the world of Zork. I made it surprisingly far, especially considering that I was 8 or 9 years old at the time. A friend from down the block also played, and we’d share secrets on the puzzles we’d solved. Eventually, my pal picked up a hint book, which went a long way toward figuring out some of the game’s trickier elements. Shortly thereafter, my C64 breathed its last, forcing upon me an extended IF hiatus.

Fast forward to college, when, through the power of the Internet, I scored a CD-ROM copy of the Infocom library. My first order of business was to return to the Great Underground Empire. Through a combination of critical thinking, pure recall, and enough death to rival Limbo, I finally managed to fill the trophy case and proceed—proudly, if a bit uncermoniously—to the game’s terminating point. More than a decade after I’d been eaten by my first grue, it was the very essence of closure.

By the way, if anyone out there actually manages a meaningful playthrough of Zork via Black Ops, I totally want to hear about it.

Sam:  I think I'd say System Shock 2. It was a long, painstaking and terrifying process, and then to have it ruined by the crappy (totally unnecessary) ending dialog from the until-then silent player character made me simultaneously proud of my success and filled with rage at the breaking of the narrative.

I tried to beat Battletoads as a kid but that was a Sysiphian task that I eventually, after much bitterness, surrendered. Stupid rocket sleds.

Kirk: Damn, I almost have to go back to my Game Boy/Game Gear days for this, since I beat quite number of really challenging games back then. The Terminator 2 game comes to mind, but I already talked about that one in a QOTW, so I'll pick something different. Actually, I'll pick... God of War. I already talked a little bit about why I think God of War is awesome (slightly disappointing third entry notwithstanding), so I'll just say that the Hades levels of the first God of War were the first time since I can remember that a game felt quite so deliberately cheap and borderline-impossible. I must've died over a hundred times on those fucking spinning blades, with the goddam screen that asks if you'd like to lower the difficulty even though it only affects combat and won't make this level any easier and yet... I never caved. I persevered. All the way up and out, through to the ridiculously long-ass fight with Ares, all the way through to the end. I said it then, and I'll say it again—God of War is not a game that you "complete," it is a game that you beat. Into submission. Yow.

David: Sometimes with these questions I have to ponder. But I knew my answer immediately for this one, but we have to use the Way-Back machine and go the days of the Sega Genesis. I was obsessed with Rolling Thunder 2, which I played co-operatively with a friend of mine. I don't think the first Rolling Thunder ever made it to the US, maybe because they thought we couldn't handle the pain. But oh, we handled it. Progressing through this beast was very difficult. If I recall correctly, two shots would kill you and there are a lot of bullets coming your way as well as bombs and other murderous goodies. What set the game apart for me was how important it was to coordinate with your partner. We had to be perfectly in sync to progress—if one person went down, the other person had to get past a certain point on their own before their buddy would reappear. And when failure was upon us, the game had this happy jingle that would play over the Game Over screen that made me really want to through things at the television. To complete the game, we had to play through the whole thing twice, and the second time around it got even harder. I have never been so happy to make it to the end credits and here I am decades later, still proud. No one can take that victory away from us.
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