History of immersion

March 25, 2009 at 12:39 am (Heather) (, , , , , , , , , )

There’s been some old-school console action happening around me lately. A couple of weeks ago, shortly after I signed the lease on my new place and still a week before I moved in, Dan came over to help me with my condition report. We headed out for some dinner, but before we got too far we made an exciting discovery.

Now, I’ve been moved in for… well, tonight will be my tenth night here. And I love this neighbourhood. My street, especially, is quiet and lovely, with lots of beautiful (but incredibly varied) houses. And there is a culture of throwing stuff out and leaving it on the nature strip. It’s like every day is council cleanup day. There was a sign, lovingly produced on someone’s home computer, saing ‘LOVELY PAVERS – Help yourself!’ on a nearly stacked pile on the pavement. I saw some shoes I thought about taking the other day, and for a brief moment I thought I had found an indoor washing line. (it turned out to be broken. I suppose that would be why its former owner threw it out.)

But on our way to dinner that night there was a box on the nature strip with a Mega Drive, a Mega Drive 2 and a Mega CD in it, with a selection of crap games. Dan might talk about this at length, for all I know, as it was certainly his discovery rather than mine. But it’s got me thinking about my console gaming past.

We didn’t really have that kind of stuff when I was a kid. Our first computer was an Apricot. The most advanced computer we ever had was a 386 (and it’s possible some of you won’t know what that even means) until we finally got a decent enough computer, which gave us all the comforts of the internet at home, in 2001.

But we had a Sega Master System II. I’m pretty sure it was obsolete when we got it – my best friend had a Mega Drive at the same time, although when she played Sonic she had to do it with the sound on mute because her pregnant mother found it stressful. I was free to play at full volume, although if memory serves it was a shared Christmas present with my two sisters, so my playing time was much less. Also, my parents both liked to play Lemmings.

Alex Kidd in Miracle World was an extremely formative experience for me. I wasn’t nearly as good at it as my big sister who, four years older than me, had better reflexes or better coordination or a greater capacity to learn from experience. But I made it through that game. Recently in discussion about that game I discovered that I still remember the sequence of tiles as set out in the stone slab, for getting you the crown at the end of the game. For the record, it is: sun ripples moon star, sun moon ripples, fish star fish.

After that knowledge sprang fully-formed into my mind, I messaged my big sister. She, too, remembered it just like that. We would both like that brainspace back to make way for more useful information, please. But by this stage I had already started reading walkthroughs and FAQs about the game, trying to find out about a possible alternative ending, or just what would happen if one did not collect all the relevant artefacts. I’d had no idea that it was possible to progress in the game without picking up the autographed letter, or the moonlight stone, or the stone slab. Such was my commitment to finishing the game that I never really messed around with the game. There was a heartbreaking moment when I discovered in an FAQ that there was an unannounced continue feature, whereby a specific series of button mashes resulted in starting again at the beginning of the last level with three lives. I nearly cried. But there was nobody around to tell us about this. Oh, internet, how did I ever live without you?

But of course, now I am curious about this, and want to at least play it through again from start to finish, and probably again after that to skip selected objectives and see what happens.

I have a TV and a Wii here. I haven’t set them up. I should soon, but the TV weighs a metric arseton and I have no real desire to move it to the side of the room where the power is and then have to move it again post-ikeatrip to get it up on a TV table. It nearly killed Claire and I getting it down some stairs and into the car; I don’t think I could do it alone.

But moving out means that I no longer have access to a PS2. Abby and I reached an arrangement whereby I’m hanging onto her Mario Kart DoubleDash (way better than the Wii version) and she is nominally hanging onto my We ❤ Katamari. It’s been at Dan’s for some time, though.

What I really miss, though, is Bully. I think Bully is probably the game I have been most involved with as an adult. I’m only a few percent off completion – I was down to the arcade games in the clubhouses and a couple of go-kart races, if memory serves. A few times recently I have sat down intending to improve my completion and just ridden around on my aquaberry cruiser. The soundtrack, by Shawn Lee, is fantastic (and in fact the first I heard about the game was when I downloaded a couple of tracks from a music blog), and the music that plays when one is cycling around is my ringtone. On a few occasions I have found myself drifting off to sleep while thinking about cycling around Bullworth. I so enjoy that particular aspect of the game, the sense of freedom one has on one’s bicycle, that I’m planning to get a bike sometime soon IRL. (and I wish I could have a skateboard hotkey so I could whip it out at a moment’s notice when I get tired of the short walk to the cafe. I’ve seen some people with razor scooters lately who I suspect are longing for the same thing.)

My inclination is to keep going with the PS2 version. There are so many cheap games for the PS2 that my investment is sure to pay off. But I may yet be seduced by the siren song of Scholarship Edition. Eight new missions! Four new classes! 2-player competitive minigames! And some new characters. Possibly even some more boys who can be persuaded to kiss Jimmy if provided with a box of chocolates and a few sweet words. All in all, this seems like the perfect excuse to play through from the start again.

Until I decide, I’ll be playing GTA: Chinatown Wars on my DS. This turns out to be slightly problematic, because I tend to swear copiously (albeit silently) and make faces when things are not going well. I looked up from a lunchtime game to find a businessman staring at me from across the food court today, and I did a little dance of agitation when I got busted mid-mission while waiting for the pedestrian lights to change. And I nearly missed my stop on the train yesterday.

At least Alex Kidd never interrupted my life outside the home.


  1. chromefist said,

    Re: Sega – Alex Kidd was a game my friend Tristan owned; and I used to scam going over to his house for exactly that reason. Hells yes.

    Re: Bully – GTA 3+ and Bully have essentially reinvented the RPG for a western audience. Computerised D&D is so 1995, while Japan influenced Sword of Mana Clones are neat but fundamentally based on micromanagement; which is only fun to certain kinds of people. Western FPSes cast the player as hero, or participant, but not really as a protagonist – with some very RPG-focused exceptions, you’re not really driving the story. In Rockstar games, you’re definitely the protagonist, you’re the focus of the narrative; which is, to my mind, a more important feature of RPGs than all the other genre-tropes they’ve dropped.

    • Danoot said,

      woah what, guy?
      I never played the original Sword of Mana, but I played Secret of Mana a whole bunch, and some of the sequels.
      a) are there really even clones of those games? I mean, they are basically turnless RPGs where you are always in the battle system, which I guess things like fallout 3 tend to be… actually I had not ever considered the link between SoM and fallout 3 (And similar games), I think they drew a lot from them (or maybe rediscovered a lot of the same stuff) when they moved out of isometrics.
      b) I don’t think they’re about micro – there’s a giant, epic story in those games. There’s some micro in terms of levelling up each weapon you pick up, but … you don’t have to? you can beat the final boss by just switching weapons when your current one is levelled up. The stat diffs for levelling you with a certain weapon on don’t make no difference, really.

      or, to rephrase: explain yourself, sirrah!

      What you say about the protagonist is interesting. There is, to some extent, a sense of being dropped in the middle of other machinations in a lot of western rpgs that I think is meant to be world-building and epic, but sometimes means you’re insignificant – except that, oh, all of a sudden you kill the main bad guy.

  2. juliadactyl said,

    I played Bully during the leadup to my wedding and during my honeymoon, and two years later, I’m finding that it’s really quite replayable, which is awesome. (I just got the skateboard, yessss). But this time I’m going to make sure to do all the minigames, because, 100% completion, yessss.

  3. misterfinn said,

    mmmm sandbox games. The way of the future! I forsee the next big innovation in that regard being a truly non-linear storyline, which so far even sandbox games like GTA have not been able to achieve.

  4. percy said,

    Have you ever tried any MMORPGs?

    I don’t want to sound like a crack dealer, but the way you talk about Bully and what you like about it may mean that you might like to give WoW a try. There is some truly awesome stuff there.

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