Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Reason Number 8,428 Why I'm a Geek

If you're one of the handful who have suffered the great misfortune of having read some of the carrion that I leave scattered about the facade of Bonez, then you're apt to recognize that I'm a man who enjoys his video games. I have written several articles detailing their history and my personal interactions with them, and it would be no lie to state that I have a great love affair with them. I can speak about games as eloquently and voluminously as Ebert can discuss film. And so it should come as no surprise that I am once again going to occupy a few moments of your time bleating on and on about the same old shit. In fact, ultimately, this article will conclude with me talking about a game I've already written about. Twice. Consider this fair warning.

Talk to anybody who frequently games, and you'll find that everybody has specific genres and styles that they appreciate above all others. In the modern age, my most frequently played games are first person shooters, though I'll admit that I'm no expert at them. But I'm no snob. I dabble in all of the various genres aside from MMORPG's. However, my most sincere gaming love transcends genre and is hard to describe with a simple label.

The games I love best are those that I call my "man vs machine" games. I deem them this not because of any intrinsic futuristic qualities, but due to what the games offer. Familiarity. I like a game that presents an identical experience every time I play. Enemies who will always appear at specific locations. Squadrons of planes that come in specific formations at precise times. Games with hundreds of boxes to open, but only a few that I deem necessary. Some examples of this style of game would be Contra, Shinobi, Sky Shark, DoDonPachi, Half-Life, Heavy Barrel and Guitar Hero.

These titles appeal to me because of their predictability. I know when bad guys will appear, I know where they'll be, and I have a decent idea of what lies ahead. This changes the gaming experience for me. I am no longer playing against the machine, I'm playing against myself. Knowing with a certain level of accuracy what to expect in the future ensures that every session comes down to a test of my skill. These games don't cheat, they're not unfair, they don't throw curveballs at you. They simply test your reflexes, your foresight and your skill.

Much like a single move in chess changes the future outcomes, so too do the split second decisions one makes in these games. Do I go for that powerup? If I do, I may find myself cornered by a squadron and shot down. Do I open that box? There could be a piece of the mega gun inside, and I like to time when I assemble that. Do I deploy star power? If I do it at the wrong time, I may gain points but I'll be at a disadvantage during the harder parts of the song.

These are the games I play when I want to quiet my mind, to zone out as it were. These are the games that require intense concentration and cat-like reflexes in order to come out the victor. Subsequently, these are the games that have left their most indelible mark on me.

So, after all of this verbal masturbation, what is the point? Why have I chosen to write at length about a bunch of games that most have likely never played. Well, as I said earlier, it comes down to a game that I've written about in the past, namely Guitar Hero.

I've been playing Guitar Hero since the first one came out. It would be fair to call it an obsession. I don't practice for hours on end, but I do play. A lot. And I have to admit, I'm pretty good. I'm no god at it, but I've always felt that I was better than most.

Well, this weekend I went and picked up Guitar Hero 2 for the XBox 360. I'd already played it to death on Playstation 2. In fact, I've bought two copies for PS2 and played the hell out of my sister's copy to boot. But, the 360 offered a handful of new songs and one other nifty feature; online leaderboards.

Viewing the leaderboards allows me to see where I stand against all of the other players out there. After running through my career and checking my stats, I was pleased to find that my rank is 8,428th place.

I know, that doesn't sound all that impressive. 8,000th place is really nothing to call mom about. That's the kind of placement that gets you a ribbon at "Everybody gets a ribbon day". But I am proud, and I will gloat for a few minutes.

It helps to put that number into perspective. I rank 8,428th place out of 1,328,902 entrants. Makes that 8,000 look a bit better, doesn't it? The upper 10% are those that rank in the top 130,000. The top 1% are in the top 13,000. 8,428th place puts me in the upper 0.6 percentile.

8,427 who can beat me are spread across 50 states. That means that there are only 168.54 per state that can claim to be better. Georgia is comprised of 57,919 square miles of which 1,522 are covered by water. This means that in this state there is one better player than me per 334.62 square miles. In essence, that means that I am quite likely the best player in my neighborhood. (Which is comprised of a waste management facility, a meth lab and a few old people.)

Perhaps my skill at this game will trigger some form of alert at a secret government agency. Before long I may be approached by Centauri asking me to fight for all of humanity in a Guitar Hero showdown against the dreaded Kodan Gunstar. This, of course, is unlikely, but a man can dream.

So pardon me while I gloat for a few over my own personal triumphs. I may never again get to feel so awesome at so minimal an achievement.


pillywiggin said...

ok, E lies when he says he doesnt practice for hours... when we first got that game at our house, he played it for hours and hours, we'd only hear random curse words shouted from the living room where the game was. I know that's when the addiction started.

E said...

I think the addiction was started the day my eyes first opened and I was able to understand that "I am".

And yeah, I did play a lot once upon a time. I'm down to maybe 8-9 hours a week nowadays. If even. :P

EuroYank - Virginia Hoge said...

Gee - I like these video games so much, I may not read anything else on this blog!

Blank said...

Well, I'll take your word that it's cool. ;)

I loved the Doom games.

E said...

Awww, Euro, I'd hate for you to give up on all the goodies to be found round here.

And scarlet, Doom kicked ass. :)