I have an old friend who has a job that takes her out of the country for years at a time, often to real garden spots like central Asia or Central America. (No, she’s not in the CIA). We email to stay in touch, so I sent one to her the other day wishing her a happy birthday and telling her about how my new married life is going. Every so often, she has to leave where she’s been living and start over, not just in a new town, but in a new country, often times where she has to learn a new language. I guess it probably goes without saying that it gets a little rough on her from time to time.
So I get this email, and she’s describing to me what it was like getting this promotion to a job she’s been aiming for for almost 10 years. I was psyched for her, but when I asked how it was, she quoted a segment from the movie Jarhead where Jake Gyllenhaal and Peter Saarsgard (I’ll take “aa” for $200, Pat) are talking about Metroid:
Jake: “Did you ever stay up all night jerking off and playing Metroid just trying to get to the ninth level?”
Peter: “You know what happens when you get there?”
Jake: (blank stare).
Peter: “Nothing. You just start all over again.” (Smiles).
Yes, I winced when I read “ninth level,” too, but…well, I’ll just give you her words: “That’s what [it] felt like. You stay up all night trying to get there and then you just start all over. Someone else once told me that there is no ninth level in Metroid. Your qualifications there trump mine. What say you and your Horrible Night brethren?”
Hearing that made me a little sad, partly because I know how hard she’s worked to get where she is and partly because following up “starting over,” with “…there is no ninth level in Metroid[,]” just sounds so damn bleak. So I sat and thought about it for a minute, and then I had an answer for her.
“‘[I]f we’re going to use video-games-as-life, here’s something to think about:
Back then, most games didn’t come with a “save” feature – they had passcodes. Metroid had one (JUSTIN BAILEY) that let you play the whole game from the beginning with a ton of the power ups so you weren’t starting over from scratch You started new and powerful. Now, with saved games, there’s something similar that shows up in a lot of games now and is mostly loved by people, and we call it “New Game +” You can start the game over, but this time you play with all of the weapons and power ups and experience you got in the first go-round. A lot of times it lets you get places you couldn’t go the first time, play it on a higher difficulty, and try out new techniques against enemies or challenges that you couldn’t before getting through it once. A lot of times, it’s even better and more fun that it was the first time through. Who says video games are a waste of time?
Obviously, video games aren’t the answer to life, the universe and everything. What say you, Horrible Night audience? Do you have another answer for my friend? Are there actual lessons you’ve learned from your gaming experiences that translate to real life?
Games as in Life – The short stories of when video games intersect our real lives.