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Gaming for N00bs: Gaming on the job made me a better gamer

Posted by Alex Pearlman  May 16, 2012 09:46 AM

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controller.jpgBy Vanessa Formato

I have a confession to make: I’m a lazy gamer. And before the snide comments about how all gamers are lazy start rolling in, I don’t mean that in the Dorito-munching, “Game Fuel”-swilling, basement-dwelling way you’re thinking (read: stereotyping). I discovered the wide world of walkthroughs and never looked back—until now.

In my defense, the Internet makes lazy gaming excessively easy. In the early days of video games, you had to beg your parents to buy you the accompanying strategy guide if you wanted unlimited hints. Nowadays, Google can guide you to a Yahoo Answer for any puzzle solution, Youtube has a “Let’s Play” detailing every in-game moment, and whole websites are dedicated the minutia of every campaign mission and side quest. Once you figure out that you never really need to struggle through a level if you don’t want to, you might just stop wanting to.

Video games have this way of making me feel stupid. I’ll never claim to be good at video games, as much as I enjoy them, because I’m not. I’m better than I was when I started playing only a few years ago, but I still find myself experiencing more moments of crippling confusion than I’d prefer. I consider myself a competent adult, but throw a controller in my hands and I revert back to being as capable at logical reasoning as most infants. When I first started playing games, I was drawn to them but often found them depressing for my lack of talent. Rage quitting was frequent.

Walkthroughs helped me muddle through and appreciate the things I liked without have to dwell on the things I didn’t: you know, confronting the feelings of failure I got from being incapable of solving the same problems as my peers did when they played the same games in elementary school. Instead of being swept up in a tornado of my own frustration, I breezed through with the help of the Internet.

The thing is, I don’t think this is the experience you’re meant to get out of most games. Games are supposed to challenge and frustrate. They’re not supposed to be an experience where you plow through to the end without breaking a sweat. I wanted games to be that, but you can’t make anything something it’s not. Not really, anyway.

Everything changed at about the time I started taking my DS to work with me. I use the MBTA to get to my part-time job, meaning I’m at the mercy of bus schedules. I sometimes have to arrive an hour early to avoid being late, and I end up hanging around in the break room between shifts instead of going home. I’d been playing Golden Sun: The Lost Age at the time, and at first I thought I’d made a mistake by daring to play so far from Internet access. It wasn’t long before I found myself stuck, as usual, but with hours to spare and no quick fixes in sight, I had two choices: quit or think harder.

What I’ve discovered since gaming at work is that my brain isn’t nearly as feeble as I’d thought. I’ve been able to power through every conundrum thrown at me without help, something I would have told you I’m largely incapable of doing just a few months ago. Does progressing take longer than I’m used to? Yes. Do I get incredibly frustrated? Absolutely. But when you don’t have easy access to all the answers, you start to be more creative, to think more critically, and that’s made gaming exponentially more rewarding for me.

It’s a bit weird, really, to get a sense of empowerment from solving puzzles in a video game, but there’s no better way to describe what I’ve ended up feeling. I won’t knock walkthroughs too much, because without them I might have spent too much time dwelling on my own perceived inadequacies to actually finish and enjoy a lot of my favorite games, but I will say I’ve taken a vow of sorts to stop using them as crutches. So far, in revisiting some games I leaned heavily on walkthroughs for, I haven’t tired of the distinct thrill that bubbles up every time I suddenly just “get it.” What seemed so insurmountable really isn’t if you’re willing to be patient with yourself.

If you’re anything like me, using walkthroughs to avoid the discomfort of confusion might be causing you more problems than it solves. Gaming at work, in a walkthrough-less bubble, nudged me out out of my lazy gaming rut. I just can’t argue with how much more fun I’m having—and how much better I feel about myself. And the thing is, I didn’t become capable overnight; I’ve always been capable, only I didn’t believe I was. Realizing that, even when it comes to something as big-picture insignificant as video gaming, feels pretty good. Hey, you know, it’s the little things in life.

How did you get through your hardest game?

'Gaming for N00bs' is TNGG Boston's bi-weekly gaming column, written by Vanessa Formato.

Photo by  joo0ey (Flickr)

About Vanessa -- Vanessa Formato is a 23-year-old Clark University graduate, freelance journalist, vegan cupcake enthusiast and video game aficionado. She blogsabout body image and tweets about puppies. So awesome, even John Stamos is impressed.

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