Button Mashing

07.17.09 | Comment?

I recently realized that I was working way too hard; that I needed to cut back on work and find new ways to relax. One of thing things I’ve done is bought myself my first gaming console since the Atari 5200. I’m now the proud owner of an Xbox 360.

I have to say, this has been a pretty big change for me. I’ve been a PC gamer for the last decade and a half, ever since the introduction of Wolfenstein 3D. So far I’ve bought a handful of used games, which can be had for $10-$15 at pawn shops, game stores, etc. For the curious, I have Call of Duty 2 and 3, Marvel Ultimate Alliance, F.E.A.R, and a couple games for Tadpole 1—namely Kung Fu Panda and Lego Indiana Jones.

As someone coming from the mouse-and-keyboard PC gaming world, my first impression of the XBox is that there are too many damn buttons! For an “old” guy like me, keeping track of all those buttons and their functions is simply brain-bending. I bought this thing to relax and disengage my brain, so why am I having to work at remembering what the 10 buttons and 3 hats all do. Don’t even get me started one the various combo moves. Hit X X Y for this move, indeed.

The experience made me realize that over the last decade I’ve definitely settled into one kind of game, which is the first person shooter. Marvel Ultimate Alliance, despite including my fav Captain America, doesn’t seem to be my kind of game. Alliance feels like an exercise in button-mashing with not a lot of skill involved. So far, at least, I just haven’t gotten much enjoyment out of that. I’ve actually gotten more fun out of Kung Fu Panda and Lego Indiana Jones. Although those two are equally guilty of the combo-move overload, the perspective isn’t quite as annoying.

F.E.A.R is supposed to be some sort of supernatural FPS, and you know I’m all about the supernatural. But so far, I’ve merely found it hard to the point of frustrating. Granted, part of that due to my learning curve on the controller. FEAR was the first game I tried, and I haven’t been able to master it all that well, yet. I was also caught off guard by the swearing. WTF? I mean, what the heck? I mean, I’m an adult and I certainly do my share of swearing. It usually doesn’t bother me in movies or books, but it adds absolutely nothing to my game play experience. It just feels like vulgarity for vulgarity’s sake. Yeah, I guess I am getting old. At any rate, I haven’t seen anything in FEAR all that compelling.

In fact, every game I play, and FEAR in particular, is automatically compared to Half-Life 2, which is still the gold standard in games as far as I’m concerned. I’ll admit that it’s a high bar. So far the closest I’ve found is Call of Duty 2. This WWII first-person-shooter brings me back to comfortable territory. It’s a FPS driven more-or-less by a narrative. I only have to learn one function per button—no XBY-trigger combos. I’ve already gotten the hang of switching weapons, and I’ve only accidentally thrown a smoke grenade instead of a frag once. (It’s a lesson you remember.) Maybe as I become more comfortable with the controller, I’ll also be more comfortable with branching out into other styles of games. For now though, I think I’ll stick with Call of Duty.

I know it sounds crazy, but in the week I’ve had the console I’ve definitely relaxed more in the evenings. I’ve given myself permission to step away from my 12 to Midnight duties and enjoy life a bit more. If that means attaching a sticky-grenade to a German Panzer, then so be it. As long as it doesn’t turn into Duke Nuke’em Disease, it’s all good.

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