Ever felt the rush of mentoring someone? That’s the feeling you get when a new baby sibling is born or when your parents bring home your first puppy. I got a similar feeling when my girlfriend decided to start playing on my old Xbox 360 and I don’t think I have ever been prouder. It might be a slippery slope as there is a really good chance I’ll lose her to the snowy mountains of Skyrim but hey, always see the greater good in things – she won’t become the serial killer I know she secretly is. Here is what goes on in a new gamer’s head:
Chapter 1: The controller
I’m in my mid-20s, and I’ve never used a gaming console before. That’s right. I said it. PC games? Gameboys? Hell yes, I grew up in the ’90s, kids. I’ve even been addicted to a friend’s WII. But, gaming consoles weren’t part of our family shopping lists, and by the time I began to make my own money, the novelty had worn off. Or so I thought. Cut to 2016 however, and there’s suddenly an Xbox in the room.
I stared at it for months. Then I stared at people playing it. Did I want to admit I was a little scared of it? I dabbled in a little South Park, fought a few villains in Batman — but there were watchful eyes on me and I gave up almost as soon as I’d started.
And then, devoid of the internet, with a television blackout, no Friday night plans and my head hurting too much to read, I stared at the two racing games I’d bought so enthusiastically and decided — it was time.
Can I navigate a track in Shift like I could on the PC, get back Underground, kick ass in Road Rash (bring that back), or even get past the first lap in an F1 game without cutting corners? Nope — not yet. But, they’re just fast cars and quick laps. After thinking my (always a novice, but a pretty enthusiastic one) gaming days were well and truly behind me as life and work took over (seriously, I don’t think I even remember how to use WASD anymore), imagine my surprise when I stared at the shiny new (borrowed) console and felt my fingers tingling to shoot, loot and hack again. Of course, I wasn’t ready for a first-person shooter. Heck, I barely knew how to use the controller. And that’s when I met my first challenge. The goddamn controller…
Because, it’s like learning to walk again
No, really. If you can walk straight the first time you pick up an Xbox controller, you deserve an award. I accidentally killed myself (more times than I’d like to admit) because I was so focused on the whole ‘look in the direction you want to walk in’ thing. I also refuse to believe that’s how I really walk. I’ve got a demonstration ready if you don’t believe me.
And then, I realized I really needed to slow it down
I thought I was quick. Turns out I’m slow. Really, really slow. Or the character I was trying to control was like a bat out of hell. No, seriously. Like a cheetah that’s just had an adrenaline rush. Characters were zipping past before I could find a way to look back down from the sky, my character had an unhealthy fascination for toppling off stairs instead of walking down them and I was sinking because I kept flailing around underwater.
Of course, then it was kindly (go ahead, call me stupid) pointed out to me that I could lower sensitivity, adjust difficulty — you know, basically slow it all down just like in anything else. It felt a little bit like I was cheating, but you’ve got to learn how to walk before you can run, right?
But of course, co-ordination is key
I never really thought I had co-ordination issues. I can co-ordinate the gear-clutch-brake-accelerator steering wheel thing in a car, so why couldn’t I use something that 5-year-olds get in a matter of minutes? Okay, maybe being unable to play anything but the melody and rhythm together on the piano for so long when I was younger should have been my first clue. But, this was a new low, even for me. My right and left hand refused to see eye-to-eye, leaving me walking into people when I wanted to look at them and with my head in the clouds when all I wanted to do was take two steps forward.
Turns out, I need more focus
I don’t think before I talk, so was I really going to think before I shot? Or stabbed, as was the case here. The thing is, focus is important — a lot more important than it is on a PC because instead of using my mouse to quickly hover over my target, I suddenly had to look, shoot… so many fingers, so many movements — arrgh! I couldn’t do it. For a really, really long time. And then, after dying over ten times before even realizing I was in a fight (or being able to get my character to look at whoever it was attacking me) I managed to swing myself around, lift and stab. Wolves, warriors, thieves… down they went one satisfying (okay, who am I kidding — several) swishes and swoops at a time. And that, to me — meant I’d made it! I’ll admit a lot may have been blind luck and a lot of aggressive hacking at whatever was closest to me. Aiming with a bow and arrow? Yeah, I’m not there yet.
I’m still slow, I’m still dying and I’m still learning how to stay on the steps. But you know what? It’s been two days. I’ll get there.