Mega Muffed

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One of the reasons I bought myself a television a few weeks ago was because I wanted to get back to video gaming. I’ve never been much of a computer gamer, I haven’t found that many games for tablets/smartphones that I actually want to play, and I’d been dragging my Playstation 3 around with me since I left Toledo, waiting to find something to hook it up to so I could start playing the classic games I downloaded onto it back when I first got it. (I’m holding off on getting a Playstation 4 until there’s a firm release date of the Final Fantasy VII remake. Needless to say, I stopped holding my breath on that ages ago.)

After I got my Playstation 3 up and running (and updated) last month, I went onto the Playstation Store to see if there was anything more on there that I wanted for my system. Sure enough, they had Mega Man 9 and 10 on sale, so I picked both of them up. I wasn’t exactly a huge fan of the Mega Man series back in the day, but I owned all the original NES games and could beat all of them at one point, back when I had a lot more time to devote to video games. The fact that Capcom released new 8-bit-style Mega Man games caught my attention when they did it years ago, but I’d never bothered to pick them up. That sale seemed like the right opportunity, so I bought them and got them installed onto my console.

What followed was hardly the most embarrassing series of events in my life, but needless to say, my Mega Man skills seem to have all but disappeared since I last played one of the games (and I honestly can’t remember when that might have been). I couldn’t make it past any of the levels, and I couldn’t even get to the halfway point of most of them. I’ve never been that skilled when it comes to video games (although I have my strange moments every now and then, like when I got a top 250 worldwide score on Twilight Zone pinball on Pinball Arcade), but it quickly became obvious that I am now completely lacking in the skills that got me through those early Mega Man games when they were still high on the wish list of nearly every kid with an NES.

There are several reasons why I didn’t do so well on those new Mega Man games, and I don’t mean to use this as an excuse, but those Playstation 3 controllers really are a hot mess, especially when it comes to the responsiveness of the D-pad. (One of the first games I bought for my Playstation 3 was the “remix” of Street Fighter II, and I can barely play it because I can’t reliably do rotational moves with that controller.) Lack of practice playing any video games for so long probably played a factor there as well, but if I had to point to one reason why I couldn’t pass any levels in the new games, it’s because I didn’t really spend that much time with them.

It’s not like I was able to pass those early Mega Man games on my first attempts when I was younger; like I said, I’ve never been that great of a gamer to start with, and Mega Man games have a reputation for high difficulty for a good reason. I got through those early games by just playing them for hours on end, replaying each level until I could finally get past it, and writing down those convoluted passwords so I could pick up where I left off. That was just what young video gamers did back then, in those moments we could snatch between going to school and doing homework (and sleep and all that other stuff).

The thing is, I’m not a young video gamer now. Just like everything else in life, getting good at any video game requires an investment in time to practice and play it, and I already have a lot less of that time to invest in recreational activities just based on the new job I have. With me on break right now, though, I probably could take a couple of afternoons here to keep plugging away at the new Mega Man games, and if not pass them, then at least get past a couple of the levels. That’s probably very doable.

What’s making me feel sad right now is that even though I could do that, I’m very deliberately choosing not to. It’s not that I don’t like the games (in spite of how they’ve frustrated me so far), but again, I only have so much time, and I’ve got a couple of major book projects that I want to get ahead on while I’m not teaching here. I know that’s a very smart decision on my part, but there’s a large part of me that feels like I’m not being true to the young gamer (and person) I was by deciding to just leave those games on my system for later. (Going through any classic video game lineup is always a painful reminder for me of how many games I bought in my twenties with the intent of playing them, but never even stuck into my consoles.)

Those books I’m working on are very important, but I’ve already resigned myself to the fact that I’m never going to have enough time to write all the books I have in mind. Admitting to myself that I don’t even have the time to sit down and tackle a tough video game just makes me feel even worse, because it reinforces this idea that I’m working nonstop without really getting to where I want to be with anything. Beating a Mega Man game isn’t that big of a deal, but at least it’s something I could point to and say, “I did that.” I have to wonder how many of those things I’ll ever find the time to do at this point, important or not. Those aren’t happy thoughts to have, but maybe I should just be content with the fact that I’m at least playing video games again now. I guess that’s something.

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