The Weekend Gamer
Thoughts on gaming culture, living among non-gamers, and growing up in the nintendo generation

The Weekend Wrapup (March 7th-9th)


So the senior high retreat I was supposed to go on was postponed do to the worst snow storm in Erie for a few winters.  Rachel and I didn’t leave the house from Friday night to Sunday morning.  But I tried to catch up on some work things anyway. 

That was the bad news.  The good news was that it afforded me the time to finally finish Culdcept Saga.  All in all I really enjoyed the game, but the single player game was really just a mechanism to get more cards so that I could play with my friends.  I’d say I have about 1/2 to 2/3’s of the cards in the game, so there’s plenty of more gameplay to be had, if I can just work out my schedule with some friends. 

Kiras mentioned last Monday that the game won’t let you trade cards.  This isn’t true exactly, as you can  trade cards with someone who is in the same physical space with you.  They have to bring over their data on a memory card (what?) and afix it to your 360.  The fact that there is no way to trade cards, even just with people on your friends list, over Xbox Live is a real oversight for the game.  More on that in a second.

Yesterday I had a lot going on, including getting to work at 7:15 a.m., a meeting/dinner/get-together with the fine folks who I get the pleasure to play music with for my job, and getting stuck in a mountainous driveway and having to get towed out. 

In the midst of that, I made a stop to Best Buy and picked up Super Smash Bros. Brawl.  I left for college during the N64 years, and never purchased a Game Cube, so my contact with the series has been minimal.  After playing it last night for an hour or so, I have to say that the game is equal parts entertaining and frustrating. 

I found myself losing to the normal CPU quite often, simply because I couldn’t manage to keep myself from falling off the map.  It’s not coincidence that my one comprehensive victory so far has been on the Mario Kart map, a board that has no abyss to fall into.  And the fact that jumping is mapped to the C button on the Nunchuk attachment and not the A button fights every muscle reaction that’s been seared into my gaming psyche since 1987. 

1up’s review and video review were peppered with the usual “easy to pick up, tough to master” cliches.  I was doubtful though that my casual gaming friends could pick it up, let alone someone like my mom.  It’s definitely what I would consider a hardcore game, especially considering it’s going to take me some time to get good at it.  I’m almost positive it will be a staple feature of the PAX 08 tournament scene later this year.  And that’s not even a bad thing, as Dover would argue. 

But SSBB is only as fun as the people you have playing it with you.  And the fact is that I hate the Wii’s online interface.  And by interface I mean pretty much anything to do with playing anything online with the Wii.  To date, I’ve only managed to add Kiras to my friend’s list (if you can even call it that) because the process is akin to trying to get through border customs without a passport.  Adding friends should be fun and easy, not a hard to remember 16 digit code.

Yeah yeah, this is old hat, I know.  Ok, but then, say I do connect with friends…I can’t even voice chat with them.  Horrible decision.  So here I am, left with the final option being to find people to come over my house and play with me.  It isn’t an option I’ll shun, but then again, this isn’t 1991.  I’m not in middle school anymore, and neither are my friends. In the 21st century, I want to play games with friends in far flung regions of the country as well as those in my home town. 

And without those friends (who are probably more akin to video games than my in town friends), I’m left trying to thrust a non-casual game onto people who will just look at me like I’m crazy.  Trust me, it already happened with Super Mario Strikers. 

I just doubt 1up’s assertion that the game can be picked up quickly.  To test my hypothesis, I asked Rachel to play the game with me about an hour ago.  Her main comment? 

“It felt like I was high.”

Translation–she had difficulty processing the manicness of what was happening on screen.  I think she did have some fun (she of course picked Peach), but you have to take into account that she loves me and tries hard to tolerate what I’m into. 

I hope I’m wrong, but I have the feeling when I try to introduce Dave and Danielle to it, that they will have a similarly muted reaction, leaving me with the prospect of having a game built for multiplayer hilarity without the requisite friends to play it with me whilst chatting, laughing, and having that general  social time that video games are supposed to deliver.  And that’s the difference between a game like SSBB and Rock Band. 

It’s like we as hardcore or even mid-core gamers forget that casual gamers don’t have the certain suite of skills that a game like SSBB requires.  We’re so engrossed into gamer culture that it’s difficult for us to imagine what it feels like to not know what the B button is on the Wiimote (or even what a B button is).

So what do you think?  Is Super Smash Bros. Brawl a hardcore game? What do you think of Nintendo’s attempt at online interactivity? And what did you play this weekend?



4 Responses to “The Weekend Wrapup (March 7th-9th)”

  1. Well said. Among professional reviewers, there’s definitely a problem of being out of touch with non-gamers.

    Watching my brother or cousin try to just move and control the camera in an FPS is like watching a woman try to drive (only joking!). They ask “How do I…?”, I answer “Press A” and watch as they look down at their controllers to remember where the A button is…. again When developers say a game starts out simple, they mean simple for veteran gamers. Non-gamers have to find the Start button before they can “Press Start”.

    It’s really amazing when you realize just how much past experience has trained you for present games. Playing something like Command & Conquer for five minutes is more complex than the worst physics equation school ever dared me with. Flash games are so successful right now largely because those are games that are truly simple enough for non-gamers to get into.

    Anyway. I’ve been playing GTA: San Andreas for the first time. I bought the game from a download site called Game Invasion, run by Comcast and apparently affiliated with IGN. The game seems more linear than I remember Vice City being, but the main irritation is the driving controls. It’s bad enough that a fanatical veteran gamer like me can’t keep a car from catching fire for 5 minutes, but they also threw in a bunch of racing missions. Still, it’s light-hearted fun and hilarious.

    And this one has a radio station with “Them Bones” by Alice in Chains and “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns ‘n’ Roses…. something I never dreamed could happen in a video game. Rock!

  2. SSBB can be a hardcore game or it can be a fun pickup and play. There are some (like me) who just really enjoy playing with friends and family because it is and will always be a “classic”. It has fun characters, a fun theme, and great gameplay. Fortunately for the game, it’s very forgiving. If you’re playing with a complete noob just set it for unlimited lives and unlimited time on a map that is very simple. Jump around, mash buttons, and have fun.

    Some people take it to the extreme and form leagues and turn pro.. yes.. pro at Super Smash Bros. There are people who are such extremists that they have formed cults around SSB Melee insisting that Brawl is impure and only purists play Melee. If that’s how they want to have fun then power to them.

    The game has a lot of depth when you learn the pros and cons of each type of character. Light weights, mediums, heavies. Campers, attackers, etc. Particular items for particular maps or going no items at all, and so on and so on.

    I mention all of this because it shows that SSB can accommodate a lot of people in a lot of ways. It fits the cliche well. It really is easy to pick up and tough to master.

  3. just as an fyi, i dont know what it feels like to be high, but i assume it would be something like playing that game 🙂

  4. I would highly recommend playing with a classic controller or a gamecube controller. If neither option is available, then you can always customize your button layout on your controller. So go ahead and make the “A” button your jump! 🙂

    I’ll be emailing you for your Wii code and your Smash code later tonight.

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