3 Important Lessons I’ve Learned From Gaming

1)  Enjoy The Little Things (featuring The Darkness)

The Darkness

I picked up The Darkness a few years back. I was short of funds and looking for a way to kill a few hours on a Saturday afternoon, and it was one of those beat-up video games that are perennially on the PREVIOUSLY OWNED games rack in my local game store, at a seriously discounted price. I was desperate and not in a particularly finicky mood, so I splurged the eight bucks. In retrospect, that should have been a red flag.

That game sucked. I mean, it really sucked. It surprises me that I remember it so well since I haven’t played it in years, and I don’t recall enjoying it very much as I played it. For anyone who hasn’t taken in its rampant putridity, the game revolves around Jackie Estacado, a hitman who becomes filled with the Darkness, a power which consists of a paranormal force that gives him shadowy tentacles with which he can lay waste to his enemies. Along with the extra arms come these annoying little gremlins that are barely worth mentioning. The game plays a little like the Grand Theft Auto games, but on a much smaller, suckier scale.

I digress. The single saving grace from The Darkness occurred as I was walking through a pitch black basement, not understanding why I wasn’t being allowed by the game to see the thugs I was supposed to be killing, yet they could clearly see me because they were decorating the walls with my brain matter. Somehow I miraculously stopped swearing and survived my blind assault, and as I was meekly exploring the darkest corners of the basement, I heard a song playing.

At first, I thought that it might be a real-world neighbor’s tunes bleeding through my wafer-thin apartment walls, but then I turned a corner in the game and came face to face with an in-game TV, playing a music video. I looked closer and listened, and was blown away by  what I heard.

The song I was listening to was “Riverbank” by Pelle Carlberg, a sound-alike of Belle & Sebastian. It was bliss. I’ve since picked up all of his albums and wondered why he never broke out on this side of the ocean. Maybe it’s because he uses a little too much humor in his songs. Or maybe I’m just giving him too much credit, because he was a bright, unexpected light in a miserably dreary gaming experience.

2) It Never Hurts To Bring An Extra Bag (featuring Fallout 3)

Fallout 3

It happens every time. You’re walking along a blasted nuclear wasteland enjoying an early grey sunrise when up pops a band of merry super-mutants, intent on eating your heart for breakfast. Having planned ahead, you’re packing some healthy firepower and rip them to shreds with your minigun. Mercy is for the weak.

You mosey over to scavenge their remains and are delighted to discover that one of the recently-deceased muties was sporting a gatling laser. Oh joy! But wait – you grab the gun and prepare to run, but find that you can’t. You’re carrying too much weight. You’ve passed your carry threshold, and now you are restricted to a slow, steady walk that feels like your character is slogging through mashed potatoes. And in order to return to base to stow your newfound booty, you’ll need to discard something from your inventory – something you no doubt expected to need one day.

Proper inventory planning/weight management does not suffer fools. So long, Fat Boy. I’m sure I’ll never run into a nest of Deathclaws where a tactical nuclear catapult would come in handy. What are the odds?

3) Never, Ever Take The Bank Job (featuring Grand Theft Auto 4)

GTA 4

I’ve seen the films Heat and Point Break. I’ve seen The Dark Knight. There’s an obvious rule here, but it’s easy to overlook it when you’re confronted with the suggestion of oodles of money. But the rule is a good rule, and you should heed it – don’t take the bank job. Especially with a crew you’ve never worked with before.

In Grand Theft Auto 4, you find yourself scrambling for a buck at every turn. You show up to Liberty City and try to eke out a living, but the man keeps you down. It’s tough for an Eastern-European immigrant to find his way in the big city, but you have to try and make your mark. The problem is, you’re doing it for chump change. The return on investment for the high-risk jobs you’re performing doesn’t add up. You steal a few nice cars, put a few bucks away, maybe buy yourself a fancy new sidearm…and then someone blows up your apartment. And you have to start over from square one again.

And then you meet a brazen, hard-drinking Irishman who yearns for the days when his Irish mob family ran a bigger piece of the Liberty City pie. You make friends, do a couple minor jobs together, and everything is nice.

And then he asks you to help him rob the Bank Of Liberty.

The game changes during this single mission. It ceases to be a methodical game of small jobs where you beat up and/or kill drug dealers for new friends, and instead becomes a frenzied mess of armored police, heavy machine guns and helicopter snipers. This mission is a gateway mission, leading to more maniacal missions involving mass murder on a cartoonish scale. Soon you’ll find yourself wanting – no, needing – the fear of a five-alarm alert level. It won’t be fun if there aren’t fifty cops beating down your door. Before long you’ll find yourself at the top of a crane, packed to the teeth with rocket launchers, sniper rifles, and grenades, and you’ll wonder what became of your life. How did this happen? And you’ll realize that you should have just told Packie to f*** off.

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