Me, Myself, and the Voices in My Head

A place to ramble and maybe make some sense about a thing or two.

Persistant Portal Preoccupation

What is it about video games that make grownups want to sit for hours and “prove” their mastery of what five-year-olds can do with little thought?

I’ve already posted about my love of Lego-branded video games.  But Youngest Son wanted a special game for the holidays.  One that has become a part of today’s pop culture that you’ve either played it and get all the jokes or you have no idea about what everyone is blithering.  People have begun to decorate their houses, cars, and even themselves in the new meme.  It took me a while to find the game because he wasn’t sure how to locate the original game that has everyone raving about the sequel.  And now, I’m addicted.

Portal.  Little red/orange and blue circles.  Why are they so intriguing??

I did the research and found that the original Portal game came out in The Orange Box along with two other games that most people played until they tried Portal and then totally forgot about them.  I didn’t know that at first and had been searching everywhere for a stand-alone game that didn’t exist.  When I happened to stumble upon the needed game for the PlayStation 3, I made sure to snatch it as quickly as I could.  And then I went back and paid for it.

I gave Youngest Son the game because I knew he’d need to be familiar with it before I could purchase the game he really wanted.  I sat and watched him figure out the puzzles and followed the storyline.  It was cute and I figured if he could do it, so could I.

What took him just a few days to complete took me well over a week.  The game actually requires you to use concepts of physics and critical thinking to solve the puzzles.  I took physics.  I did pretty well in the class.  I consider myself very intelligent.  And I have no idea how even after watching the puzzles being solved I would get really confused on where to go or what to do.  Simple tasks seemed to be the most challenging and I had to remind myself to “think smarter, not harder” throughout the game.  I was determined to finish it and finally did….with help from Youngest Son.

So when the holidays came along I was ready to give Youngest Son the present he’d been hoping for all year.  Portal 2.  The sequel.  A bigger storyline and even cooperative play ability in multiplayer-mode.  Famous guest stars doing voiceovers of new characters that help expand the Portal universe and make it even more fun to play.

Youngest Son was beside himself with joy and promptly began playing.  Within less than a week, he was finished and then began again in order to win all of the trophies.  And as of this moment, I’ve forgotten how many times he’s replayed the story mode.  I’ve only been able to finish it once all the way through and there are many trophies that I should have easily obtained but for the life of me I can’t figure out.  Sure, I could go online and look for cheats and walkthroughs but I should be able to figure it out on my own.

Every site I went to told me the same information and I analyzed the videos of “professionals” playing the game and tried to copy their moves.  Still I haven’t been able to complete them all.  But I refuse to give-up.  Sooner or later, I’ll have those trophies and I’ll even try to earn all of the cooperative play trophies.  I’ve got to get to 100% finished.  It’s a goal — not a major goal, but a goal just the same.

We have strict rules in the house about how much time the kids are allowed to play video games.  If we didn’t, I know that Eldest Son would have never finished any homework in high school and Youngest Son would only be able to speak  like the villans in Crash Bandicoot.  Each child is given one hour per day if all homework, instrument practice, and chores are completed.  Even with these limitations, both were always able to speed through every game they bought.

What is it that makes it so easy for them?  Here’s my theory — they don’t care.

Being kids who’ve grown up in a world saturated with computers, electronic gizmos, and made-up characters they’re able to disconnect from the character and attempt the impossible jumps and dash through dangerous puzzles without a second thought.  Adults, who didn’t have the luxury of video games and had to actually interact with others while using their imagination when playing, subconsciously become “attached” to the character as if it’s an extension of themselves and aren’t so willing to take chances.

Does this have any impact on the future of our world?  I have no idea.  It’s just a theory I have and I’ve not had time or desire to absolutely test it.  I’m sure there are scientists somewhere that have begun a full-scale experiment based on this theory and are preparing their dissertations as we speak.

All I know is that for now I need to be able to move through those colored rings without firing the wrong color and ending up bashing my character against a wall again.


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