On Games, and How at Them I Suck

I suck at computer games. Board games, too, for that matter. Oh, and card games. I admit it: in pretty much any sort of competitive amusement, I’m what the boxing world calls a tomato can

Still, I refuse to let the fact that I’m a bleeder keep me from playing. I won’t run and hide when my four-year-old daughter threatens me with a vicious round of Candyland. I’ll face the inevitability of defeat with a smile.

This brings me to Spore, the most recent example of a fun time beating me down.  Spore, from The Sims designer Will Wright, came out about a month ago. As many of you know, it starts you out as a one-celled critter and you evolve all the way up to galactic exploration. For the average player, this provides a rich, highly customizable gaming experience, navigating the infinite grandeur of the evolutionary process and of life itself. For me, this means frillions of new and unique ways to get my ass handed to me.

Let me backtrack for a second. Several months ago, EA, Spore‘s distributor, came out with its Creature Creator. The software allowed players to make scads of beings. You could make a variety of vermin from sorta lizardy thingies, arachnid whatnots, avian deeleebobs and combinations thereof (you could also make about a thousand variations of big, swinging genital-beasts, but let’s not dwell on that).

Spore utilizes the rather ingenious concept of seeding your game with other players’ creatures, without them actually controlling said creatures chez vous. It’s like an MMORPG without that pesky second M coming in to rampage your sadsack no-game-havin’ self. 

So, first reason for the Creature Creator was to fill the universe with your online spawn. The second reason, I firmly believe, was to create the false hope that perhaps, just perhaps, a game had been invented for craptastic players like me. 

I got such a kick out of the Creature Creator. I worked into the wee, small hours elongating spines, duplicating limbs and adding feathers where nature had never put them. Even when my daughter got into it and churned out way cooler beings than I had, I didn’t get discouraged. I took it as a sign of user-friendliness and eagerly awaited the actual, vast, amazing and destined-to-be-legendary game itself. 

I have that game, at last. 
Guess what?
I suck at Spore. 

Oh, don’t get me wrong: I love the game. I adored my little chompy-chomp unicellular doodads and I felt so proud when they’d eaten and mated enough to squiggle out onto dry land the first time. My babies, I thought. They grow up so fast! I’ve had a blast running around, picking stuff up, fighting or befriending other races.

Getting eaten by new and interesting beings.

Getting ganked every time I leave the village.

Oh sure. It’s grand. I’ve never had so much fun being on the receiving end of perpetual genocide.

And to rub coarse salt into my wounded pride, the big criticism of Spore is that it’s “too easy.” Oh sure it is. For normal people. Less so for tomato cans. Wright himself admitted in an MTV interview, “We were very focused, if anything, on making a game for more casual players.” 

Casual players. Translation: gamers who only mostly suck. Almost my demographic. Gosh, thanks, Will. 

Despite it all, I the talentless gamer, the more than casual player, will fight on! I will triumph! (By which I don’t actually mean I’ll solve the game. Let’s not get crazy.) I will, at least, moderately surpass my previously low performance by as much as 15 to 17 percent before giving up and crying in a corner. There are always new planets to explore, new player-races to raise from molecular obscurity to full-fledged entrees for my enemies. 

And if that too should fail, I can always watch my four-year-old play. 

She’s really good.


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