I have a bad memory, which makes things that I do remember from long ago stand out even more. The moment I want to talk about now was in eighth grade. That was the last year I played basketball competitively, although I still play all the time now. My team was in the semi-finals of our conference tournament, and we ended up losing, being eliminated. Afterwards when we all sat in the locker room, one of my teammates started crying, I understood why, but I didn’t feel the same. I like to think now that was because of video games.
Now before anyone gets any bright ideas, I’m not insinuating or even outright saying that I am better than anyone else just because I play video games. What I am saying though is that video games are a big part behind the mindset that I have now.
Dealing with failure is one of the toughest things to do with life, and until video games came around there really wasn’t a good way to teach kids about failure, at least not in a consistent way. The idea that sometimes you will put everything you have into something, only to end up failing is something that is not unique to video games, but the way it is possible to experience it over and over again and see your progress bit by bit is something that it can be hard to see in other activities.
Games like Dark Souls have essentially found a way to take that idea and distill it down to an essence for their games. Dark Souls thrives on being a hard game, but a hard game that is fair. Unlike old quarter per life games, Dark Souls doesn’t beat you by requiring absurd amounts of memorization or using cheap tricks. In games like Dark Souls all of the accountability is on the player, when you die you always feel like it is your fault.
One of the first games I remember playing as a little kid is Jak & Daxter a game that really is not hard at any point. I remember I did at one point try to “speedrun” the game although I had no idea about any community based around that at the time. I would get 100% of the precursor orbs and power cells in the games first two major hub areas and then I was able to skip the entire last section and just go to the end of the game. I loved Jak and Daxter, so inevitably I got Jak 2 and started playing through it immediately.
For me though it represented a huge step up in difficulty, with guns, more enemies, enemies that weren’t mind numbingly easy to take out, and driving. This was a lot for my seven or eight year old brain to take in and even more for my hands to execute. I still loved it though and I pushed through until I got to a certain mission where I had to guard the rebel base from a bunch of spider bots that would blow up as soon as they got there. No matter how many times I tried this I couldn’t beat it. So I gave up and walked away, played other games.
Eventually though, I saw Jak 3 on the shelves, my mom remembered me being excited for Jak 2 and asked if I wanted Jak 3. I said yes, but promised myself that I would beat Jak 2 first. I got home that day and restarted Jak 2, eventually I got to the Spider-bot attack mission and I was able to beat it no problem. I continued through it no problem and eventually was able to beat the game. I loved it, as different as it was from the original it was a blast to play and so was the third one. If I hadn’t gone back and pushed through that mission I wasn’t able to beat my first time around I never would have gotten to experience the rest of the game or Jak 3, some of my favorite gaming experiences.
Video games have helped shape me into the person I am today, the person that never gives up. The person who doesn’t fall in love with stories as much as he does the characters that inhabit them. The person who is constantly striving to improve and do better at the tasks asked of him.
Just don’t ask me about Sekiro’s final boss.