Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cheater Cheater

Hello Rayna!
Long time no see. But down to business.

The internet is a pretty cool thing. Young and bright as we are, we've never really known a world where we can't look something up on Google or Wikipedia. These websites can be really useful tools, but they're often used to take shortcuts. For example, need to finish your english book by tomorrow? No problem! Just hop on over to and you've got yourself an english paper pre written!
Want to know what happened on last week's Glee, but your cable is out? Worry not! Just google it and you can be all drama'd up for the next episode.

This ease of communication has had a large impact on the world of video games. Back when my dad was gaming, you couldn't just look up cheat codes or find how to get past a particularly difficult boss. You had to scramble your way through video games, playing levels again and again until you could get them right.  Nowadays, we're treated very nicely by our games. Older arcade games and NES games can be extremely hard and unforgiving, and you just had to grit your teeth and fight through them. But when you finally did beat these games, I've been told that the sense of pride and satisfaction you felt was pretty awesome.

Naturally, this brings me to Monkey Island.

Guybrush Threepwood in the original 1990 version.

For those of you who don't know, "The Secret of Monkey Island" is a 1990 point and click adventure game published by Lucasarts, back when they did stuff that didn't always involve Star Wars. It was conceived by Ron Gilbert, who set out to create an adventure game where you could not die, thus making the focus more about exploration. You play Guybrush Threepwood, a pirate wannabe who you guide around Monkey Island on a quest to defeat the ghost pirate LeChuck. It's intelligent, funny, and just a really good game. It was re released with new graphics for the iPod touch/iPhone a few years ago, along with its sequel, and it's probably one of my video games.

Guybrush Threepwood in the new release.

But here's the catch. It's hard.

And not hard like you have to fight the same boss over and over. Hard like, "Okay, I have a rubber chicken, some breath mints, and a stapler in my inventory. How do I cross this bridge?" Also, there's a strong chance that the object that will really help you cross the bridge was sitting in a room you've been into a hundred times, but you never saw it because you were too busy trying to combine your chicken with your breath mints. This goes back to Ron Gilbert's idea of adventure. You're on your own, searching for just the right wacky combination of objects to let you succeed in your quest. There was a new Monkey Island game released by Telltale Games in which one character wants to fight her way to an answer, but Guybrush insists they do things "his way", by talking to people and solving puzzles.

But anyway, when my dad played Monkey Island for the first time on the computer, he didn't have any hints. There wasn't anyone telling him what to do, he just had to figure it out for himself. This is where I feel shame. For on my iPod version of Monkey Island, there is the option to get hints. And like a fool, I asked for those hints. Now that I've realized I don't like doing that, it's easier to stay away from them. But every so often this voice in the back of my head tells me, "You're never going to beat this game unless you have help." I try to rationalize it, "I had the right idea, I just needed a little push", but that's a stupid excuse. The feeling I get when I beat a puzzle sans hints is amazing. It feels like I've really accomplished something difficult. I mean, if you read the spark notes and then read the book, it just feels redundant. You didn't really do anything, the computer just told you how you're supposed to interpret the words. That's what yer brain is supposed to be for.

This urge to use the internet to take a shortcut is also why I have trouble watching shows like Buffy and Xena: Warrior Princess. I know they're fantastic shows, but they each have about eight seasons. How on earth would I ever have time to watch all that? Wouldn't it just be so much easier to find Buffy's wikipedia page and figure out what happens to her? There was one instance when two minor characters  in Buffy were going out, and instead of waiting a few episodes to see what happened, I found out online that the girl dies. I had suspected that she probably would, but it just made watching more episodes seem pointless. I know what happens, there's nothing driving me to watch more.

Also once right after Mockingjay came out, I went on wikipedia to read up on a character I'd forgotten about before I read Mockingjay. Only the page had been updated to include details from the new book, so I found out this character was dead meat before I even opened the book.

So I guess here's what I'm trying to say. Sometimes we have to choose between what is right, and what is easy.

Choose wisely,

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