As a nerdy girl surrounded by fellow nerds, one constant of my childhood and adolescence was this: Watching boys play video games. From my little brother shouting at “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” on NES, to the guys on the high school newspaper staff fragging each other in “Goldeneye,” to epic late-night “Mario Kart” parties in college, I was constantly surrounded by video game culture, and enjoyed it — but rarely, if ever, put my hands on a controller.
The excuse I gave at the time was an embarrassing lack of coordination; my ability to handle the vast number of buttons and joysticks that make up the current-gen game controller is still pretty shaky. But the thing was, I didn’t mind watching. For over two decades, I was never bored playing the spectator to the action on screen — I enjoyed seeing the gameplay in action, and felt personally invested in every victory and defeat.
I could see that there was potential for interesting storytelling within this medium; I wanted to engage with it. But after a few early frustrations, I gave up on personally driving it.
However, my brother Eric, now living the gamer’s dream and working in the industry, didn’t give up on me. Ever since I bought myself a PS3 in 2009 (entirely for the Netflix and Blu-ray capabilities), he’s used birthdays and Christmases as an opportunity to try and get me excited about modern video game culture. Every game I own, save “Portal 2,” was given to me by him — and each game I attempted, but eventually lost interest in. Except, that is, for “Mass Effect 2.”
It’s taken me a while to figure out why.
I’m still trying to navigate this transition. I’m still at the stage where I wish I could skip the fight scenes. And combos mystify me. #n00b