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Posted by eleanor

I am down with the young people

Can a 40-something lady wrap her degenerating neurons around them fancy video games? I'm flapping my thumb as fast as I can. But the truth is, the ole brain ain't what she used to be.

Not that I'm out of touch with the young people. Not I! A pop culture zealot and aficionado of the youth zeitgeist, I started hanging in arcades at the age of 30. There's nothing like watching a group of testosterone-charged teens whooping over a sound card to get a sense of what's important to a group I'd not normally connect with.

And if the youth love video games, I can love them, too. The first one I fell for was Area 51, the shoot-em-up where you save the world from invading alien beings. Those faux bullets saved my sanity.

Hate your boss? Best pal eyeing your dream date? Corner store cashier crassly rude? Blow'em all away. Area 51 required only a trigger-happy finger and some semblance of aim. My path through the hallways of death was preprogrammed -- no need for fancy backflips or complex strategy. Just focus every brain cell on exploding the bad guys and feel the headache dissipate, the shoulders lower, the muscles calm. I traded in massages and acupuncture for the simple satisfaction of wanton destruction -- and the only consequence was the loss of a pocketful of quarters.

One pocketful led to 40, then to 102. So I adopted the fiscally responsible route and bought a portable game console, the PlayStation 2. And picked up one of the most popular franchises to go with it, Resident Evil: Dead Aim. It too, was a point-and-shoot, and I was looking forward to destroying a new generation of personal nemeses.

But darned if those new-fangled thingamajigs weren't all different! I had to navigate on my own, constantly worry about finding band aids and bigger guns, and pick up hidden pass keys to open locked doors. I had to keep a pen at my side to jot down an up-to-date map of the maze in which I was losing myself. This hi-tech program wasn't about the quiet satisfaction of wrecking things, it was about multitasking. I got enough of that at work.

Yes, ridding the world of evil murderous zombies bent on eating human flesh was just too hard.

So I downgraded. I went from rated M for Mature ("blood and gore, violence" and, not mentioned on the box, dagnabbed difficult), to something a bit less challenging. A kid's game, rated E for Everyone and starring a cute furry creature. After a month, I'd barely advanced at all.

Look, this stuff is hard. If the penguins touch you, you freeze up into an ice cube. Nasty! And there's a horrible dragon -- and jumping over that big hole is really tough. I then discovered that a bored eight-year-old boy at the tail-end of a baby shower could reach level 29-million in 12 minutes flat.

I downgraded again.

I switched to a first-generation PlayStation game (possible with the additional purchase of an old PS1 memory card). I bought the very first Tomb Raider. The graphics are painful, with the hotsy relic hunter Lara Croft easily walking through solid rock by accident. But I was happy; I knew I'd found my proper skill level.

(What I'd also found were Croft's freakishly -- and giant -- pointy gazongas. The game's at times uncontrollable camera angles often focus on the hooters. Hmmm.)

But moving the rest of Croft through the cave-filled mountain of an ancient civilization proved tougher. I found myself at level 2, drowning. For three days. Even after I'd downloaded the complete cheat sheets.

Thank goodness for Katamari, the newest craze. All you have to do is roll the sticky ball, gathering up household objects into an ever greater mass in order for the King of All Cosmos to toss it up into the sky, eventually replacing all the stars he blinked out during some sort of drug trip. Only two controls to maneuver! No buttons or complicated moves! Katamari, the perfect game for toddlers, seems middle-aged-lady-mistake-proof.

Oh. It turns out there are time limits on how long you have to make the ever-larger clumps.

There go my shoulders -- the muscles are getting all tight. Ow.


# re: I am down with the young people
June 24, 2006 3:31 AM

This is soooo funny. I feel your pain.

It is said that everyone rises to the level of their incompetence.

Hmmmm..... have you thought about checkers?

just saying..... :-|