It’s 4:47 in the goddamned morning. Fresh coffee is brewing and I stub out another cigarette. I wipe the sweat from my brow and swear to whatever exists above me that I will not rest until my task is complete. With great resolve, I sit down, stir my cup and dive back into the trenches.
This could describe a student editing a thesis mere hours before it is due, or a freelance journalist struggling to meet a deadline. I have been in both situations, but on this night, I’m not writing. I pick up my tools before failing over and over again, the last one of which saw me approach my goal within inches before sailing off a cliff.
“MOTHERFUCKING CUNTSUCKER! WHY THE FUCK DON’T YOU JUMP?! WHAT THE FUCK!? WHAT THE FUCK!?”
I grab the nearest empty bottle and hurl it at my television screen, thankful that in my moment of weakness I was smart enough to throw something plastic and not glass. Despite my failure, it is not enough to make me quit. I take another stab and get cut down six seconds after I started. Okay, take a breath. You’re still angry over that last death, so regroup. You can do this.
Jump. Long jump. Dodge. Spin. Jum– “JESUS FUCKING CHRIST, WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS CONTROLLER?! FUCK THIS SHIT! I’M FUCKING DONE! FUCK YOU AND FUCK THE ENTIRE MUSHROOM KINGDOM! ”
Why do I do this? I still don’t know, but perhaps both myself and you readers will gain some insight. Rage quitting is something that only happens when playing a video game; I don’t think I have ever thrown a book across the room because I could not finish it, and I can usually at least laugh at a movie that is irritating me. With games, there is no way around it. You beat them, or they beat you, and the latter often happens with a hell of a lot more frequency.
The game that currently has my blood fucking boiling is Super Mario Galaxy 2. I am convinced this is the best Mario game ever made, without question. I believe I also have a more legitimate opinion on this subject because not only have I been playing Mario for more than 20 years, I have explored each and every area of the entire series for the last year. Getting 120 stars in Super Mario 64 for the first time ever felt more like work than it did fun, thanks to the broken controls that were overlooked when it first came out. Nonetheless, I got it done, got every blue coin in Mario Sunshine, conquered the first Galaxy with both Mario and Luigi and now own 241 stars in Galaxy 2.
This last one, however, has got to be the biggest challenge in any Mario game ever.
Take note of that video title: Part 10. This guy has tried over and over again to get through this last star. He can’t do it, and at this point, neither can I. I must say, however, he handles his emotional and mental stress much better than I do.
My first real experience with rage quitting was Conker’s Bad Fur Day, arguably the best game on the Nintendo 64. A sub par remake for the Xbox reminded me of why I can proclaim the N64 controller to be the most durable piece of plastic ever manufactured by a gaming company. I lost count of not only my lives lost getting through Conker’s final level on the beach, with Nazi teddy bears firing rockets at me as I cried angry tears and begged the game to show a little mercy. It didn’t, and every time I hit a Game Over screen, the battered controller suffered another fast trip across the floor.
Today, however, all controllers are wireless. This means that when you want to vent your frustrations on an accessory, your rage is limited to only how powerful your arm is. During my first playing of Gears of War 2, the opening section of the game – yes, the OPENING – I was not doing very well, causing the truck to crash during an ambush. Despite the generous checkpoint system in the series, I was convinced I would never see the end of the first level. I reached my breaking point, grabbed my TV remote and slammed it to the ground. There was something beautiful about the explosion of intricate parts, and to this day I still find little pieces of it now and again underneath my bed. I am also apparently such a psychopath that in a heated split second, I made a point to not throw my Xbox 360 gamepad, conceding that I would pay ten bucks for a new remote at some point instead of buying a new controller, which costs just a little less than a new game.
As strange as it is to type (and even stranger to try and tell people who don’t play games), I would rather a game beat me senseless and wait for me to come crawling back than allow me to walk all over it within a few hours. Ninja Gaiden 2’s camera had me wishing death on Team Ninja, and the fact that the game decided to randomly freeze during the end of the game was not helping. Regardless, I felt like I had truly accomplished something when I was awarded my points for finishing the game.
Same deal with Catherine. I spent most of last summer in a trance while engulfed in Atlus’ amazing puzzle game, and this was one of the only games I can remember actually invading my dreams. Climb, die. Climb, die. Climb, die. Repeat about forty times until you finally reach the top of the tower, and the “Hallelujah” chorus (quite possibly the most appropriately placed piece of music in any game) plays while you regain your breath.
I always laugh when I hear someone say they play video games to help them relax. I can’t remember the last time I felt mellow while playing through a game, with the possible exception of some very slow-paced RPGs. What I lack in stress management, I have more than made up for in hand-eye coordination over the past two decades. If anybody ever tells you that games rot your brain, they’re full of shit. I’m a better driver and thinker because of the countless hours I have spent honing my craft. I have also experienced more unforgettable stories through games than I ever could have through film and TV.
This probably won’t stop me from smashing another accessory in the future.