Video games have always been considered escapist entertainment. You select the game of your choice, fire up the console, and you’re on your way to exploring that mysterious island or fighting against the undead in a zombie apocalypse. The beauty of having so many games to choose from is you can jump from world to world and become a new character each time. Games can be played either solo or with a friend or family member. The point is video games are fun. Or are they?
Last week I got together with a good friend of mine who came over my place to progress further into Super Mario Galaxy for the Wii. I started off playing the game by myself the first time I got it, but when my friend was able to come over fairly often in the past, she joined me in traveling the galaxy to explore new worlds and collect the stars, while trying to save Princess Peach from Bowser…again. If anyone has played Super Mario Galaxy, it’s a cute game with interesting worlds to discover every time you gather enough stars to unlock a new world.
In the beginning, certain worlds are easier to play through than others. When it was just me playing this game, it was a total cakewalk to do the first few worlds on my own. As I got further into the game, well, things started to get much harder. I have mentioned in past posts how I’m terrible at platform games. The Mario games have always been a challenge for me. Luckily, my friend is much better at them than I am and has the advantage of playing video games since she was a kid. Together, we created a tag team system.
The way our process works is I start off as Player 1 controlling Mario and getting through most of the world we’re playing in and she takes on the task of being Player 2 where she would collect the starbits and try to stop most obstructions in my path. Whenever I got to a part where it requires me to do a wall jump or to hop from one complicated looking platform to another, we would switch controllers so she would breeze through the parts I’m terrible at. Once the hard part was over, I took over the rest of the way and I was usually in charge of defeating most of the bosses for each world.
Our system works and we did pretty well on the easy to medium difficulty worlds. It was only when we started getting to the more challenging worlds did things get, shall I say, a little stressful? What started off as a nice, leisurely game of Mario turned into a stress inducing, fist shaking game experience. The parts my friend was good at, such as wall jumping or timing jumps at the right moment, wasn’t easy in the later levels. Somehow, Wiimote sensors acted glitchy and Mario did things we didn’t want him to do. A lot of, “NO MARIO!” or “DAMN IT, MARIO!” could be heard reverberated against the walls of my living room. Lives were wasted this way because of that blasted controller.
Just when my friend found the best method to successfully get to a star or boss fight during those hard worlds, it was in those moments of clarity did executing them during the level caused her to fail several times over. She made plenty of silly mistakes, even without the occasional motion sensor glitch. We knew it had more to do with the pressure of trying to succeed in getting to the end of the level without losing a life. Both of us were freaking out a little as we watched Mario try to move as quickly as possible before platforms disappeared or controlling terrible transformations, like the stupid Spring Mario. Spring Mario is the worse transformation ever and whoever thought of it should be punched in the face. After trying maybe for the tenth time or at least after we wasted all of Mario’s lives, we came to the conclusion that we were tired, stressed, and we needed to throw in the towel.
It’s funny how a simple game of Mario easily escalated into a hair tearing, miserable experience for both me and my friend. When I went to take out the disc from my Wii, both of us felt emotionally and physically drained. Can a game actually do that? I mean, games are supposed to be fun, right? RIGHT?! We agreed a game of Super Mario Galaxy is only tolerable in small doses. I think if we tried to play this game for more than two hours, the single thread our sanity was hanging on would most definitely snap.
There are just some games that can be played calmly, which won’t feel like a draining experience as you play it, and then are those games where, in the instance of Super Mario Galaxy, Mario’s death cries of, “OOHWAAAAAA!!!!” as he falls into the black hole of nothingness will haunt your nightmares.
Have there been any games you’ve played where it starts off fun at first, only to turn into a highly stressful gaming session?