Monday, May 09, 2005

Confessions of a Software Gamer

It’s not easy to live in the Information Technology generation. Lets face it…I, for instance, will never be a warrior for GOD sent to save the world against unspeakable evil.

I’m not saying I CAN’T be. It might yet be that a messiah will bring the news to me that the END is imminent and it is all up to ME! But my parents have not received this theory with the deserved gravity and I retire hurt.

But after three years of being a dedicated follower of the computer gaming industry, I’m beginning to feel curiously inadequate. Why AM I not a legendary character anyway? Who says legendary characters have faced terrible catastrophes? Has a legendary character ever written a recursive program to crash a computer?

These legends are completely overrated, I tell you! Legends are not built just because of a few paltry great deeds. Legends are built by a dedicated set of computer nerds who allow us different settings for “violence”.

My younger brother first introduced me to the gaming industry. He brought home this game called the “Commandos” that till today remains my nostalgic all time favourite. He installed it in our computer and was figuring out the best way to bomb an enemy base when my mother and I got interested.

Soon we were shouting orders from behind him. No no move your boat there…Don’t kill that guy! He’ll raise the alarm! If we had been generals in World War II, at least the war would have been more entertaining, with troops running around madly and slamming into each other like a knock-about comedy.

My brother soon got irritated (ungrateful of him) and suggested that I try my hand. So he taught the rudiments and I laboriously brought all my men from the high seas onto land and asked them to dismount from the boat. They refused. I double clicked, tapped randomly on the computer and even used the Brahmastra – Ctrl+Alt+Del. They offered to restart the PC for me but none of them budged.

I called my brother. He pointed out to me thoughtfully that three of my men were already dead because the enemy sniper had gotten them while I was still strategically moving them to land right under the eyes of the enemy. Asking the dead men to move was not polite.

My mother was meanwhile sympathizing with the poor soldiers who had to be killed because of generals like me. She thought of all the animated objects as real people. She thought the enemy had “cute” German accents, she refused to kill an annoying dog because she objected to cruelty to animals (Cruelty to the German soldiers was OK, besides they were dead before they knew it. She was actually doing them a favour if you think about it). She also objected that the game was sexist. There were no female commandos.

Anyway I got it right the twenty-fifth time and my troops had landed. Beware Germany!

My brother was just the right age to take up gaming. He was in his late teens, too old to be inspired to shoot his classmates by a violent game and too young to have lost his keen reflexes. He learnt fast and played phenomenally. Me I was passable. No lightning reflexes, just a bit geriatric with the mouse, but I got around. My mom was a revelation.
And she wanted to try.

I have never forgotten the day my maternal parent, who had borne us for nine months, who had held our hands and cleaned up after us and been a friend and guide these many years, first took up “Commandos”.

Mom started by moving the mouse from one edge of the table to the other, like a shopping cart away from an angry mob, and we went into convulsions. After the mouse got to the top of the screen (and the mouse pad) it wouldn’t move any more. So mother took the mouse off the table, brought it back to the bottom edge again and began to push ferociously. I don’t think I have laughed that hard very often again.

Meanwhile her soldiers were heading straight for a collision course with the enemy patrol. Mom shouted in dismay and begged one of us to steer the boat away from the patrol but we couldn’t have moved if our lives depended on it. We were clutching our stomachs and fearing an actual stroke.

Despite the start, mom did quite well, although watching her use the mouse was still the best part of the day for both of us. She used to click very carefully so as to not offend the mouse. And to her, moving and clicking were two different activities. She would move the mouse and watch the screen suspiciously to see if the pointer really moved or it was just pretending. Then she would take her index finger to the left mouse button and press it once. Then she would take a breather before moving the mouse again.

Mom was understandably the slowest mover in the campaign among the three of us. The leader of our virtual team was a Green Beret called Major. Mom fell for him at first sight. Sure, my dad was a brave man, but could he knife a man and carry his dead body into a safe place efficiently and speedily? My dad, sadly, refused to compete for this honour. Chivalry is dead!

The next landmark in her game was when her Major got killed. Mom had never faced an emergency of this magnitude before. The alarm was rung; men were pouring out and looking for her Major. My mother who was steel when I broke my nose, and when my brother fell off the balcony, panicked. She took her hands off the keyboard and mouse immediately, shouted for us, and explained tearfully.

My brother shouted instructions in her ear. Take your Major to safety, move him, MOVE MOVE..AT LEAST USE THE MOUSE! and that frightened my mom even more. She watched paralyzed as they killed her hero. We all mourned for a minute and then my brother began to shout at her for risking that brave man’s life. In my defense, I hardly giggled at all, but both of them gave me dirty looks and kicked me out of the room. There is no justice in this world.

My mom would have made an outstanding messiah for peace. They should have had her at WWII. Neither camp would have made a move for about a year, except perhaps for peeping coyly around corners at the enemy from a safe distance of a mile. There would have been no war.

After Commandos, I took to other games... plenty of them. I’m totally hardened now. When I first played Quake, I would rise out of the primordial slime, grab a weapon and jump gracefully into an endless void and die. Now I’m pretty competent, I kill a guy before I commit suicide. It’s quite hard for me to understand the fascination with gaming, that hooked even my mom, but then, there’s a whole section of the population dedicated to golf, and I rest my case.


  1. Nice article di, ya I loved commandos,behind enemy lines as well as beyond the call of duty.. Green beret is wht it was called in my mission. I used to like the spy too and there was the seductress in the later games for the female part ya confirms the sexist image of course.
    The setting was breathtaking.. and of course all the shrieking of saving your heroes and the million saves u make en route is all fun, oh wow nostalgic. My fave game was Age of empires ... nice blog di full nostalgia came off!