Have I Lied to You? I Mean, in This Room?

As with most things, I am late to the videogame party. Back when I owned a desktop I got tired of the treadmill one needs to run to stay with current games and hopped off. When I bought my first laptop I knew that the video card I was getting in it wouldn’t handle many then-current games and just rolled with it; I decided that my computer was simply not going to be a gaming machine. This continued with my current laptop. To me, it wasn’t much of a loss anyway, as there didn’t seem to be that many PC games being released at the time anyway which interested me.

The discovery that my new laptop could run a game as new as Diablo 3 made me wonder what else it could do, and a sale over at Steam made me try out two older games: Portal and Fallout 3.

I had started Portal before but stopped when I got frustrated on one level and was afraid the game was getting too “twitchy” and “physicsy” for me. I’m old and slow and clumsy and impatient, so games in which you have to do something at exactly the right time and the right angle or else try again over and over just don’t appeal to me (if I read the words “physics” or “tilt” in an iPad game description, I’m out right there. Course, the same also applies to the words “zombies” or “defense”.) I set Portal aside and didn’t think about it for a while. Then, the other night I started over and got hooked. I played until I finished the whole thing (it’s not that long). I was hooked.

Everyone was raving about it when it first came out, and for good reasons. Not only is it fresh and fun, it’s incredibly well done. Your antagonist, GLaDOS, exists only as a disembodied, occasional voice for most of the game, and yet “she” and her attitude towards you are both fully realized and fleshed out. It’s also funny as hell, in so many ways — something many videogames attempt but don’t often succeed at. (Interesting that the money quote that’s gotten so much play is actually more spooky than funny in the game and so much else has been glossed over in favor of it by people needing to do quotes.)

Having finished Portal I naturally wanted to immediately jump into Portal 2, which I bought and started (I’m currently about a third of the way into it, I think. I’m not sure how to tell.) The good thing about the Internet’s laser-targeting on cakes, lies, and weighted companion cubes is that they don’t talk about much of anything else, so I’ve no idea what awaits me in this one. (I haven’t read that Wikipedia article I linked to.) Everything Portal did right, Portal 2 does even righter, and it’s a joy to play something that focuses as much on the writing as it does on the gameplay. The puzzles are intimidating but not insurmountable, the graphics are fantastic, and the characters are sharp and funny. So far, it’s still no more twitchy than the first one. In fact, whenever it seems like it’s becoming so, that’s almost always a good indication that I’m going about things the wrong way.

I tried Fallout 3 but didn’t get out of character creation before it locked up on me. I had heard that the PC version was crashy, so I know I just have to deal with that, but I wasn’t in the mood at the time. I’ll try it again later.

Now I’m curious about what else I missed out on. It’s been suggested I try Half-Life 2 but that would have to be really cheap to tempt me. (It’s $10 on Steam, which is probably cheap enough.) I’m not much interested in first-person shooters or MMORPGS or real-time strategy, so my options are still pretty limited (the original reason I stopped upgrading my machine in the first place.)

Of course, the real stuff isn’t on PCs at all, but on next-gen consoles, which I still don’t have one of and don’t have any plans to get one of. I don’t even have anymore the occasional twinges of “maybe I should get an Xbox after all” I used to have. Time was I figured when the PS2 finally died I’d upgrade to something else, but I think it’s more likely I’ll just do without.

Meanwhile, though, my Mackboop Heir can run these old things and I’m enjoying them, so who knows? Maybe that will give me the kick I need to get back into video games.

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