Friday, May 18, 2012

Fear Factor

This isn't necessarily related to electronic games, but I think it's worth discussing regardless.

Earlier today, while digging through one of the many garage sales in the area (it's May; this seems to trigger a Spring Cleaning instinct in Midwesterners), I came across a stack of Dungeons and Dragons rulebooks, including a bestiary filled with the monsters in the long-running franchise. I considered picking all of them up, but since that would have set me back a rather steep twenty-five dollars, I settled for the encyclopedia of monsters and went on my merry way. Some observations about this:

1. Garage sales aren't as cheap as they used to be! I recall from my childhood that the sales were used to clear out piles of useless junk first and foremost... now that they've become more popular, and everyone's wallets have gotten lighter, people have come to think of them as gold mines. Trust me, folks, if you don't want it, nobody else is going to pay that much for it.

2. The world of Dungeons and Dragons is a very scary place to be! With gelatinous cubes that can swallow you whole, Lovecraftian nightmares who treat your skull the way a schoolboy would treat a Capri-Sun, and five story tall monsters that just won't die, it's a wonder anyone ever leaves their hovels.

Between the constant dangers and complicated rules, D&D is a very intimidating game, and being a very easily intimidated guy, I can understand why I never got into it. However, that fear of failure has defined all of my game-playing habits... I don't play games outside my comfort zone, I rarely select the harder difficulty settings in the games I do enjoy, and I don't play to master any of my software. You're never going to see me take home any trophies or blast through a Dragonforce song in Rock Band.

Recently, I've thought about breaking that bad habit by topping the high score of Meta Fox, an old shooter developed by Seta way back in 1989. It seems like the right place to start, as the game is nowhere near as demanding as, say, Ikaruga, or the other bullet hell shooters from the 21st century. Beyond that, the current high score recorded on Twin Galaxies is a relatively modest 1,400,000 points, with a sadsack 27K posted for the actual arcade game. Twenty-seven thousand? You could get that for just dropping in a coin and picking your nose.

Problem is, you just can't find a Meta Fox machine anywhere these days. The last time I did was in a truck stop on the edge of Michigan twenty years ago. So I had to fall back on MAME and crack 1.4 mill. I actually managed this feat, and on the Droid I'm using to type this blog entry, no less! However, the folks at Twin Galaxies want more than your word and a fuzzy screenshot... this being the age of Photoshop, one could hardly blame them.

So I set out to repeat my high score, recording it all with the magic of FRAPS. Paradoxically, despite having a 32 inch screen, a Saturn controller, and a vastly more powerful machine, I couldn't come anywhere near my previous score, barely clearing 800K before watching my score steadily drop in repeated plays. Weird? Yes. Frustrating? Very!

So my quest to prove a modest victory over my gaming cowardice continues. Some day, Meta Fox, your high score will be mine! (Until a cyborg like Kiken catches wind of the game and rolls it, anyway.)

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