Natalie Maggiore’s springtime game-cation

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I have always considered myself fairly intelligent and in tune with the world around me. I read the news every morning. I keep up with social media. I am a fervent watcher of movies and TV as well as a proud displayer of a diverse collection of music, both digital and hard copy. I read books. I speak other languages. I do stuff. I humble brag on the Internet just like everyone else.

This feeling of assumed worldliness was recently destroyed.

“You are an uncultured swine.” That’s an actual thing a 15-year-old said to me.

Why? Because I don’t know enough about games.

Here I was thinking that my mastery (read as: very rare ability to corrupt friends) in Settlers of Catan and my ability to beat anyone on the Moo Moo Farm course in Mario Kart 64 had me up to speed, but apparently not everyone’s favorite animal is a cow, and not everyone enjoys spending their time building Tilt-A-Whirls named after Harry Potter characters for 1,000 small amusement park-goers whose names have also been changed to Harry Potter characters.

Let me start from the beginning. I work with a lot of hardcore gamers. Computer games. Card games. Board games. Video games. All the games. My feeble knowledge of the Dance Dance Revolution Mario edition for GameCube and my very unimpressive defeat of Avatar: The Last Airbender immediately put me in the game doghouse.

I was, as stated, an ignorant farm animal.

I set myself up for what would be a game-cation. To be clear, that is not a game vacation. I did not skip my duties at work to play on the DS that I stole from my brother. This was (and continues to be) a very strenuous game education that mainly involves me working all day and also losing a lot against people who were born after the year 2000.

“You are an uncultured swine.” That’s an actual thing a 15-year-old said to me.

I knew never finishing Pokemon Yellow on my Gameboy Color would catch up to me.

The games I’ve been learning to play up to this point are as follows: most prominently UnderTale, followed by The Binding of Isaac, Star Realms, Minecraft, Super Smash Bros for the 3DS, a fighting game whose name I don’t know but is like Street Fighter on meme crack, and Commander-In-Chief.

My education course load has been heavy these past few weeks, but my eyes have been opened to the wondrous things of the game world that don’t come with an EA logo or Putt Putt Jr (unfortunately.) Here’s what I’ve learned so far.

1. For a journalist and a human, I have fairly useless hands

When I first started learning about UnderTale, the thing I was most fascinated by was how quickly players had to move their fingers amongst keys and in a very unfamiliar pattern. I never thought I’d say, “I don’t think my fingers are dexterous enough to do this.” But then I remembered that I still don’t really understand Playstation controllers. Brain says type stuff, fingers say your small heart is going to hit those arrows that the evil fish woman is throwing at you. So sorry. Hope Goat Dad saves you. Gaming takes skill that isn’t just typing in “motherlode” because you’re a lowkey cheater. (I am a lowkey cheater.)

2. Is no one thinking of the children?

The second game I learned to play was The Binding of Isaac. When I was asked to pick a character name, I realized this was some biblical nonsense. I didn’t know what to think, and then all of the sudden there was poop everywhere and blood tears and worm giants whose heads detach from their bodies and Satan. OK. I don’t remember some of that happening to Jesus, but OK.

3. You will not learn good strategy by watching 3-hour long major motion pictures

When I learned to play Star Realms, I casually lost six games in a row in the matter of two hours. I’d like to think it was because my opponent muttered evil villain catchphrases at me throughout the process such as “you’re going to regret that” and “you’ll pay for this,” but it’s probably because playing Lord of the Rings Stratego is not necessarily the best example of detailed game maneuvering since you’re only focusing on saving Legolas. He doesn’t deserve this!

When my friends asked me to play Commander-In-Chief, a chess game but with more detailed movements for each piece, I decided it was best to observe.

4. What is Minecraft?

That is not a rhetorical or philosophical question. I just don’t get it. Sometimes there’s fighting, and other times all of the sudden there are weird animals and aliens that I can mate to make mutant babies on the beach, and then I’m smelting inside your secret treehouse next to the bed I don’t need to sleep in. But I found the emeralds in the one village on the map, so I guess it’s fine.

5. I am old and/or maybe just out of the loop

When we got to Super Smash Bros, I felt a hint of relief. Mario! I know him! I often dabble in the art of the Melee because I’m still very attached to my GameCube, but potato po-tah-to. But then I asked who the new characters were. The new characters were from games that were named after the characters. I would tell you who they are, but I don’t know. I am uncool. I play as Kirby, and I will eat you and steal your hat if you touch me.

6. I am not technologically advanced at all

Sometimes I photoshop pictures of myself into pictures of Beyonce, and that makes me feel good. Other times, I watch people code their games to restart at specific points (shout out to the website Flowey’s Time Machine – you scare me a lot), redownload Windows ’95 just to use KidPix, or program new characters and songs to match into the unnamed Street Fighter game does not make me feel good. I have to Google the code for line breaks every time I log onto WordPress.

Watching Shaq dunk on Spongebob does make it a little more bearable, but alas, I am defeated.

I have learned a lot of other things too. I have been shown every single Amiibo created (you need one in the package and one you can take out because #duh). I have been overcome with the spiraling thoughts of the conspiracy theory that Sans is really Ness. I have listened to the entire (probably) UnderTale soundtrack. I have picked a favorite character, and that is obviously Papyrus because he seems like his voice would sound like Vizzini from The Princess Bride and he likes spaghetti. Lesser Dog is great too. I have been taught how to work Steam. I’ve learned that nice card games get nice protective card sleeves. I have looked at Toby Fox’s twitter.

I’d say I’m well into my freshman year of the school of game-cation. Should I probably stick to playing rummy 500 with my mom? Yes. But it’s too late now, and until I win my first game of Star Realms, it looks like game-cation is the path for me.

I did win one game of Yahtzee by 200 points though. Get dunked on.

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