Am I a real gamer if I cannot jump?

Since I bought a Gameboy, I’ve been haunting flea markets for games. Which is actually a fascinating past-time. Half the time I’m overcome with nostalgia, the most fun but least productive of all longings! And half the time, I’m confused because I find GBA games that are movie tie-ins for films that I consider recent. I consider the Gameboy Advance ancient. This is a strange feeling, as if my perception of time is out of synch. In a way, it is. Time moves faster for videogames. They become obsolete faster.

Anyway, the problem with these flea markets hunts is that sometims nostalgia makes me do stupid things, like buy videogames that I know I cannot play. Jump’n runs. I cannot play jump’n runs. I never got the hang of them. The only one that I managed to play was Little Big Planet, probably because it was so bright and crazy and because it was multiplayer so that sometimes you made it through a level undeservedly because of the skills – or luck – of a fellow player.

But still, sit me in front of a jump’n run and I will run and then I will … fall. I simply cannot play games that require me to jump at the right moment. This is not a general lack of reaction time or coordination on my part, because there are plenty of games that require fast and precise controlling that I’ve been pretty good at. Dr. Mario comes to mind. Or even Minesweeper. I can also hit things, drive cars … all I cannot do is jump.

One of the Gameboy games I bought and have not played very far is Zelda: Link’s Awakening. Ahhhhh, nostalgia! I never played much of any Zelda, but it’s basically part of our cultural heritage as videogamers. It was impossible to play videogames and not engage with Zelda on some level. I was really determined to play Link’s Awakening, the way it was meant to be played, on my 24 years old portable console.

Then I found Roc’s Feather. An item that enabled me to jump. Jumping was part of this game’s gameplay! I knew then that I would not be able to beat it. :( What gamer am I? Cannot finish a classic Zelda title because a basic gameplay mechanic eludes me. Pah!

As I grow older, nostalgia digs its claws deeper into my soul. I would love to play the Super Mario games, for the familiar sights and sounds, but it’s a genre I cannot play. An entire, vital genre. When I bought Mario Kart Super Circuit, the vendor wanted to talk me into buying a Mario jump’n run and I had to turn him down, even though everything about that game, in that moment, screamed “Buy me!”

Well, this is no huge deal for me. There are still plenty of games I can play – and play well. But it’s still an annoying obstacle that makes me feel slightly less-than. So many videogame classics are jump’n runs, and I never played them (further than the first hole in the ground). Metroid, Megaman, Castlevania … “Skills” is an important factor in videogaming. It can include and exclude individuals who want to be part of whatever culture “gamers” form. I’m wondering if there is something corresponding for other forms of media. My first instinct was to say “no”, but there are works of literature that are difficult to get through (Ulysses?), and reading comprehension is fundamentally necessary to enjoy books. But reading comprehension is taught in schools (I suppose, in some ways, badly perhaps) while videogame controls aren’t. They won’t be until we consider them to be important skills necessary to access forms of art. Once when we think of videogames as art. I think that’s still going to take some time, though. Perhaps my great-grandchildren will be taught how not to fall into holes.

(This post took some strange turns. I should learn to prepare them better.)


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