This post isn't just about Stalker, so if you're sick of hearing about it, do a word search for "stalker" and then pretend the paragraphs are minesweeper to pick what to read. Fun for everyone!
While watching a documentary on the aftermath of Chernobyl I was surprised to learn that it is still being actively researched, though perhaps less than it should. Stupidly, I was also surprised to see that there are all sorts of paths around the plant to get near the reactor. I'd seen schematics of it, so I should have figured out that all the rooms around it, have doors. So of course after watching it, my first thought was "dear God, we're all totally fucked." Apparently the lid, or just about anything else, could suddenly fall in, releasing a huge cloud of radioactive dust. My theory is that Chernobyl is going to get jealous that Japan is getting so much attention and might, let's say, throw a tantrum. A giant radioactive tantrum.
Second thought: I want to go there too! However that would be expensive, unsafe, and time-consuming. So instead I booted up Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl again (the one that I said was awful) and decided that I'd push through the main story just for the chance to virtually visit a recreation of the plant, though obviously with a few more mutated and highly aggressive creatures, as well as religious fanatics, and something called a Brain Scorcher. Sounds fun.
So I pushed on and decided I'd figure this shit out and just get it done. Well next thing I knew I was starting a war with one of the militant groups in the area and I've greatly enjoyed the resulting violence and weapons I took from them. It's much more interesting when I have to kill at least three people just to get into the bar. Incidentally, this makes for really inconvenient travel when merely entering the otherwise safe trade hub means a brief shootout. The guys I started the fight with, Duty, are all pretty much wiped out, along with anyone else who followed their instructions to "eliminate the enemy." Makes the place a bit more lonely, but that's for another day.
The combat is still a bit odd, and the trading is still awkward, but I've managed to get used to it. I just have to be more careful. The actual gameplay and story is pretty decent past that. This is an example of a game that I'd call worth learning to play.
In contrast are shooters on the Wii. Now and then when my brother visits he brings up one of his games and I give it a shot. Pun not intended, but convenient. The latest one was CoD: Black Ops. The story was interesting and of course shooting is always pretty fun. But the controls. Ugh. I'm completely used to a keyboard and mouse. Point and click violence. I'm used to the desk moderating my movements, slowing them and providing friction, so I expect to use a certain amount of force to aim and steer. Using the mouse and keyboard has been taught to me ten times over, from FPSs, RPGs, and of course every single computer operation that I've ever done. Blogging? Mouse and keyboard, mostly keyboard, but some mouse work. I can pretty reliably and quickly move the mouse from the title field to the post field, and then down to the post options button, over to date and time, and so on. Bam bam bam.
It's worth learning how to use a computer. It's a somewhat universal, versatile skill. Gaming, work, long-distance communication, they all use this form of input.
But shooters on the Wii? No. So great, I can play a few more games, but at what cost? Time and frustration. I just get flat out frustrated trying to aim with the Wiimote. And move. None of the muscle memory is there. It's not even like sports which tend to use some minor variation of movements we have anyway: kicking, throwing, bouncing; these are pretty universal actions which are not restricted to a single game or even set of games.
Learn to play? Yea sure, oh wait, no. Why am I going to spend time to learn to play something that isn't any more fun than other, similar activities which don't have the learning curve?
Somewhere in the middle for me are the silly games, like Boomblox. The controls are much simpler and for the most part I'm in no rush, so I can take the time to gradually figure things out. The frustration factor isn't there. Except... oh except for that one stupid level where the sheep seem to commit suicide five seconds into the level and meanwhile the stupid remote isn't properly registering my obviously amazing throwing so the blocks aren't falling down right and... Okay so there's a little bit of frustration factor. I don't like losing and the Wii is a whole new way to lose.
More toward the worthwhile end are the plastic guitar games. Pretending to know how to play guitar, without needing to actually get a guitar and demonstrate that I don't know how to play, is pretty damn fun. Variable difficulty? Awesome! Though I have the backward problem that the lowest difficulty is harder than medium: it's so damn slow that I cannot get any sense of rhythm at all, so instead I'm stuck mashing when I think it's time, which it usually isn't. It helps that my brother has the Beatles game (are there more than one?) so I know the tune more or less, even if colored buttons aren't really playing it.
Speaking of worthwhile: World of Warcraft. Doesn't it suck when something goes wrong and your UI is entirely reset? Awful! Gotta remember all the bindings, UI placement, which addons are enabled on which character. Takes a whole lot of time. But at least in this case muscle memory helps. I want to cleanse myself... oh I keep mashing alt-1, that must be cleanse! I played for about five and a half years, made some new friends, and ended up here, with a small blog that manages to entertain more than just me. WoW was definitely worth the learn to play curve.
On the other hand: raiding. As nice as it is to get that kill after really fighting for it, the thrill has gradually worn off, to be replaced by frustration. The fight-specific dances mean that whatever I'd learned before is almost entirely wasted. The recent expansion throwing out all learned rotations and priorities didn't help. Learn to play? No thanks.
In closing: EVE, worth learning to play? Then again, I don't quite have the money to spare; I donated my monthly sub to public radio. Take that, Republicans!
Gabriel Knight 2: Things get gross
7 minutes ago