Posted: Wednesday July 20, 2005 6:04PM; Updated: Friday July 22, 2005 12:58PM
Hey, if Bud Selig knows his way around a controller, why not the rest of us?
Indeed, my initial frustration at not being able to coordinate hands and eyes quickly turned to elation when my "Daisy" delivered a couple of aces against K.C's "Mario" -- although in retrospect, I suspect K.C. was tanking harder than Marat Safin in Australia a few years ago. I still wasn't sure what I was doing, but trepidation had been replaced by curiosity.
Having lost a close game when Daisy suffered heat stroke and was forced to retire (my story and I'm sticking to it), we went to the next game, Super Punch-Out from Fight Night Round 2. Unlike Mario Tennis, the Fight Night gamers have the option of using digitally mapped likenesses of real athletes. K.C. gave me a brief rundown on all the various boxers I could select, but the choices, both of real characters and custom-built ones, seemed endless. It would take way too much time to cull through them all.
So we quickly opted for a couple of boxing's biggest names, Rocky Marciano (me) vs. Sonny Liston (K.C.) in the not-so-legendary boxing venue, Staples Center. (Hey, I think I see Jack Nicholson at ringside!) As we started, I soon realized this would require more skill than the tennis game. And how, exactly, did I come to that conclusion? I kept pressing the wrong button, and instead of throwing one of Rocky's powerful right hands, all I could do was head-butt Liston. Over and over again, endless head-butts. I tried pushing other buttons but I just kept leading with Rocky's head. Was it an equipment malfunction? A software code issue? Nah, I just think it was A-button anxiety.
Evidently, even in the video game boxing world, head-butting is illegal. I was DQ'd, giving Liston the win. There would be no Cinderella Man story, no Million Dollar Baby payoff on this night. I was Rockhead, not Rocky.
I asked K.C. if reading the manual before playing the next game would be beneficial. He looked at me like he'd just accidentally downloaded a Neil Sedaka song on his iPod.
"These games are really not meant to be complicated," he said. "Sure, almost all of them have a learning curve. But it's easier just to pick up the controller and get started. I don't think it's so complicated that you really have to sit down and read the manual."
Ah, these kids. My generation lives for manuals in four languages and with more twists and turns than The Da Vinci Code. Evidently, the younger crowd takes the gunslinger approach to manuals -- circlestrafe first and ask questions later.
We left the GameCubes and went to the Nintendo DS sampling area. This new handheld system is a competitor to Sony's PSP, except it uses a stylus and has touch-screen technology, which seemed like a great approach to attract all those coat-and-tie PDA users.
Our game, much to my relief, was the slower-paced Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2005. K.C. isn't a big video golf game fan -- "I'm more of an action-game person," he says -- but I think he recognized I needed a psychological lift after turning Rock's head into a jackhammer.
Indeed, the learning curve on the Nintendo DS wasn't nearly as steep, especially since it required more cerebral processing and less thumb-and-finger work. I quickly threw down the golfing thunder, driving the green on the 345-yard par 4 (What was this, the 12th at St. Andrews?) and two-putting for birdie. Kind of reminded me of my real-life experiences at the local muni.
OK, maybe not.
Still, it was a nice way to end the lesson. The fear of holding a controller and jabbing away in stupefying fashion was gone, replaced by the hope of potential improvement and the anticipation of trying other games. Who knows, maybe one day I'll even stop head-butting Sonny Liston.
"Games aren't just for kids anymore," K.C. said. "People" -- and I took that to mean middle-age video game neophytes like myself -- "have to see beyond that. You just have to jump in. That's what the kids do."
Well, that's why I wanted to learn. If the kids are doing it, then why can't I?
That brings me to my final question: Anyone know where I can take skateboarding lessons?