I picked up a copy of Psychonauts from Steam about a week ago. After playing WoW exclusively for 18 months, I’ve been seduced to try new things. If I can play WoW, the old excuse of gaming just isn’t accessible no longer holds much sway. I love my N52te and being able to program and use it in any game I play on my PC has been an immense help. But even with my trusty Razer mouse, some things have just been frustratingly difficult to master and I haven’t reached that level of frustration in a very long time. I loved Psychonauts from the first moment I saw it and that served as plenty of motivation to learn how to play. I found movement within the game, as I always do, one of the difficult parts to master and spent the first hour running, jumping, climbing and swinging until I felt a little more in control of my little character. The story is great, the dialogue is fantastic and I was having boatloads of fun until I got to that part of the obstacle course where Raz has to punch various cardboard pop-ups, twenty within sixty seconds to be precise, which isn’t something that I can do or get better at. My reflexes are a few times slower than the norm and my mental reaction time is a little slower too and my control of the character is a little sloppy and inaccurate. I get by, but I can’t move and hit a target within three seconds and no amount of practice will make it a possibility. Stubborn as I am, I’ve still spent almost six hours on and off trying without any improvement whatsoever. I hit 9 every single bloody time. Never more, never less and it took that many hours for me accept the fact that some things I just cannot get around. Plan B: Get help.
Chris turned out to be rather useless. He’s a bookworm not a gamer and my computer isn’t exactly standard. He doesn’t like my mouse settings, he doesn’t like my keyboard, he doesn’t like not being sat at a desk and most of all, he doesn’t like the game. Thirty minutes of getting frustrated enough to threaten bodily harm to everything in sight and he gave up to go and raid instead. I blamed him a little and so he comes back every now and again, have a few goes, gets frustrated, yells and then give up. Teamviewer seemed like a long shot and turned out to be useful in many many ways except this one right here. It means I’m stuck very early on in a game that I love and there is no way to get past it. I find it immensely frustrating that I can’t just bypass this one bit so that I can get on with the game. Why oh why does it have to be compulsory to complete? It’s stupid and frustrating and makes me feel more helpless than I have in a long time.
The whole point of gaming for me is to have fun and do something independently. I have no objection to asking for help, even when I get stuck on the silliest things like not being able to find a air vent in Batman that’s so obvious in hindsight that I really do feel like the stereotypical dumb blonde. Thankfully, I have friends that tolerate probably quite a bit more than is good for them. In this case, a friend that was patient enough to log in his Batman and run over to the room I was stuck in so that he could tell me exactly what to do and if required, take a screen shot. I really appreciated the help, mostly because I never felt stuck. I knew there was a way out and I just had to find it and if my way of finding it is asking someone else for help, then I’m okay with it. But I’m not okay with aspects of a game that makes it impossible for me to play and I can’t get around it. I can program my N52 to do a lot of things, but I can’t make my reflexes faster and I can’t make my movement smoother. I am utterly and completely stuck on a tiny chunk of the game that is impossible to overcome unless someone else overcomes it for me. That upsets me quite a bit. The gaming sounds doesn’t help at all. Two very annoying characters stand there and yell and when you fail, say ‘try again, I’m sure you’ll get it.’ It makes me want to scream. Trying again won’t help. I can try it a million times and I will never get it.
I don’t often feel that level of frustration anymore. I used to feel like that all the time. Life was a series of obstacles that I just couldn’t overcome. But with time, I found ways around some and I found routes with less obstacles and most days, I can almost forget what it used to be like when everything just felt so impossible and unreachable that I couldn’t even see the point of trying. It was a useful reminder and it was nice to realize that I am no longer as short sighted as I used to be. I am happy to give up and give in. It may take six hours when really, I knew after five minutes that it was impossible, but I did give up without completely giving up. I’ll put it on a back burner. Chris can keep trying whenever he has five minutes to spare as he does improve and if all else fails, I’ll just shelve games when I get to the stuck point until a gamer friend comes over and can fix it for me.
We currently have ads up to get a PA in a few hours each day and the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that this may make a good job interview test. After all, the point of having a PA is to make things that are inaccessible accessible and what better way to test that than to hand them a control and say ‘hit 20 cardboard pop-ups in 60 seconds’. It can be sort of like a typing test given to secretaries. Life isn’t meant to be lived in isolation and I’m learning to be okay with asking for help when I need it. It’s just so immensely frustrating when I get stuck on something so simplistic and no amount of help is going to fix it. And when the annoying brats in the game yell ‘you can do it, Raz. Punch punch punch’, I start to think that when we have kids, they will all play games. Learning how to deal with frustration is a vital life lesson and few things in life is as frustrating as this. I find it a little sad that a game that I instantly fell in love has for the moment been reduced to something that give me nightmares. Looking back, I probably won’t remember the cool character, the witty dialogue, the great story or any of the things that makes it an amazing game. My first thought will always be about cardboard pop-ups that’s just impossible to hit. Or maybe I should just get a fridge magnet that says ‘Who is the milkman?!’ and remember that blowing anything out of proportion is a very bad idea. Next time I hit an insurmountable obstacle, I’ll stop after five minutes and move on. I don’t try and climb mountains anymore or kill my joints on long weekend hikes or bike rides, it were silly hobbies for someone like me. There’s more important things in life than getting stuck on a sixty second challenge. I can watch a walk-through, watch someone else play, get someone else to play the hard parts for me. There are ways around; it may not be the way I wanted, but if you focus on what you can’t do rather than what you can do, well, that way lies madness.