I’ve been focused on dealing with all the complicated bad stuff that happens; the health issues, the serious risks for both me and baby looming on the horizon now, the financial impact being unable to work has, the stress of living in a new house with ill-fitting furniture from the old old old house (the current furniture has been through three relocations) and with the constant frustration of it all it’s difficult to look beyond or glance around at what surrounds me that isn’t a hurdle to be overcome.
My collection’s (limited in the UK) edition of Reach arrived shiny and bright this morning. It required quite a few corners to be cut for me to afford it, but some things are just that important. I was giddy when the delivery person arrived and adamant about opening the package myself; it’s something I have been anticipating for a long time. It sparked off a nostalgic thought. A year ago, I only had a vague idea what Halo was and I had no interest in knowing more. Console games were inaccessible, expensive and not something that I even considered delving into because it didn’t seem like fun. I played a bit of Civilization, a bit of SimCity and a lot of World of Warcraft. I enjoyed the first, was quickly bored by the second and struggled with the last. Computer games are difficult for me. I play on a very tight budget on a quite ancient machine and I need so much kit to even make it viable that at the end of the day, I spend more time trying to program and position different hardware components appropriately and getting various large software components to run without crashing the system that the fun seeps out of it slowly but surely.
I wouldn’t be playing Halo Reach today if it wasn’t for the endless patience and sustained encouragement of a good friend. I met Rem eighteen months ago after being interviewed for an article by wow.com We exchanged emails, talked on msn, vent, then skype and being an avid gamer, slowly pulled me into the gaming world, first with stories, then game play videos and finally by suggesting some affordable older games that I could sink my teeth into. It didn’t always go well. Portal was the first to grab my attention and make me want to complete it. It took 19.5 hours and a month to complete. It also required help and quite a bit of advice. Rem was there and eventually played puzzle 18 and the first part of puzzle 19 for me when I got to the utterly and completely stuck point.
I moved on to Half-Life 2, Psychonauts, Dead Space, Bioshock and didn’t finish any of them. I hit obstacles, couldn’t overcome difficult points, grew more and more frustrated getting stuck for hours on what seems like a small simple part of the game that I just couldn’t master. Rem was there, providing advice, support, suggestions, tips and when all else failed, help from New York when it was possible. I picked up a copy of Halo ODST on his recommendation and we played it through on a Friday afternoon in December from beginning to end. I loved some of it, hated some of it (banshees gah), but above and beyond else, finally experienced the game the way it should be experienced. I felt like one of those clueless idiots in wow that thrive on /follow and never seem to travel without a magnanimous protector, but I stifled that feeling and stuck with it. Co-op made me nervous, I wasn’t just wasting my time and some days, wasting time is not necessarily a bad thing, I was using up someone else’s. It took time to realize that I was taking up someone else’s time, it was a gift that I was allowed to graciously accept. And so I did.
We’ve spent hundreds of hours since playing together. Co-op games are still my favourite, but our game play was never limited to that. I played my Paragon Shephard on my first Mass Effect 2 play through whilst he played his Renegade Shepard on his second. I asked for help with Brutal Legend constantly and he talked me through the whole game. I was too sick when WoW raiding finally made it to the Lich King and so, whilst I lay on the couch complaining non-stop over Skype about morning sickness that turned out to be all-day sickness, he took down the Lich King whilst I quietened down and listened to both the game sounds and his explanation of what was happening on-screen.
I haven’t always been well enough to play. On days where I need breaks or only have breaks, time has been filled with other things. Being read to, curling up with a pillow and listening to him play and when game sounds are an issue, music took its place. I’ve watched more anime in the last year than most people watch in a lifetime and when Halo Reach arrived this morning and I couldn’t wait to open it, I realized that not everything in life is an uphill battle end up being fought alone. Friendship is important, hobbies are vital and when the two overlap, even the dreariest of days always have a silver lining. I can look back over the last year and a bit and despite all the things that have gone wrong, quite a few things have gone right and I am extremely lucky to have people to share both the good and the bad with. Happy, healthy and financially secure are good but sometimes unobtainable goals to aim for. Being able to wake someone up at three in the morning because I can’t sleep and knowing that when things go wrong, as they do, I no longer always have to stand on my own two feet is a more valuable possession than any of the other stuff. In the greater scheme of things, I’m lucky, fortunate and not always aware enough of the invaluable good things that I do have. Reach arrived this morning and eight hours later I haven’t played it yet. Why? Because New York is five hours behind and FedEx didn’t deliver until just now. And some things are worth waiting for.