Life Lessons from Video Games: Finding a Good Player 2 in a Beat em Up World!

LifeLessonsHeaderIt’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, but a recent conversation with my muse of a RevPub partner provided inspiration.  A lot of stock is placed on “multiplayer” in video games nowadays.  I admit, I don’t care for the feature for one simple reason: Anonymity.  Playing a game online to me is playing a video game in a chat room from the 90s.  Everyone is anonymous, which for some reason increases the a-hole quotient by 75% in about 85% of people.

In the arcade days, you had jerks that ran the machine, kids that tried to step up, and challenges face-to-face, but in the skating rink I played arcade games in people would get cocky, talk trash, and laugh about it later.  Even losing didn’t seem so bad.  With online gaming now, the lack of a person to play face-to-face with just makes a lot of people act 12 even if they’re 30…  With the prevalence of online gaming, it seems we’ve started missing out on one of my favorite kinds of gaming: two player games…the kind you play when you’re actually IN the same room as your player two.

When I first started home-gaming this was THE way to play many games — my favorite of which was the side-scrolling beat ‘em up.  My best friend Mike and I (friends for over 20 years) became good friends during games of Streets of Rage 2Street Fighter II, and Final Fight.  My lovely but vicious RevPub counterpart, Raven, and I played the new Double Dragon Neon and proved how effective we could be as a fighting team, as well as a writing team.  You learn a lot about the people you play with during the course of these games.  I submit that you can tell whether someone could be a good friend, fair-weather friend, or mortal enemy based on how they behave during a side-scrolling beat ‘em up.  It’s the basics of life in a microcosm of 16-bit simulation.  Here are some benefits to playing these games with perspective friends, co-workers, mates, whatever.  It’s a great relationship barometer.  So just some basic thoughts on finding (and being) a good player 2 in a beat ’em up world:

Cardinal Rule of two-player side scrolling beat ’em ups: NO friendly fire! Working as a team is pretty easy.  You can even do team moves, but you start punching me on purpose in the game someone’s getting hurt out of game!

Axel is whacking Blaze…with a weapon no less. Breaking the cardinal rule of co-op beat em up gaming!

1.)    Does everyone share the Found Food? There’s really an etiquette to this.  Found food power ups go to the person with the lowest health, or failing that, the one with the weakest constitution (usually the girl or kid character…sorry PC people) if a player rushes in to take that roast turkey when you’re in the red and they’ve got nearly full yellow they might be the “out for themselves” type.

Streets of Rage 2 Turkey
Roasted fowl found on the street. It’s good for everyone!

2.)    Similarly, how are found weapons treated? Did you know weapons can be found EVERYWHERE?  Trash cans, mail boxes, phone booths; everything hides a weapon.  Two players with weapons are a juggernaut of insurmountable proportions. Beware the second player who drops his or her pipe (thereby maybe making it mysteriously vanish) to grab the recently found sword rather than keeping his pipe so you can have the sword and making a stronger team.

From the SoR remake. Axel with a pipe, Blaze with a knife. Life is good.

3.)    A good friend won’t leave you in the midst of a multithug pummeling.  Even if it means taking half the damage, the idea behind two player co-op is twice the enemies, twice the damage.  Good player twos are there to thrash and get thrashed in turn right there with you.

Streets of Rage 2 bosses…and yep good player 2’s would be right there with you!

4.)    If player two ever says “Ok, I’ll let them target me…it’ll give you the chance to take them out…” they’re a keeper.  We all need more friends like these.  As long as they don’t hog all your shared continues…

Shiva…anyone willing take take hits from this guy for you is a true friend…

5.)    Real friends will avenge your untimely demise by viciously beating your assailant into blinking pixels.  If you drop dead from a well-placed punch, kick, pipe, sword, barrel, whatever, a good player two should turn into Wolverine in a berserker rage and, in the words of Mack from, Predator cut your name into them!

Cody’s Down, Haggar to the Rescue.

With Wil Wheaton’s Table Top bringing tabletop gaming back into vogue, I can only hope Felicia/Ryon Day’s show Co-Optitude can do the same for playing video games in person!

Life Lessons from Video Games: Versus Mode!


I’ve been playing video games since I 4 years old.  My first “gaming” system was an Atari 400 and was replaced (actually it was added to by) an Atari 800XL in the mid-80s.  I was a military kid who lived in secluded base-housing and, essentially, only knew my family.  I just assumed that everyone was playing Centipede, Missile Command, Frogger, and  Pac-Man.  In addition I had loads of games that almost no one has heard of but remain my all-time favorites; Sea Horse Hide n Seek, Ducks Ahoy, and Movie Musical Madness.  It wasn’t until my father retired from the USAF and we moved into “civilian” life that I first learned of what kinds of systems were popular.

I had an Atari…but never heard of an Atari 2600.  My memories of Pac-Man are slightly different from most others…the 400 and 800XL computers I had played different versions that actually (to me) looked superior to the 2600 version.  I only ever saw Commodore 64s and Apple IIs in school.  I never heard of Colecovision until I saw it on VH1’s I Love the 80s and never heard of Intellevision until James Rolfe did a video about it.  I DID hear of NES almost immediately after my we left the military lifestyle.




I can remember being in my elementary school cafeteria in my private school blue shirt and slacks and a vicious little rich kid snarling at me, “What?  You don’t have Nintendo?! What’s ‘Atari’?”  I remember telling my mom that and she said, “I bet our Atari has better graphics than their ‘Nintendo…'”  And I immediately agreed.  And the game was on.

Over my lifetime I’ve seen numerous competitions in video games, systems, and gaming culture in general that are all just as frivolous and subjective as this one.  Sega vs. Nintendo.  Street Fighter vs. Mortal Kombat.  Sony vs. Microsoft.  It’s been fascinating to see them come and go, and each generation of hardware and software customers act like it’s the first time these things have ever been discussed.  I’ve been thinking a lot about all these various, senseless wars I’ve witnessed during my gaming life and thought I’d start sharing some of the most memorable.  Since this is just a little intro I thought I’d start with a brief look at the Atari vs NES.

Of course the Atari 400, which came out in 1979, and even the updated 800XL had nothing, hardware-wise, on the NES.  The NES came over from Japan with a library of games that would become classics (and some hardware strangeness that would fall into pop-culture obscurity).  Since the NES clearly has the edge in nearly every technical sense, I thought I’d look at just one thing that strikes me as amusing in terms of my old Ataris compared to the NES.

I started watching AVGN when the new Ghostbusters game was set to come out on current-gen consoles.  I heard a funny online reviewer had reviewed the NES Ghostbusters game and I was intrigued, I didn’t know there WAS one.  I turned on his review and was alarmed to see him reviewing a game I knew…only I knew it from my Atari 800XL…I knew it on floppy disk……and I knew a MUCH better version!  Smoother gameplay, more “ghostbuster-y” graphics, and less idiotic additions (like the gas station…)  Granted it was still a monotonous “wtf is going on?” kind of game, but the NES version looks like a butchered port…of an Atari game.  The Atari version was no masterpiece…but it’s definitely competitive with the later NES version!

That little fact did indeed help remind me that, although the most popular system might dominate the market, the reviews, and rewrite the history, for the minority of us who lived with other brands…we might have found a nice classic gem.

In two weeks I’ll start versus mode in earnest, and will try to do one every two weeks.  The first one will be the most appropriate way to start such a contest and has been a heated debate for almost 20 years…ladies and gentlemen…it will be: Street Fighter vs. Mortal Kombat!

Atari GB