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 Learned from Video Games 1: Found Food is Good For You!

Like most of the American generation born between 1975-1985, I grew up in the golden age of video games.  Starting with an Atari 400, moving to an Atari 800XL, an NES, and finally settling with Sega consoles throughout much of the 90s, I became a “gamer” at an early age and remain one to this day.  Recently elitists and exclusionists have hijacked that term, but to me a “gamer” is still just someone who enjoys playing games.  Any games from the board variety, to the cellphone kind, to the newest console release.  Whether they play once a month or 24/7, whether they’re hardcore MMORPGrs with hundreds of hours logged or they just play the Sims on their PC, it’s the pure enjoyment of playing a game that makes one a gamer.  Not how high they’re ranked, how many accessories you own, or how many noobs you’ve pwned.  At it’s heart, gaming is just entertainment; it’s not life or death.  So to all my generation who live and breathe by their gear, their rankings, or their e-reputations … seriously … it’s just a game. Kick back and have some fun.

During my long gaming history I have learned a lot of lessons, lessons that apply to both the real world and the virtual world.  Real world lessons aren’t always apparent, and the games that teach them can sometimes be surprising.  Virtual lessons are more about the peculiarities of the gaming world, ways you learn to interact with a world of invisible walls and filled with store clerks who never leave their desks and repeat the same two lines over and over for all eternity.

Since this is the first post of this type, I thought I’d keep it light and start with a virtual world lesson:

If You Are Ever Injured, Seek Out Turkeys, Apples, Pizzas, Pork Chops, and Sodas Hidden in your Environment … and EAT Them Instantly!

I know what everyone’s thinking … eating found food doesn’t sound like a good idea but, trust me, I spent a lot of time playing Castlevania, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Streets of Rage 2 & 3, and Final Fight.  Found food will help you immeasurably.  A turkey found in a garbage can you’ve just smashed into a fading, dented version of  itself after breaking heads all over Metro City or a roast uncovered after you’ve whipped some brick walls of a Transylvania castle into rubble will save your life!  This is one of those lessons I’ve always questioned as I’ve played games, but it shows up again and again.  I can’t imagine grabbing food out of the trash or a crumbling castle being good for one’s constitution, but don’t take my word for it; ask Simon, Donatello, or Axel…it’ll bring you back from near death.

Castlevania Meat
There’s the delicious, life-saving food item…found by smashing open the walls of a musty evil castle…
Ever been near-death beating up weird spider-things and guys with chainsaws in a warehouse? Look around and see if there’s a pizza floating in the air on a blue square! A WHOLE pizza too. Those are the best ones….
Streets of Rage 2 Apple
Taken some hits pummeling street trash through blue back alleys and baseball fields? Luckily there’s an apple hidden in a roadside sign. That’ll give you the boost you need!  Eat the apple, Axel…EAT IT!
Streets of Rage 2 Turkey
And if you’re in REAL trouble knock over the random trashcan and you may discover a fully-cooked turkey dinner complete with platter!

Now, obviously, game programmers and designers probably got a little sick of using medical kits and vague red crosses as health power ups.  It still seems strange that food as a medical restorative was and still is so popular.  In the amazing fantasy world of video games it’s one of those things we just take for granted.  But who says it can’t be applied to real life?  I say we all give  it a try.

So lesson learned.  Next time you feel life slipping away and the world (or a gang of thugs) is beating you down, break open a nearby sign, rock, garbage can, or potted plant and eat the tasty contents revealed.  Instantly.  And watch the profound impact on your health!