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 #4: A Love Letter to Old School Sega

Though I have very little time to just kick back and play games like when I was a kid, I still follow the culture and play when I can.  I do have a current-gen PS3 but I find the most joy playing the games from my youth.  As I said in previous posts, I started with an Atari PC (and was roundly mocked by all the Nintendo kids), but eventually got an NES for Christmas.  I loved the system and played its games religiously.  Nintendo was so dominant, I didn’t even know what the “Sega Master System” was until I got a Sega Game Gear and it came with an attachment that let me play Master System games.

Game Gear
This IS my original Game Gear. I fell in love with Sega after playing it.

Shortly after acquiring my Game Gear in the early-mid 90s I discovered the Sega Genesis.  Unlike many, I don’t recall ever seeing the “Nintendon’t” or “Blast Processing” commercials.  I do remember seeing Sonic the Hedgehog and Streets of Rage 2 on the demo unit at Target.  The Genesis looked cool and the games were a lot of fun in the store.  I was sold.  I pawned my NES, all my games, and used some birthday money to buy a Sega Genesis (with Streets of Rage 2 included!!)  I loved the system, and began a rabid support of Sega.

Genesis Games
NES fans…I have nearly every great, classic NES game…and I think this collection is every bit as classic and no where near as complete…

In the early-to-mid-90s gamers were divided into Sega people and Nintendo people…I was a Sega person.  I played the fighting games, the Mutant League games, I LOVED the Genesis Shadowrun, and fought viciously with those who compared SNES franchises and graphics.  I so supported Sega I got a Sega CD one Christmas, and a 32X the next.  And I even enjoyed those systems.  I played and beat Sewer Shark; I was obsessed with Sonic CD and it remains the best Sonic game EVER in my opinion.  I had Doom on the 32X and a great little unknown game called Kolibri, a horizontal 2-d shooter where you and a friend can play as hummingbirds.  Don’t laugh…it was terrific…  I eventually bought the Saturn, which for its time was by FAR the best system out there.  It was well-supported and had great tech-specs, but lost out eventually to the N64, and eventually was crushed utterly by the new Playstation.  I even bought a Dreamcast…and only ever played Resident Evil: Code Veronica on it…before the PS2 did it in.

Sega Nomad
My handheld Nomad Genesis system.
Sega CDX
How I currently play my Genesis and Sega CD games on my TV. And a Slime PS2 controller. Because that’s where he lives and he’s photogenic.

Despite all their mistakes in business (Sega was obsessed with hardware and put games and software support secondary, blinded by competing with other companies they forever sought the “best tech” and rushed it out before the market was ready…barely supported it…then rushed out the next one and barely supported it) I have a lot of love for Sega.  After I set up my PS3, I played some Oblivion then, while filing the game away I found my Sega Nomad and spent the rest of the evening playing…you guessed it…Streets of Rage 2.  Still beat it too.  Sega lives in my gaming consciousness.  I still remember the Mortal Kombat blood code (Down-Up-Left-Left-A-Right-Down…memorizing codes from magazines in the grocery store…those were the days…), and playing as a raptor in Jurassic Park.  The GREAT X-Men Genesis games are still loads of fun to play and I still plan to invest time into eventually beating Shadowrun…if it’s possible.

Sega CD Games
To all those who criticize the Sega CD I thought I’d produce a STACK of some great Sega CD games. This pile doesn’t even include the great Terminator game…
Saturn Games
Some of my Saturn games. I don’t have the Panzer Dragoons (though I beat the first one in high school) nor do I have the fantastic “Children of the Atom” X-Men fighting game. I put plenty of time in on that in the 90s too.

Sega is now in software only and is a shadow of its former self.  With the Sony vs Microsoft competition dominating the market now it seems like history is repeating itself.  Sides are being chosen, graphics comparisons are appearing in articles, libraries are being compared, and tech specs have appeared in countless posts and forums.  What seems to be lost is competition is actually good for the market.  I see posts on game sites where rabid fanboys declare their hope that their side puts the other out of business.  Does anyone think that would be good?  A monopoly on game technology would only reduce quality and innovation.  The Wii’s motion control and rapid sales incited Sony and Microsoft into motion controls as well.  The handheld war continues with new innovations like 3d, HD graphics, and wi-fi capability.  Social gaming has gone from a second controller and split screens to worldwide gaming.  I for one am hoping the “big three” continue to produce successful systems and franchises for several “next-gens” to come.  And here’s hoping that none of them, like Sega, become lost relics, sacrifices to the gods of greed and commerce.

But for now I say, long live the memory of Sega.  Plug in some 16-bit fun some time.  The Genesis is every single bit the great, classic console the NES is.  And I’ll GRAND UPPER anyone who says otherwise!

Grand Upper!
GRAND UPPER!  Forward-Forward+B. You can beat the whole game with this one…
Mutant League Hockey
And I don’t care who you are…this is AWESOME…

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!