Monday, November 30, 2009

Second Skin

I realized i had a problem around 1997. Having reigned supreme since late 1992, my Super Nintendo was starting to grow digital white hair and it's initial charm and seemingly infinite capabilities were being made redundant by the soon to be released Sony Playstation and it's inescapable hype. For me, it was both sad and exciting. I'd shared so many unforgettable gaming milestones with my Super Nintendo, but the appeal of the Sony Playstation and it's impressive launch roster and developer support was hard to avoid. I mean, i did actual school work in year 6 just on the strength of a proposed Sony Playstation for Christmas if my end of year report didn't contain the words 'Fail', 'other students' and 'assaulting a teacher'. My year 6 grades were worse than ever at the end of the year but i got the Sony Playstation anyway because i was diagnosed with ADD towards the end of the year, which we all know is basically a set of keys for a house on fuck around street in sympathy town.

Resident Evil came out a few months later and i was instantly attached to it. Every weekend i'd ride to my local video store to hire a game so i didn't have to worry about getting bored in between basketball and being hyperactive. I'd always spend way longer than necessary in there, forever fascinated by the spiels on the back covers of movies and games whose front covers caught my attention, particularly those of the horror genre. I had a wild imagination as a kid and would always try and push my own limits in terms of scary films which, fortunately for me, only ever went as far as looking at the gory pictures on the back covers and never actually renting them. Resident Evil would be the first time i'd willingly expose myself to the horror genre.

Without deviating too much, Resident Evil was a third person shooting/adventure game that placed you and a squad of special forces inside a spooky old mansion in the middle of nowhere to find your buddies who were also sent on a similar mission. All sorts of nasty experiments had been conducted in secret labs inside the mansion and as a result, it's inhabitants are now all zombies in lab coats and civilian clothing. The mansion was huge and within it's dimly lit hallways and extravagant decoration, numerous secret passages and hidden rooms awaited your exploration should you have felt it necessary to traumatise yourself/find secret items. The constant feeling of isolation combined with the (for it's time) photorealistic graphics and it's famous symphonic soundtrack made for a particularly haunting experience and a game that i probably should have left until i was older.

As soon as i got Resident Evil home and popped the disc in my playstation i was hooked. I spent that entire Saturday inside the mansion, stopping only for toilet breaks and the occasional sandwich that was consumed whilst playing the game. I maximised my progress by taking half of the sandwich in my mouth at a time, thus allowing both of my hands to remain on the controller whilst simultaneously receiving the essential fibre and nutrients that you can only gain from a mouthful of bread and vegemite. Ten hours had passed and i soon realized that i'd played the game from 10 o'clock that morning to 8 o'clock the same night with about ten minutes break in total. This was unprecedented for me at the time as my gaming sessions were normally limited to 2-3 hour bursts. It became a case of not wanting want to play the game because i liked it, but because i just wanted it to be over. I woke up at 3am that morning, sweating profusely with a high temperature, shaking violently and feeling like my head was going to explode. I'd been having flu nightmares about a zombie apocalypse resulting from prolonged exposure to scary mansions and an extremely concentrated dose of Capcom. It was the first time i'd been scared of death, which was insane because due to my childish ignorance, i'd narrowly escaped it a few times prior. I had to go to hospital straight away and theories of epilepsy were thrown around but instantly cast aside when the doctors were made aware of my exploits that day. It was recommended that i stay away from the Playstation for at least 48 hours, drink as much water as possible and to take 15 minute breaks for every hour that i spent in front of the television.

The next morning i woke up and started playing Resident Evil again. My eyes weren't even fully open yet, which didn't really matter because i'd become so comfortable with my console that if i wanted to, i could operate it using only my mind. I escaped the mansion and it's unimaginable horrors after a four hour revolt against health and safety and the feeling was indescribable, even if i was starting to look like the very zombies i was mowing down in the game. I assured myself that i'd built up an immunity to video game fatigue and that the night prior was merely a hurdle that all gamers must cross before their addiction becomes fully fledged. Since then i've played more epic games for longer periods of time with nothing more than a slight headache or the odd exile from my friends.

As we reach the tail end of 2009 gaming has become 'cool', nerds are the new black and Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo are all manipulating pop culture to the same extent as MTV, Asian people and Stephanie Meyer. Extreme cases of video game addiction are becoming commonplace on an international scale and mainstream media are all too happy to cover it's negative effects in the form of 60 minute specials on World of Warcraft and unfounded articles discussing how violent and accessible video games have become. That's life though, we're yet to find a cure for 'douchebag'.

Luckily for me, a little documentary called 'Second Skin' exists. It was actually released a while ago and follows seven gamers, all from different walks of life and the ridiculous lives they lead as a result of their dependence. Couples finding love over Everquest, grown men lining up for expansion packs and even the odd suicide are the nature of this presentation and i urge anyone that has ever held a controller in their hands or woken up at 3 o'clock in the morning with possible brain damage after a 10 hour zombie marathon to watch it.

That's what i was trying to say this whole time.


youhateplanes said...

I was into Oddworld, Parapa and Tekken. The sony was my first real system and I had way too many games.

Toward the end of my PlayStation addiction I managed to sneak a copy of GTA into the house without my parents finding out. Some how they had heard that the game was evil and that I was not allowed it, I subsequently snuck away from a family holiday in Bali and bought it for the equivalent of 30 cents from a guy with no teeth.

Long live the king, long live Playstation.

Me said...

Dude! Too much nostalgia here.

Oddworld's atmosphere/water colour backdrops were so ahead of their time, Parappa was the first rythym i ever played and i knew the words to every song after a good few months and the entire Tekken series is still my preferred beat em' up to this day.

I had a similar yearning for GTA when it first came out as well. I remember there being one particular car that played really offensive rap songs so i always looked out for it when i was on a driving mission.

Must stop reminiscing, long live playstation indeed.