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Great question. If I only had one video I could play it would be this.

Oh crap sorry! Extra Credits! Along with Heathcliff, I dedicate this story to the following people, in no particular order:

Ada Lovelace

Kurt Vonnegut

Bill Gates

Steve Jobs

Grace Hopper

Ray Kurzweil

Gabe Newell

Barack Obama

Michelle Obama

The Fam

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Issue : Games : Wanda

A medium time ago I was a Navy dude, and yup, I lived the stereotype. Drinking, fighting, and random’s were all any port call was about. But that type of existence can only last so long before the descents, plural, begin, and the descents tend to feel like the good times, so you can’t really tell where they start. But you get a good idea of where they end.

My first naval visit to rehab was because of an unfit for duty wrap. I had gotten blackout drunk one night and was physically unable to wake up for my watch, a watch I would have stood armed and completely sloshed for, had I made it there, which is not unusual at all in the military world.

According to the report, after the third late call, a yeoman came down to the berthing to get me and heard me snoring in my rack, curtains closed. I told him to fuck off. Then the watch chief came to get me, I told him to “eat my butt.” All the while holding the sliding curtain to my rack closed. It had become a standoff. I’m not sure though, I wasn't there.

The first class petty officer from my shop came down to join the crowd of five or so stunned overseers which now included the officer of the watch and a few tired but bemused military policemen.

And as he told me later when my petty officer leaned down to physically yank me out of my rack I gave him a surprise Bruce Lee style one inch punch through the curtain, replete with a “WatAA!” sound, that clipped his nose and sent him flying back, which in turn gave the MP’s carte blanche to drag me out by any means they saw fit.

Turns out I was butt naked in there, have no idea why. I was also covered in Arby’s, as in; I had secured a meal from the fast food establishment and somehow managed to cover most of my body in roast beef, French dip, horseradish, and curly fries.

So not only did the MP’s have to deal with dragging a naked, screaming, belligerent E-nothing to the brig that night, but they also had to deal with him smelling delicious. And yes, I realize I probably had sex with an Arby’s sandwich, I’m ok with that. There are worse fast food chains to bring home. I still have no idea how it happened though.  Outside food was not allowed on the boat, and I don’t think the country we were in even had an Arby’s. Love finds a way.

So anyway the assault charge was dropped at the court martial because my petty officer vouched for my character when I wasn't in the bottle, and the captain found the incident report so goddamn hilarious. I was stuck on boat restriction for the rest of that deployment and sentenced to two months at a rehab facility on the base where they build submarines, train dolphins, and experiment on sick people. I thought to myself, “Nice, I could use a vacation.”

I had my own car so I drove myself down there, checked myself in, and met the staff. The base was all tropical, like an episode of “JAG.” So was the staff, a bunch of “Jag’s.” They represented all branches, because it was a communal base, they all smiled like they were paid to, even the devil dogs, it was weird.

And they would do that thing where they touched you while talking. As in, if they were asking you how your day was, they would put a hand on your shoulder, and say “Hey shipmate, how’s it going?” It was that kind of stuff. I wasn't too worried about it because I had met their kind of “help” many times, and knew what they wanted to hear.

And a person like myself at the time, as in, a person that had no intention of stopping the self-destruction ride, had no reason in the world to, and wholeheartedly believed anyone that thought we should could go fuck themselves slowly, had a whole list of responses and breakthroughs to give people like them, in order to make things go smooth. That base was full of us. We shared tips and tricks during smoke breaks.

And I really didn't care what they were talkin ‘bout because I had brought my PS2 with me and on the way to the base had stopped by a Gamestop to pick up a copy of this game I heard about called ICO. My plan was to set up shop in the base recreation center, play games, eat some of the best mess hall chow I ever had in my life, and two months later go back to work and drink myself silly.

So that’s what I did. I went to AA meetings, group counseling, and holistic physical/spiritual training sessions during the day, and during the afternoon I'd run across the street, connect my console, and play what would later be known as a milestone game for the system, and gaming in general.

There was this little pale skinny bald headed kid that started coming into the bay a few days after I plugged in. About nine or ten years old I guess. Everybody seemed to know him because he would come over asking to play their game, or just asking stupid questions in general.

They called him Powder, like the movie, because military people think up stupid names for everything. It’s like an unspoken law. I thought I would be ok, because I am a black dude, and never smile. But I forgot that little kids don’t play by the same rules as everybody else, they will step to anybody, and talk about anything. They don’t give a fuck.

ICO was like catnip for this kid, the first day he pulled up a chair behind me talked all kinds of shit. “Why does that kid have horns?” “What are those shadows?” “Ooh you should jump on the windmill.” “I don’t think that girl likes you? Is she a ghost?” I never wanted to face mash anybody so much in my life.

I knew what was up with his condition. I had seen enough of them where my mom worked. You only get that pale when you are terminal. And his coughing fits lasted way to long, and he got nauseous a lot, so he was on rads or maybe a cocktail, the treatments are tough for adults to deal with, hell on kids.

His folks were serving for sure since he is getting treated on base, probably officers. The waiting list for a place like this is definitely birds and up. I figured he should be alright if rank has any sway on fate. His mom showed up a few days after he did. She tried to do the polite, “sorry about my kid” thing that parents do. I told her it wasn’t a big deal.

She also frequently did that thing where casual game players try to prove their “downess” by quoting the one game they played and enjoyed Ad-nauseam. Hers was Monkey Island, so if I fucked up during combat she would poke her kid to get his attention and say things like, “You fight like a dairy farmer.” And I would have to respond, “How appropriate. You fight like a cow.” And they would laugh and I would die a little inside.

This went on for weeks, and it turned out a few of my counselors were friends with the kids mom, and they were super excited that I was spending time with the kid. They said the kid was responding better to treatments, and they observed a massive change in my attitude.

I thought to myself, yeah whatever, the kid and his mom get on my nerves, but ICO is a fucking awesome game, you guys are off my back, and the mess hall has bacon bits, three cheeses, and ranch dressing. What is not to love about this situation?

About a month into my stay the kid got sicker and couldn't leave his room anymore. The mom asked if I would be willing to go hook up the system in there and play. I figured we sat there for all this time figuring out puzzles together, talking smack, and discussing back stories for Ico and Yorda. It would be jacked if he didn't see the ending.

When I got up there the first thing I noticed was the crappy CRT television the room had which was bullshit. We didn't rock with that, so I convinced the nurses to roll in one of those fancy new 480p flat screen TVs with the CRT back’s in there.

True G’s smeb in Composite, can’t ball in PAL. The kid couldn't really talk anymore, could mostly only lie on his back and stare at the screen. He could smile though, and shake his head when he disagreed with what I was saying or doing.

We made it through the game like that. And I don’t want to spoil anything (but if you are reading this crappy rag and haven’t played ICO then c’mon seriously what the fuck?!) but the only time the kid said anything during those last days was in the Queens room.
He yelled as the shadow wave passed and I ran for the sword, so did his mom who was in the corner of the room with her hands over her mouth. I walked up, grabbed it as the next wave got to me, then ended it. There was this yell/moan combination from the kid, and then he started coughing. His mom ran over there, and I walked over and held his hand as we watched the credits. Whatever.

It turned out the game wasn't over, there was this beach, and we walked over to the left side, and something happened. The kid mumbled something, I have no idea what he said. I really wish I did, still  imagine what it could have been.

My last days at rehab I went to see the kid, he was sitting up and feeling better. We had nothing to play anymore, so his mom left the room, and we just talked. We had not really talked about anything but the game up to that point, but those days we talked about a lot of things. He was incredibly grown up for a little kid, a lot more grown up than me. He would have been something special had he made it.

The first thing I did when I got back to the boat was go to the NEX (which is the military version of a bottle store), bought myself a 40 and a fifth, and drank myself stupid at the park with my old friends who were more than happy to welcome me back. The next morning I woke up on the baseball field covered in my own vomit. But it was ok; I didn't have to work.

A handful of years later I got a job as a video game tester, and the second game I am assigned to test is this hush hush title that everyone around the office called “Wanda.” I frequently had to excuse myself to the bathroom while testing. Every person working in the gaming industry for any period of time, especially testers, have a game that breaks, or almost breaks them, that was my game. I quit drinking for a very long time after that title. I finally had a reason. 

I think I'm bringing this up because people keep saying that Lucasarts Games is dying. Personally, I think dying is a strong word for what is happening to it. I don't think it was ever what people thought it was, and what it is becoming is closer to what it always should have been. Having said that, good luck to the talented folks being displaced by whatever it is going on over there. Hope you land gracefully.

Hope information catches you on one of your good days, and JERBZ and shit. 

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