I finally beat the last challenge match in Unreal Tournament (UT). Please understand that I donit play computer games as a rule. I like to play them, but I can go several months without even thinking about them. Unreal Tournament is a good example; I bought it last year, and after playing a few games initially, it sat on my shelf until about a month ago. I had had a particularly frustrating day and was looking for something on which to take my frustrations. What better way to relieve oneis annoyances than to blow up some computer generated simulacrums to smithereens?
Well, thatis how I got into playing UT, but, as I played and began to win, I found myself wanting to play and win more. Instead of assuaging my frustrations, I was adding to them. I found myself thinking of strategies to beat the last iCapture The Flagi leveli while sitting in meetings, or seething over my latest defeat in the iAssaulti level when standing in line to get lunch. Soon, after a hard days work, Iid go home and spend an hour smacking and being smacked around until I finished a level and got my trophy in the iHall of Champions.i I wouldnit say I was obsessed, but there was one or two times that I found myself expecting to come on a Shock Rifle power-up as I rounded a corner at work. Worse, I knew who I wanted to use it on.
Oh yeah, Baby!
It struck me, one day while thinking about how to defeat Xan in the final one-on-one iChallengei level that I had wasted entirely too much time playing that silly game, and that I needed to devote more time to other endeavors. Like bathing, or maybe getting out of the house, or maybe something constructive like buying a shirt. I seriously thought about just stopping my gaming altogether and selling the few games I had, and I did think about it... for about a week. Xanis taunts kept reverberating in my head; "Fear me," heid say. Fear? Fear a virtual humanoid on an ego trip? I donit think so!
See, the thing with the last iChallengei level in UT is that Xan is so damned good that I could swear the program was cheating. I mean, how was it that Xan always had the best shields and always had the best weapons and always blasted me like dynamite stuffed in a watermelon? Xan would actually sneak up behind me to optimize the weaponis effect!
Oh yeah, you MUST go down! Iill think about getting out of game playing after I fry your smug bot butt a few times!!!
I started to watch how Xan operated. I saw him wait for a shield power-up to generate, I noticed that he favored certain weapons over others, I witnessed him hiding in wait as if he knew I would be running by to grab a certain power-up or weapon. "OK, I gotcha. I know whassup now," I said.
It took me a while to come up to speed on my aiming, I chose that big Flak Canon; shorter range than the rocket launcher, but then I like it up close and personal. Soon, when I lost a game, the count spread between Xanis kills and mine grew smaller, and as it did so, my frustration level grew higher. I found myself snapping at friends, I could feel anger flash as I encountered idiot drivers while drivers home from work, and once I actually considered kicking a puppy. During the few games where I lost by one kill, I would fling my mouse across the room so many times, my poor Cube would flinch each time I sat in front of it. The screen still blinks as if it has a nervous tick whenever I mouse over the UT icon.
Today, this morning, I beat Xan for the first time. It was a close game. Xan started pulling his old cheating tricks again. He somehow appeared near where I would regenerate, or wait for me just when I reached for the Flak Canon. I turned the tables on him though; I started following him and just when he reached for a power-up...BOOM! Toast! I would deny him all the choice shields and weapons, and my aim had become deadly. In the end it was a well placed flak grenade that did Xan in.
Boom! OOOOOOH Yeah!
When I did beat Xan, I stood up and pointed my finger at his remains on the screen and yelled, "WHOiS YOUR DADDY? Huh? WHO IS YOUR DADDY?!?"
A little while after that my wife insisted that I see a shrink. She had made the appointment while I was doing a victory dance on the coffee table, naked. Thereis a perfectly good reason for me being naked, but you donit need to know that. Ordinarily the sight of me dancing naked would not cause my wife to call for help, we do have two kids after all. I think, however, that it was me grabbing the raw ground beef from the fridge to make a Xan doll, that I then blew apart with an M-80 to simulate that final shot in the game, that prompted her to make the call. Explosives make her nervous.
So, guess what the doctor is telling me? I need to get out more. Ahh, the ironies of life.
I tell you this story because I want you to understand two things: First, game play in OS X is at least as good as it ever was in OS 9. With enough memory, most OS X compatible games scream. Are they as fast as the PC counterparts? Probably not, but who gives a flip as long as the game is plenty fast enough to play. I played UT with three other apps running in the background (Mail, iTunes tuned to an Internet radio channel, and Fire) with no noticeable loss in speed on my 450 MHz G4 Cube with 768 MB of RAM running OS X 10.2.1. There are plenty of games that donit require dual-G4s and the latest NVIDIA graphics cards to run, and a lot of them are cheap. More games are appearing for OS X everyday. A Mac may not be the first choice for hard core gaming, but it can definitely hold its own for all but the most rabid gamer.
Second, if you are a rabid gamer, get help. I know firsthand how addictive these games can be. Get out, take a walk around the neighborhood. Itis OK, really. While Iid strongly recommend that you get some sun, if youid prefer to keep that pale pasty look that is so popular amongst the gaming crowd, take a walk after sunset. If it helps, think of outside as a big virtual world, a really big sim-game, except you really donit want to carry weapons while trekking around the block, and be mindful that power-ups cost real money.
Your goal is simple: go out and contact the locals, maybe buy another shirt. Itill be tough at first but keep trying, youill succeed.
Vern Seward is a frustrated writer who currently lives in Orlando, FL. Heis been a Mac fan since Atari Computers folded, but has worked with computers of nearly every type for 20 years.